Invasive insects and their harmful effects

Invasive insects affect everything. Varying species can destroy whole ecosystems. Globalization has created unprecedented prospects for the acceleration and movement of invasive alien species to new areas around the world. The estimated costs of damage to agriculture, native species, and environments have amounted to $120 billion each year in the United States alone. 

In the Caribbean, the Pink Hibiscus Mealybug (Maconellicoccus hirsutus Green) is an invasive plant pest that has caused harm to trade in the past. It has resulted in an economic loss, as countries would not accept shipments of agricultural products that were infected. The Pink Hibiscus Mealybug feeds on young growth, causing plant distortion, severe stunting, leaf drop, and eventual death. The mealybug leaves behind sooty mold and honeydew on fruits, reducing its marketable value. It has also been known to attack a variety of native species and newly introduced plant species. Read more about this in our policy brief, ‘’Invasive Species Threaten Livelihoods and Valuable Biodiversity in the Caribbean.’’ 

Other effects from invasive insects that harm the environment and food include the invasive flies (Philornis downsi) and its attack on Darwin finches in the Galapagos islands, the fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) that consumes maize in Africa, spittlebugs (Halyomorpha halys) that spread non-native bacterium like the (Xylella fastidiosa) and is a vector for aflatoxin-producing fungi in the United States or the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) that transmits the dengue virus in South America. 

Currently, evaluating the risks to sectors like agriculture, trade, and tourism involves the use of pest risk assessment. This form of biosecurity has proven effective, using methods of surveillance, information on permissible goods for import, and post-invasion responses to threatened areas. Caribbean countries have started using pest risk assessments and quarantine measures to prevent the spread of invasive alien species. 


Policy Brief – Invasive Species Threaten Livelihoods and Valuable Biodiversity in the Caribbean 

USDA – Invasive Species Affect Everyone 

Frontiersin – Invasive Insect Species: Global Challenges, Strategies & Opportunities