‘Hass’ avocado, Persea americana Mill., fruit imported into California from Mexico are infested with high levels of armored scale insects (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), constituting several species. The paucity and delicate nature of morphological characters traditionally used to diagnose armored scales often require careful preparation of slide-mounted specimens and expert knowledge of the group, for their accurate identification. Here, we present a simple, quick, and accurate means to identify armored scales on Mexican avocados, based on amplification of the internal transcribed spacer two of ribosomal DNA, by using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). This region seems to show a high level of intraspecific conformity among scale specimens originating from different localities. A suite of species-specific reverse PCR primers are combined in a single reaction, with a universal forward primer, and produce a PCR product of a unique size, that after standard gel electrophoresis, allows the direct diagnosis of six diaspidid species: Abgrallaspis aguacatae Evans, Watson & Miller; Hemiberlesia lataniae (Signoret); Hemiberlesia sp. near latania; Hemiberlesia rapax (Comstock); Acutaspis albopicta (Cockerell); and Pinnaspis strachani (Cooley). Two additional species, Diaspis miranda (Cockerell) and Diaspis sp. near miranda, also are separated from the others by using this method and are subsequently diagnosed by secondary digestion of the PCR product with the restriction endonuclease smaI.
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Vol. 102 • No. 5