Barber Giant Mealybug | Puto barberi (Cockerell)

Barber Giant Mealybug or Cockerell
Alessandra Rung, Scale Insects, USDA APHIS ITP,
California Pest Rating for
Barber Giant Mealybug | Puto barberi (Cockerell) 
Hemiptera: Putoidae
Pest Rating: A


Initiating Event:

Puto barberi is currently Q-rated.  A permanent pest rating proposal is required to support an official pest rating.

History & Status:

Background:   Puto barberi is a common neotropical mealybug.  Immatures and adult females are covered in a powdery, white wax.  Adult females reach 4.3 mm in length.  This polyphagous mealybug has been reported to feed on 37 families of plants, including Apocynaceae, Asteraceae, Bromeliaceae, Caprifoliaceae, Caryophyllaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Fabaceae, Geraniaceae, Lamiaceae, Lauraceae, Lomariopsidaceae, Lythraceae, Malvaceae, Nyctaginaceae, Oleaceae, Polygonaceae, Rosaceae, Rubiaceae, Rutaceae, Solanaceae, Sterculiaceae, Tamaricaceae, Thunbergiaceae, Umbelliferae, and Verbenaceae (Malumphy, 2014; Portilla and Cardona, 2004).  It can be found on the foliage, fruit, and roots of plants (García Morales et al., 2016).  It is a well-known pest of coffee; it feeds underground on the roots of that plant and has been reported to be the most significant mealybug pest of coffee in Colombia (Villegas-García and Benavides-Machado, 2011).  The underground lifestyle makes insecticidal control challenging (Builes et al., 2014).  It has also been reported from avocado, citrus, and strawberries, but no information was found regarding the damage inflicted (if any) (García et al., 2013; Kondo and Muñoz, 2016; Williams and Granara de Willink, 1992).  Besides removing the phloem when feeding, an additional impact on plants that has been reported is the excretion of honeydew and resulting growth of mold on the plant.  In addition to impacting the appearance of the plant, mold can reduce photosynthesis (Malumphy, 2010).  Puto barberi has been shown to be parthenogenetic under laboratory conditions.  It is not known if sexual reproduction occurs in the field (García et al., 2013).

Worldwide Distribution:  Puto barberi appears to be restricted in distribution to the Neotropics, where it is apparently native, and the Canary Islands, where it is presumably introduced (Gavrilov-Zimin and Danzig, 2015; Malumphy, 2014).  It is widespread in the Caribbean, including Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad and Tobago (Portilla and Cardona, 2004; Miller, 2005; Williams and Granara de Willink, 1992).  It is also reported from South America (Colombia and Venezuela) (Kondo et al., 2008; Urtiaga, 2017).

Official Control: Puto barberi is considered reportable by USDA-APHIS (USDA-APHIS).

California Distribution:  Puto barberi is not known to be present in California (Symbiota Collections of Arthropods Network).

California Interceptions:  Puto barberi was intercepted on cut flowers of Alpinia sp. from Florida in 2018 (California Department of Food and Agriculture).

The risk Puto barberi would pose to California is evaluated below.

Consequences of Introduction:

1) Climate/Host Interaction: Puto barberi is reported to attack a wide variety of plants, and it is likely that it could find suitable host plants in much of California.  Climate, however, is expected to limit the potential distribution of this species in California.  This mealybug appears to currently be limited to areas with a tropical or (possibly) subtropical climate; this includes the areas it has been introduced to in the Canary Islands.  It does not appear to have spread into the southeastern United States or Mexico or further south than Colombia or Venezuela in South America, which supports the idea that a tropical/subtropical climate is required by this species.  If this mealybug was able to become established in California, it would likely be limited to a very small area, possibly on the coast in the southern part of the state.  Therefore, Puto barberi receives a Low (1) in this category.

– Low (1) Not likely to establish in California; or likely to establish in very limited areas.

– Medium (2) may be able to establish in a larger but limited part of California.

– High (3) likely to establish a widespread distribution in California.

2) Known Pest Host Range: As stated above, Puto barberi is reported to feed on at least 37 families of plants.  Therefore, it receives a High (3) in this category.

– Low (1) has a very limited host range.

– Medium (2) has a moderate host range.

– High (3) has a wide host range.

3) Pest Reproductive and Dispersal Potential: Puto barberi has been shown to be parthenogenetic, which means a single female can establish a population.  Immatures and adult females could be transported on infested plant material.  Therefore, it receives a High (3) in this category.

– Low (1) does not have high reproductive or dispersal potential.

– Medium (2) has either high reproductive or dispersal potential.

– High (3) has both high reproduction and dispersal potential.

4) Economic Impact: Coffee is now being grown in several California counties, including San Diego and Santa Barbara (Kan-Rice, 2017).  Puto barberi is considered a significant pest of coffee.  It is possible that if this mealybug became established in southern California, it could have an impact on coffee, including lowering yield and increasing production costs.  As a highly polyphagous mealybug, it could attack other crops as well.  The presence of this pest in California could result in quarantines because it is considered Reportable by the USDA.  Therefore, it receives a High (3) in this category.

Economic Impact:  A, B, C

A. The pest could lower crop yield.

B. The pest could lower crop value (includes increasing crop production costs).

C. The pest could trigger the loss of markets (includes quarantines).

D. The pest could negatively change normal cultural practices.

E. The pest can vector, or is vectored, by another pestiferous organism.

F. The organism is injurious or poisonous to agriculturally important animals.

G. The organism can interfere with the delivery or supply of water for agricultural uses.

Economic Impact Score: 3

– Low (1) causes 0 or 1 of these impacts.

– Medium (2) causes 2 of these impacts.

– High (3) causes 3 or more of these impacts.

5) Environmental Impact: Puto barberi is reported to attack a wide variety of plants. If this species became established in California, it could trigger treatments in cropland or gardens.  Therefore, it receives a Medium (2) in this category.

Evaluate the environmental impact of the pest on California using the criteria below.

Environmental Impact:  D

A. The pest could have a significant environmental impact such as lowering biodiversity, disrupting natural communities, or changing ecosystem processes.

B. The pest could directly affect threatened or endangered species.

C. The pest could impact threatened or endangered species by disrupting critical habitats.

D. The pest could trigger additional official or private treatment programs.

E. The pest significantly impacts cultural practices, home/urban gardening or ornamental plantings.

Environmental Impact Score: 2

– Low (1) causes none of the above to occur.

– Medium (2) causes one of the above to occur.

– High (3) causes two or more of the above to occur.

Consequences of Introduction to California for Puto barberi: Medium (12)

Add up the total score and include it here.

–Low = 5-8 points

–Medium = 9-12 points

–High = 13-15 points

6) Post Entry Distribution and Survey Information: Puto barberi is not known to occur in California.  It receives a Not established (0) in this category.

–Not established (0) Pest never detected in California, or known only from incursions.

–Low (-1) Pest has a localized distribution in California, or is established in one suitable climate/host area (region).

–Medium (-2) Pest is widespread in California but not fully established in the endangered area, or pest established in two contiguous suitable climate/host areas.

–High (-3) Pest has fully established in the endangered area, or pest is reported in more than two contiguous or non-contiguous suitable climate/host areas.

Final Score:

7) The final score is the consequences of introduction score minus the post entry distribution and survey information score: Medium (12)


The most significant uncertainty involved with this proposal is the climatic suitability of California for Puto barberi.  The known distribution of this species strongly suggests that it might not be capable of becoming established in climates other than tropical/subtropical.  Even if this mealybug is able to become established in California, there is uncertainty regarding its ability to impact crops in California.  Information was not found regarding impacts of this species on any crops other than coffee.

Conclusion and Rating Justification:

Puto barberi is a polyphagous mealybug that is a recognized pest.  If it was able to become established in California, it could attack a variety of crops and ornamental plants.  It is not known to be present in California.  For these reasons, an “A” rating is justified.


Builes, V. H. R., Bustamante, Á. L. G., Machado, P. B., Chaure, L. M. C., Palacio, Z. N. G., Khalajabadi, S. S., and Osorio, H. G.  2014.  Recomendaciones para la reducción del riesgo en la caficultura de Colombia ante un evento climático de El Niño.  Gerencia Técnica 445:1-12.

California Department of Food and Agriculture.  2018.  Pest and damage record database.  Accessed July 3, 2018:

García, C. V., Peña M., H. D., Muñoz H., R. I., Martínez C., H. E., and Machado, P. B.  2013.  Aspectos del ciclo de vida de Puto barberi Cockerell (Hemiptera: Putoidae).  Revista Cenicafé 64:31-41.

García Morales, M., Denno, B. D., Miller, D. R., Miller, G. L., Ben-Dov, Y., and Hardy, N. B. 2016.  ScaleNet: A literature-based model of scale insect biology and systematics.  Accessed July 2, 2018:

Gavrilov-Zimon, I. A. and Danzig, E. M.  2015.  Some additions to the mealybug fauna (Homoptera: Coccinea: Pseudococcidae) of the Canary Islands.  Zoosystematica Rossica 24:94-98.

Kan-Rice, P.  2017.  California’s nascent coffee industry to hold inaugural summit.  Accessed July 3, 2018:

Kondo, T. and Muñoz, J. A.  2016.  Scale insects (Hemiptera: Coccoidea) associated with avocado crop, Persea americana Mill. (Lauraceae) in Valle del Cauca and neighboring departments of Colombia.  Insecta Mundi 0465:1-24.

Kondo, T., Portilla, A. A. R., and Navarro, E. V. V.  2008.  Updated list of mealybugs and putoids from Colombia (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae and Putoidae).  Boletín del Museo de Entomología de la Universidad del Valle 9:29-53.

Malumphy, C.  2010.  Barber giant mealybug Puto barberi (Cockerell) (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), a neotropical pest of ornamental plants established in Gran Canaria, Spain.  Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine 146:21-25.

Malumphy, C.  2014.  An annotated checklist of scale insects (Hemiptera: Coccoidea) of Saint Lucia, Lesser Antilles.  Zootaxa 3846:069-086.

Miller, D. R.  2005.  Selected scale insect groups (Hemiptera: Coccoidea) in the southern region of the United States.  Florida Entomologist 88:482-501.

Portilla, A. A. R. and Cardona, F. J. S.  2004.  Coccoidea de Colombia, con énfasis en las cochinillas harinosas (Hemiptera: Pseucococcidae).  Revista Facultad Nacional de Agronomía Medellín 57:2383-2412.

Symbiota Collections of Arthropods Network.  Accessed July 2, 2018:

Urtiaga, R.  2017.  Catálogo de insectos y acaros en plantas de Venezuela.  Accessed June 29, 2018:

USDA-APHIS.  U.S. regulated plant pest table.  Accessed July 2, 2018:

Villegas-García, C. and Benavides-Machado, P.  2011.  Identificación de cochinillas harinosas en las raíces de café en departamentos cafeteros de Colombia.  Revista Cenicafé 62:48-55.

Williams, D. J. and Granara de Willink, M. C.  1992.  Mealybugs of Central and South America.  CAB International, London, England.


Kyle Beucke, 1220 N Street, Room 221, Sacramento, CA, 95814, 916-403-6741;[@]

Responsible Party:

Jason Leathers, 2800 Gateway Oaks, Sacramento CA 95833, (916) 654-1211,[@]

Comment Period:* CLOSED

7/24/18 – 9/07/18


You must be registered and logged in to post a comment.  If you have registered and have not received the registration confirmation, please contact us at[@]

Comment Format:

♦  Comments should refer to the appropriate California Pest Rating Proposal Form subsection(s) being commented on, as shown below.

Example Comment:
Consequences of Introduction:  1. Climate/Host Interaction: [Your comment that relates to “Climate/Host Interaction” here.]

♦  Posted comments will not be able to be viewed immediately.

♦  Comments may not be posted if they:

Contain inappropriate language which is not germane to the pest rating proposal;

Contains defamatory, false, inaccurate, abusive, obscene, pornographic, sexually oriented, threatening, racially offensive, discriminatory or illegal material;

Violates agency regulations prohibiting sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination;

Violates agency regulations prohibiting workplace violence, including threats.

♦  Comments may be edited prior to posting to ensure they are entirely germane.

♦  Posted comments shall be those which have been approved in content and posted to the website to be viewed, not just submitted.

Pest Rating: A

Posted by ls