Despite being a polyphagous insect, Bemisia tabaci (Gennadius) shows a marked preference for certain hosts, which in turn may depend upon the particular whitefly biotype involved. The objective of this research was to compare preference towards a selected group of host crops, by two biotypes of Bemisia tabaci, New World in Costa Rica, and MEAM1 in Florida. Therefore, choice experiments were conducted in greenhouses both at Turrialba (Costa Rica) and Immokalee (Florida), in April and June-September, 1998, respectively. The same crops and varieties were exposed to the New World and MEAM1 biotypes, which predominate in each one of these locations, respectively. Host species included green beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), bell pepper (Capsicum annuum), eggplant (Solanum melongena), cucumber (Cucumis sativus), tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) and tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). Seedlings were transplanted in large pots, which were distributed on the greenhouse floor. B. tabaci adults were released in the late afternoon, and the number of individuals on each plant was recorded the next morning. In Turrialba, tobacco was greatly preferred by New World biotype adults, followed by eggplant, whereas the MEAM1 biotype in Florida preferred green beans and eggplant. Thus, both biotypes showed a strong and significant preference for eggplant, which suggests its possible utility as a trap crop.
Keywords: tomato, tobacco, eggplant, Aleyrodidae.