Influence of Xylella fastidiosa infection of citrus on host selection by leafhopper vectors
Infection of plants by pathogens can influence their attractiveness and suitability to insect vectors and other herbivores. Here we examined the effects of Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck (Rutaceae) infection by the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, which causes citrus variegated chlorosis (CVC), on the feeding preferences of two sharpshooter vectors, Dilobopterus costalimai Young and Oncometopia facialis (Signoret) (Homoptera: Cicadellidae). Experiments were performed inside observation chambers, in which a healthy plant and an infected one (with or without CVC symptoms) were supplied to a group of 40 sharpshooters. The number of insects that selected each treatment was recorded at several time intervals in 48 h. In another experiment, the ingestion rate on healthy and infected (symptomatic or not) plants was evaluated by measuring the liquid excretion of sharpshooters that were confined on branches of each plant for 72 h. Both sharpshooter species preferred healthy plants to those with CVC symptoms. However, O. facialis did not discriminate between healthy citrus and symptomless infected plants. Feeding by D. costalimai was markedly reduced when confined on CVC-symptomatic plants, but not on asymptomatic infected ones. The ingestion rate by O. facialis was not affected by the presence of CVC symptoms. The results suggest that citrus trees with early (asymptomatic) infections by X. fastidiosa may be more effective as inoculum sources for CVC spread by insect vectors than those with advanced symptoms.