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Acta zoológica mexicana

versão On-line ISSN 2448-8445versão impressa ISSN 0065-1737

Acta Zool. Mex vol.31 no.3 Xalapa Dez. 2015


Notas científicas


Chilocorus cacti (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), a potential natural enemy for the red palm mite in Mexico


Chilocorus cacti (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), enemigo natural potencial del ácaro rojo de las palmas en México


Salima Machkour-M'Rabet,1 Jhibran Ferral-Piña2 y Yann Henaut3,*


1 Laboratorio de Ecología Molecular y Conservación, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR). 77014, Chetumal, Quintana Roo, México. <>

2 Campo Experimental Chetumal. Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales, Agrícolas y Pecuarias (INIFAP). km 25 Carretera Chetumal-Bacalar. Othón P. Blanco, Quintana Roo, México. <>

3 Laboratorio de Conducta Animal, Ecosur. 77014, Chetumal, Quintana Roo, México. <>; <>


Recibido: 12/05/2015.
Aceptado: 14/08/2015.



Raoiella indica Hirst (Acari: Tenuipalpidae), el ácaro rojo de las palmas, es una plaga importante en el mundo, dañando plantas comerciales y ornamentales. En 2009 fue observada por primera vez en México y se extendió rápidamente. Puede ocasionar daños importantes a los cultivos y también ha infestado en reservas protegidas. Para limitar el uso de acaricidas, principalmente en áreas protegidas, se han buscado depredadores naturales. Globalmente se han identificado 28 depredadores incluyendo otros ácaros, insectos y hongos. En este estudio, presentamos una nueva especie nativa coccinélida, Chilocorus cacti (Linnaeus), como depredador potencial de R. indica en México.

Palabras clave: Chilocorus spp. Raoiella indica. Código de barras. Invasión biológica. Quintana Roo.


The red palm mite, Raoiella indica Hirst, is a recent invasive species of the New World and although palm species (Arecales: Arecaceae) are its principal hosts, it also affects a wide range of alternative host plants (Carrillo et al. 2012a). It was first reported in India, infesting coconut palms, Cocos nucifera L. (Arecaceae) (Hirst 1924), and subsequently expanded its geographical range to Africa (Moutina 1958, Pritchard & Baker 1958, Gerson et al. 1983). The introduction of this particular pest species to the New World is a very recent event which commenced during the late 1990's in several French islands of the Caribbean (Flechtmann et al. 1999). In 2004, it was detected in Martinique (Flechtmann & Etienne 2004) before extending to other areas of the Caribbean (Etienne & Flechtmann 2006, Rodriguez et al. 2007, Kane et al. 2012). In 2007 it was identified in Florida, United States (FDACS 2009) and has since spread very rapidly to parts of Central and South America (Vásquez et al. 2008, Marsaro et al. 2009, Carrillo et al. 2011). More recently (2009), R. indica was identified for the first time in Cancún and Isla Mujeres (state of Quintana Roo) in Mexico (NAPPO 2009). Now, this palm pest is found in many states of Mexico (Campeche, Chiapas, Jalisco, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Veracruz and Yucatán; Senasica 2013) expanding rapidly throughout the country. The capacity of this pest to spread so quickly is alarming because it could potentially infest a wide diversity of plants, many of which are economically and ecologically important (Carrillo et al. 2012a). In Mexico, 16 species of commercially grown plants (some of which form entire genus) belonging to four families (Arecaceae, Heliconiaceae, Musaceae and Strelitziaceae) have been reported as hosts of the red palm mite (Senasica 2013). In particular, four economically important plants in Mexico could be affected most by the red palm mite: three palm species (the African oil palm, Elaeis guineensis Jacq., the coconut palm, Cocos nucifera L., and the date palm, Phoenix dactylifera L.) and several banana species, Musa spp. (Senasica 2013).

To control the red palm mite, one alternative is the use of chemical control using acaricides, the other is biological control with natural enemies. Currently, many efforts are focused on identifying suitable natural enemies for use in pest control programs. Studies (in Carrillo et al. 2014) show that each geographical area presents a specific natural enemy complex, but all have one common predatory mite species, Amblyseius largoensis Muma (Acari: Phytoseiidae) (Carrillo et al. 2012b). In their review on natural enemies, Carrillo et al. (2012b) mention a total of 28 species of predatory arthropods, including mites and insects, and three species of pathogenic fungi reported in Puerto Rico. As well as A. largoensis, two coccinellids species were reported as important predators of R. indica: Stethorus keralicus Kapur in India, and Telsimia ephippiger Chapin (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in the Philippines (in Carrillo et al. 2014). Another coccinellid species, Chilocorus cacti L., is reported in India (Puttarudriah & Channabasavanna 1956) and in Florida, USA (in Carrillo et al. 2012b) through communication personal.

In Mexico, specific studies were conducted to identify local natural enemies (Senasica 2013) and it was considered that both predators of R. indica in Florida (A. largoensis and S. keralicus) could be potential predators in Mexico. Furthermore, in southern Mexico, the presence of R. indica in protected areas where chemical control is strictly prohibited is problematic, and local solutions using native natural enemies is required.

We present the first report identifying the species of Chilocorus cacti, using DNA barcoding and morphological characteristics, as a potential native natural predator of the red palm mite in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Observations and collection of individuals were conducted in different areas of Quintana Roo (southeast Mexico): in the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, in the city of Chetumal (Quintana Roo), in Raudales and Laguna Guerrero (two localities approximately 30 km from Chetumal), and in the National Reef Park of Xcalak. In each one of those geographic areas we observed larvae and adults of C. cacti associated with coconuts palms, together with a severely infested leaf, full of R. indica. Individuals of R. indica and C. cacti (larvae and adults) were collected on the coconut palms and placed in a box for transportation to the laboratory for observation (adult specimens were deposited in the Zoological Museum of ECOSUR, Chetumal, Mexico). For the molecular analysis by DNA barcoding, legs from seven collected adults just after moulting were placed in a lysis plate well (96-well Eppendorf® Plates) with a drop of 96% ethanol. Genomic DNA was extracted from the legs and the extraction process was conducted following Montero-Pau et al. (2008). DNA amplification and sequencing were processed as for Prado et al. (2011). Sequences and all collateral data from specimens are available on the BOLD website ( in the project entitled "Cacti". In addition, photos were taken of the adults using a Nikon D7000 camera with a 105 mm Micro-Nikkor lens and a Nikon Speedlight Flash SB-900.

The obtained DNA barcode allowed 99.51% identification to genus level: Chilocorus, using the BOLD-IDS tools. Many species of Chilocorus were registered in Boldsystems and BLAST® tool from GenBank but none matched our sequences. To obtain identification at species level were used dorsal and ventral photos (Fig. 1) of adults and different resources: a taxonomic key to identify species of Chilocorus (Gordon 1985) and two web sites that included an identification guide ( and The cross checking of all available information allow to identify the species as Chilocorus cacti. Important characteristic for identification of C. cacti is the red or yellow ventral surface (except posternum), their large spot on elytron and its wide geographical distribution from southern part of USA to northern part of South America including Mexico and Caribbean islands.

The Coccinelidae, commonly referred as ladybirds, ladybugs or ladybeetles depending on the region, have been extensively studied as around 90% of species are beneficial predators against pest insects (Roy & Migeon 2010). In particular, Chilocorus species are recognized to be predators of a wide range of insect and mites pests on date palms in Iraq (Hussain 1974), citrus orchards in Iran (Hallaji-Sani et al. 2013), and kiwifruit in New Zealand (Charles et al. 1995) among others. Moreover, Chilocorus spp. are reported as predators of the cochineal, Dactylopius coccus Costa (Hemiptera: Dactylopiidae), used for the production of natural red dye in Oaxaca (Mexico) (Santiago & Meneses-Lozano 2010). In this particular case, Chilocorus spp. became a serious threat for the production of this precious dye. Overall, Chilocorus cacti has showed its efficacy as a biological control agent by controlling and maintaining low levels of infestation of a large number of pests through the world (Pluke et al. 2005, Cave 2006, López-Arroyo et al. 2008, Ruiz et al. 2008, Fernández et al. 2010).

Mexico is a country with many agricultural products, for internal consumption or exportation, including avocado, coffee, lemon, orange, sugarcane, banana, etc. The diverse mosaic of habitats in Mexico, provides suitable conditions for many palm species (Fonseca 1999) that are exploited for agricultural or ornamental purposes. All of these species are hosts to a wide range of insects or mite pests; therefore numerous studies have been carried out to find alternative solutions to the application of chemical products, including the use of natural predators. The coccinelid, Chilocorus cacti, is used as biological control agent on a wide range of plants in Mexico (Table 1).

As far as we know, C. cacti has never been reported as a pest predator for any species of palm, whether ornamental or commercial, in Mexico. This paper reports for the first time, the presence of C. cacti (adult and larval) on coconut palms infested by R. indica in Quintana Roo (Mexico). The global economic loss caused by the R. indica mite is significant. In Mexico, there are 147,000 ha of banana, coco, palm oil and date palm orchards, all principal crop hosts of this pest (Senasica 2013). Furthermore, the reports of extensive damage throughout the world, suggest that the impact of R. indica could be devastating. Additionally, considering the presence of R. indica in ecological reserves as Sian Ka'an and Xcalak, where the use of acaricides is prohibited, the alternative method of exploiting a native natural predator to control this pest is an appropriate solution that merits further study. Therefore, more research, in order to evaluate the efficacy and rearing possibilities of this natural predator, is required.



This paper represents a contribution from the Mexican Barcode of Life, in particular the Chetumal node where the extraction and amplification were performed by Arely Martínez Arce (Ecosur-Chetumal). Thanks to the Canadian Centre for DNA Barcoding for sequencing the samples. We are grateful to Humberto Bahena-Basave (Ecosur-Chetumal) for assisting with the photography of this coccinelid. Julian Flavell is greatly thanked for revising the English.



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