DOI: 10.1002/ps.7957 ISSN: 1526-498X

A scarab beetle (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) causes tree mortality, delayed growth and yield reduction in cacao with genotype‐specific susceptibility to herbivory

Mario Porcel, Tatiana C. Miranda, Carolina Pisco‐Ortiz, Hebert Camargo, Jessica Moreno, Yeisson Gutiérrez
  • Insect Science
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • General Medicine



This study explored the impact of Leucothyreus femoratus, a previously unreported folivorous pest in cacao cultivation, on cacao tree survival, development, and yield. The study was conducted in an experimental cacao plot in the colombian plains, it featured twenty cacao genotypes in an agroforestry system, with plantain and mexican sunflower providing temporary shade, and yopo offering permanent shade.


We found an infestation rate of 2.9 ± 0.3 adult beetles per cacao tree. L. femoratus larvae were discovered in association with the roots of all plants within the agroforestry arrangement; however, Yopo and plantain exhibited the highest incidence of root‐feeding larvae among these associated plants. Interestingly, male and female L. femoratus displayed distinct leaf consumption patterns in the lab, with females consuming more foliage relative to their body weight. Moreover, field observations highlighted the detrimental impact of L. femoratus herbivory on cacao tree survival and growth, leading to leaf skeletonization, reduced plant height, and stem diameter. Trees with over 50% leaf consumption suffered more than 20% mortality. Additionally, herbivory negatively affected cacao yield, correlating higher leaf surface damage with a decrease in harvested pods. The study also identified varying antixenotic resistance in different cacao genotypes, with some consistently displaying resistance while others showed variable levels during tree establishment and production stages.


This research underscores the significant role of L. femoratus as a cacao pest, emphasizing its adverse effects on cacao tree survival, development, and yield. Consequently, implementing effective control measures is vital for ensuring sustainable cacao cultivation.

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