Citizen science to fight the threat of Xylella

Xylella fastidiosa, a bacterial pathogen, is not in the UK yet but has devastated the olive industry in Italy and is a growing economic and environmental threat across southern Europe.

The UK-wide consortium, BRIGIT, generated evidence and understanding needed to reduce the risk of Xylella being introduced, using data collected during a country-wide citizen science collaboration. This data collection has now ended.

Cuckoo-spit is produced by spittlebug nymphs as protection against predators and to prevent them drying out and is associated with the arrival of spring. Spittlebugs/froghoppers emerge from those frothy protective havens to feed as adults on a wide range of plants and trees.

“There are several types of spittle bugs featured in our video. We want to know what plants these spittlebugs like so that we learn more about the fascinating biology of these insects,” says Professor Saskia Hogenhout of the John Innes Centre and leader of the BRIGIT programme.

The researchers stress that people should not harm any spittlebugs.

Do not send samples of suspected Xylella to the John Innes Centre. If you suspect that a plant may be infected with Xylella fastidiosa don’t attempt to control the disease yourself. Collect all available details and report your suspicions to the relevant plant health authority.

Xylella is a bacterium that infects more than 500 species of plant causing leaf scorch, wilt, die-back and plant death.

There is no known cure for the disease.

Xylella is not present in the UK but the public is also being asked to look out for symptoms and to report them to the TreeAlert service when the cause cannot be explained by other factors, such as frost damage, drought or other common pests and diseases.

Advice to help prevent the introduction of Xylella includes:

  1. Source new plants carefully, where possible purchase plants grown in the UK
  2. Propagate your own plants from seeds or cuttings
  3. Check plants for signs of disease before purchase and monitor the health of new plants
  4. Never bring plants back with you from abroad

What is Xylella?

Where is Xylella?

What is BRIGIT?