Vitex agnus-castus is a preferred host plant for Hyalesthes obsoletus

Rakefet Sharon, Victoria Soroker, S. Daniel Wesley, Tirtza Zahavi, Ally Harari, Phyllis G. Weintraub

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hyalesthes obsoletus Signoret (Homoptera: Cixiidae) is a polyphagous planthopper that transmits stolbur phytoplasma (a causative agent of "yellows" disease) to various weeds, members of the Solanaceae, and wine grapes (Vitis vinifera L.) in Europe and the Middle East. Planthoppers were collected by hand vacuuming eight native plant species. Vitex agnus-castus L., a shrub in the Verbenaceae, hosted the largest number of H. obsoletus, although Olea europaea L. also served as a host for adults. Using a Y-olfactometer, we compared the planthoppers relative preference for V. agnus-castus, Convolvulus arvensis, and V. vinifera. V. agnus-castus was more attractive to both male and female H. obsoletus than the other plants. H. obsoletus antennal response was stronger to volatiles collected from V. agnus-castus than from Cabernet Sauvignon variety of V. vinifera. To determine if V. agnus-castus would serve as a reservoir for the pathogen, H. obsoletus were collected from leaf and stem samples of native V. agnus-castus, and were tested by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the presence of phytoplasma DNA. While 14% and 25% (2003 and 2004, respectively) of the insects tested positive for phytoplasma DNA, none of the plant samples tested positive. To determine if V. agnus-castus could serve as a host plant for the development of the planthopper, we placed emergence cages beneath field shrubs and enclosed wild-caught H. obsoletus in a cage with a potted young shrub. We found adult H. obsoletus in the emergence cases and planthopper nymphs in the soil of the potted plant. We concluded that V. agnus-castus is attractive to H. obsoletus, which seems to be refractory to phytoplasma infections and warrants further testing as a trap plant near vineyards.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1051-1063
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
AcknowledgmentsVThe authors thank LeAnn Beanland for critical comments on this manuscript. This research was supported in part by a grant from the Chief Scientist, Ministry of Agriculture, State of Israel and the Wine-Grape Growers Board.


  • "yellows" disease
  • EAG
  • Management
  • Spread control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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