Abstract Scaphoideus titanus Ball is a Nearctic leafhopper that was introduced for the first time in Europe probably at the beginning of the 20th century. In Europe, this species is a specialist on cultivated grapevines and is of great economic importance as the vector of Flavescence dore´e (FD), a Grapevine Yellows disease caused by Candidatus Phytoplasma vitis. The Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA (RAPD) technique was employed to obtain genetic information about the diffusion and the structure of S. titanus populations. Two American and 14 European populations were analysed. A total of 188 reproducible bands, obtained from three arbitrary primers, were considered to assess the amount and the pattern of genetic variation within and among leafhopper populations. American populations showed high levels of intrapopulation polymorphism and dissimilarity and appeared to be the most isolated of all the tested samples. The results confirm the historical role of American samples as the sources for the more recently founded European populations. RAPD analyses revealed a weak genetic structure of European samples that could probably be explained invoking the human role in their diffusion. The non-natural spreading of S. titanus across Europe is in fact attributable to the exchange of grapevine canes and grafts carrying eggs that the insect laid under the bark to overwinter.
Keywords Diffusion Genetic relatedness Grapevine Polymorphism RAPD-PCR Scaphoideus titanus