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Publication #EENY097

Royal Palm Bug, Xylastodoris luteolus Barber (Insecta: Hemiptera: Thaumastocoridae)1

T. J. Weissling, F. W. Howard, and A. W. Meerow2

Introduction

The royal palm bug, Xylastodoris luteolus Barber, is one of the few arthropods that feed on Cuban royal palms, Roystonea regia, which are native to Florida and Cuba. This insect species is the only representative of the small tropical family of Thaumastocoridae in North America.

Distribution

The royal palm bug feeds only on Roystonea regia and the range of its host plant limits its distribution in Florida, Cuba, the Cayman Islands, and Yucatán. Mexico. However, reports of infestations are known only for Florida and Cuba (Howard 2001). In Florida, royal palm distribution is limited to the southern third of the peninsula.

Description

Adult

The royal palm bug is very small, with the adult reaching a length of only 2.5 mm (less than 1/10th of an inch). Its general body shape is elongate-oval and it is somewhat flattened. Adults are pale yellow-green in color except for the eyes, which are red. The immatures look similar to the adults, but lack wings.

Figure 1. 

Adult royal palm bug (center - with wings), Xylastodoris luteolus Barber, surrounded by late stage nymphs.


Credit:

Lyle J. Buss, University of Florida


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Egg

The egg is pale amber in color, elongate, 5 mm long and capped at one end by a white operculum. Adult females usually lay a single egg in the tufts along the leaflet midvein. Females usually lay a maximum of 15 eggs, each of which hatch in about eight days.

Figure 2. 

Egg of the royal palm bug, Xylastodoris luteolus Barber.


Credit:

Doug Caldwell University of Florida


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Nymph

There are five nymphal instars, each lasting several days. The time between egg to adult is 23-27 days (Howard 2001).

Figure 3. 

Late instar nymphs of the royal palm bug, Xylastodoris luteolus Barber, dorsal view.


Credit:

Lyle J. Buss, University of Florida


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 4. 

Late instar nymphs of the royal palm bug, Xylastodoris luteolus Barber, lateral view.


Credit:

Lyle J. Buss, University of Florida


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Life Cycle

Royal palm bug females deposit their eggs in the spring along the midribs of emerging leaflets. At the time of oviposition, leaflets are folded and the egg is placed inside of the fold. This helps to protect the eggs. Females usually lay only one egg per day, which will hatch in eight or nine days. The time from egg hatch to adult is about one month coinciding with the emergence of new leaves.

Damage

Royal palm bugs feed on freshly opened leaves causing scattered yellow spots on the lower leaf surfaces. As feeding pressure increases (up to 300 bugs per leaflet have been observed), leaves develop brownish streaks and wilt. Damaged leaves eventually become gray and tattered. Royal palms produce a new leaf monthly, so during the period of royal palm bug activity, about four leaves are damaged. Royal palm bugs rarely, if ever, kill palms but their damage is unsightly and deleterious to the palm's health. Palms less than 12 feet tall are seldom attacked.

Figure 5. 

Close up of damage by the royal palm bug, Xylastodoris luteolus Barber,to fronds of the royal palm, Roystonea regia.


Credit:

Doug Caldwell University of Florida


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Royal palm bugs, though present from year to year, are generally considered to be minor pests. However, extensive damage due to royal palm bug feeding has been reported throughout southern Florida from time to time.

Figure 6. 

Royal palm bug, Xylastodoris luteolus Barber, feeding damage to a group of royal palms, Roystonea regia.


Credit:

Doug Caldwell University of Florida


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Management

Other than some general predation by miscellaneous arthropods such as spiders, insecticidal control is the only known reliable method of controlling the royal palm bug in Florida. Chemical control with a contact insecticide can, however, be a challenge due to the height of infested palms and problems with insecticide drift. Root drenches with soil-applied neonicotinoid systemic insecticides are a viable management option because their application does not require special equipment to reach palm leaves. Soil application is preferred in urban landscapes over foliar treatments as this eliminates drift and avoids environmental concerns. To fully protect the aesthetic appearance of the palms, apply the soil drench at first symptoms of an infestation (Caldwell and Ali 2010).

Before drenching, scrape away mulch or grass near the base of the palm, and pour the mixture very slowly around the base of the trunk in a band a few inches wide. If the soil is dry, wet it first with 5 gallons of water before applying the drench.

Selected References

Caldwell DL, Ali AD. 2010. Control of royal palm bug (Xylastodoris luteolus) populations with soil applied neonicotinoid insecticides. Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society 123: 304-307.

Baranowski RM. 1958. Notes on the biology of the royal palm bug, Xylastodoris luteolus Barber (Hemiptera: Thaumastocoridae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America 51: 547-551.

Baranowski RM. 1966. The royal palm bug, Xylastodoris luteolus Barber (Hemiptera: Thaumastocoridae). Florida Department of Agriculture, Division of Plant Industry Enotmology Circular 46.

Howard FW, Stopek A. 1998. Control of royal palm bug with imidicloprid. Principes 42: 80-84.

Howard FW. 2001. Thaumastocoridae, pp 120-127 In Moore D (editor). Insects on Palms. CABI.

Meerow AW, Weissling TJ. Ornamental pest management at the Fort Lauderdale REC. Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center. http://www.flrec.ifas.ufl.edu/entomo/ornamental_pests/ornapest.htm (July 1999) [delinked 4 September 2012].

Footnotes

1.

This document is EENY-097, one of a series of the Entomology and Nematology Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date July 1999. Revised June 2012. This document is also available as a Featured Creature at http://entomology.ifas.ufl.edu/creatures. Please visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

T. J. Weissling and F. W. Howard (retired), and A. W. Meerow, University of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Research Center, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33314.


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U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.