The invasion of Popillia japonica becomes increasingly alarming in Piedmont and Lombardy

The invasion of Popillia japonica becomes increasingly alarming in Piedmont and Lombardy

Popillia japonica alarm: the beetle originally from Japan, but which since 2014, also due to the progressive drought and high temperatures due to climate change, infests our peninsula, has invaded massively in Lombardy and in numerous areas of Piedmont. According to Coldiretti, in fact, there are 86 municipalities in the province of Alessandria where the presence of the insect has been reported, which can cause serious damage to numerous plant species: crops, fruit trees, vineyards, up to lawns and ornamental plants. The Piedmont region has already prepared targeted actions to eliminate these highly invasive insects and, above all, to try to prevent their spread to areas not yet infested.

From the East to us The Popillia japonic a (also known as the Japanese beetle) is a beetle typical of the Asian territories, as the name suggests, in particular of Japan. The adult insects of this species have a very small oval body (8-12 millimeters long and 5-7 wide) of bright green color, bronze wings and tufts of white hair on the sides of the abdomen that allow them to be distinguished from others. species of similar beetles.

Despite being native to the East, over the years Popillia japonic a has also spread to non-Asian territories, in particular to the central-eastern United States, south-eastern Canada and the Azores islands. In the United States, where it has been spreading for more than a century, this beetle is the species that causes the most damage to grassland crops. Soon, thanks to the rising temperatures and the growing drought, in the summer of 2014 the first outbreak of Popillia japonica was identified on the Italian territory, in the border areas between Piedmont and Lombardy, along the Ticino river: since then, the presence of this beetle, which appears with the hottest months of the year, has grown more and more. In the province of Alessandria, the area now most affected, the first report dates back to 2019 in the Casale Monferrato area, and then hit more and more municipalities and spread to the whole territory.

The damage of Popillia japonica La Popillia japonica is almost harmless to humans, but generates considerable environmental and economic damage: in fact, being a polyphagous insect, which therefore feeds on numerous plant species, it irreversibly damages many plants, including several cultivated for food. As stated in an information document issued by the Tuscany region, as an adult the beetle is capable of feeding on over 300 types of plants, resulting harmful on over 100. In particular, these insects are greedy for fruit trees (such as peach and apple trees), vines, corn and soy crops, ornamental plants (such as roses and wisteria) and wild species (such as linden and linden trees). birch), causing severe damage to leaves, flowers and ripening fruits. The larvae, on the other hand, which develop in the ground feeding mainly on roots, are particularly harmful to grassy surfaces and pastures, causing them to yellow and dry out.

"Those who have met her, remember her well : a handful of days is enough to raze thousands of square meters of crops. Popillia is, in fact, considered one of the most harmful organisms: this is why it is essential to keep it under control. This beetle is very voracious and, in our areas, has no natural predators, so it reproduces excessively, infesting gardens and vegetable gardens and destroying fruit and ornamental plants ", stated Mauro Bianco, president of Coldiretti Alessandria in a statement.
Containment actions For these reasons, since 1975 the insect has been included in the list drawn up by the European and Mediterranean plant Protection organization (Eppo) of quarantine organisms (i.e. harmful organisms whose diffusion in the community territory must be hindered) and in 2019 it was included by the European Union among the priority quarantine organisms, ie those whose potential economic, environmental or social impact on the EU territory is more serious than other quarantine pests.

" Popillia japonica is only the last of the alien insects that threaten the biodiversity of the territory. Unfortunately, from Drosophila suzukii to the Asian bug in the last ten years we have witnessed a real explosion of foreign species that spread in our territories because they do not have natural antagonists that they find in their countries of origin "adds Roberto Bianco, director of Coldiretti Alessandria.

Therefore such a situation requires timely interventions, otherwise the consequences will be decidedly worse in the near future. "In this period, it is laying its eggs, if no action is taken concretely and quickly next year the damage will be decidedly enormous, much more than the current one: the actions to contain the populations of the adults of the insect must be aimed at preventing mating, reproduction and spreading ”, concludes Mauro Bianco. To counteract its spread, in fact, we read on the website of the Piedmont region, the positioning of 3000 so-called attract and kill traps is in progress, capable of attracting the beetle with specific baits and then eliminating it. From July onwards, monitoring will be active in the areas not yet infested.

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