Priority theme pests

Weeds and pests represent a potential risk for agricultural production. The control of insect pests and weeds makes a substantial contribution to the security of production of the Swiss agricultural sector.

A corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis) eats through a corn stalk.
© Agroscope (Arnaud Conne)

Climate change influences the distribution and development of insect pests, the favourable habitats of their host plants, and the ecological relationships between host plants, insect pests and their natural enemies (Bale et al., 2002; Tylianakis et al., 2008). For the adaptation of control strategies, timely detection of the altered development of native insects and the risk of invasion by non-native insect pests (in German) is essential. Very important in this context is the cross-border collaboration. The European Plant protection Organization (EPPO) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) coordinate the development of common strategies to protect plants against insect pests.

Native Insect Pests

Climate-related changes in the incidence of insect pests are already apparent today. Since 1960, many species have extended their range northwards or to higher altitudes (Bebber et al., 2013). Furthermore, warmer winters have favoured the survival of insect pests and led to higher population densities in the spring (Bale et al, 2002), although hot, dry summers have led, in some cases (in German), to higher insect mortality and reduced population densities.

Because of global warming, the phenological development of insect pests starts earlier in the year and occurs more rapidly (Bell et al., 2015). As a result, many species such as the codling moth (in German) (Cydia pomonella) produce one generation more per year than they did several decades ago (Tobin et al., 2008).

Invasive Insect Pests

The distribution of invasive non-native insects has spread markedly in the last few decades owing to climate change (Seebens et al., 2017). International trade and passenger transport favour the introduction and spread of non-native insect species. Since Switzerland’s future climate is likely to correspond to the present-day climate in the warmer regions of France, the Mediterranean and South-Eastern Europe (Fig. 1), the chances of non-native insect species surviving, spreading and hence becoming established will increase with climate change.

The spotted-wing drosophila (in German) (Drosophila suzukii), the Mediterranean fruit fly (in German) (Ceratitis capitata), the Japanese beetle (in German) (Popillia japonnica), the brown marmorated stink bug (in German) (Halyomorpha halys) and the tomato leaf miner (in German) (Tuta absoluta) have all recently been introduced to Switzerland. Up to now the Alps have represented a barrier against the spontaneous entry of insect pests from southern areas. Depending on situation this ought to be no longer the case in the future (Aluja et al., 2014).

The graphic shows a map of Europe, with a yellow dot in the centre marking the geographic location of Wädenswil. Red patches extend over the area south of the fiftieth parallel. These indicate where, during the months of April to September, it is currently as warm as it is expected to be in Wädenswil around 2060. The areas include southwest and central France, the Mediterranean basin, the Balkans, South-Eastern Europe and the Ukraine.
Figure 1. Regions (red) in which current temperature conditions for the months of April to September correspond to those projected on the basis of climate scenarios for Wädenswil (yellow dot) for the period around 2060.
© Agroscope

The following pages offer a deeper view of the topic, presenting selected examples and research findings:

Native Pests in Fruit Production: The Codling Moth

The codling moth (Cydia Pomonella) is considered to be one of the key pests in fruit production. The grub causes damage by boring into the apple.
Teaser NCCS_Eignung

Invasive Insect Pests under Climate Change: Climatic Suitability and Host-Plant Availability

The potential spread of non-indigenous, potentially invasive insect pests under current and future climate conditions was examined for 64 species of agricultural insect pests.

Invasive Insect Pests: The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Native to East Asia, the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha Halys) damages fruit, vegetables, berries and field crops. The species was introduced into the USA towards the end of the 20th century, and spotted for the first time in Europe (in Zurich) in 2004.
Teaser Kirschessigfliege

Invasive Insect Pests: The spotted wing drosophila

The spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila Suzukii Matsumura) originates from Southeast Asia and was first detected in the USA and Southern Europe in 2008. In Switzerland it was found for the first time in July 2011 in the Canton of Ticino and in the Canton of Grisons.

Invasive Insect Pests: The Mediterranean fruit fly

The Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis Capitata) originally comes from Africa south of the Sahara. During the last 200 years it has been spread to all continents by worldwide fruit trade. It is one of the economically most important fruit pests.

Invasive Insect Pests: The Japanese beetle

The Japanese beetle (Popillia Japonica Newman) has successfully settled in the USA since its introduction from Japan and caused considerable damage. The beetle has now reached Switzerland. The Japanese beetle is a quarantine organism in Switzerland and any infestation must be reported and controlled.

Additional Information


References Cited in the Text

Aluja, M., Birke, A., Ceymann, M., Guillén, L., Arrigoni, E., Baumgartner, D., Pascacio-Villafán, C. and Samietz, J., 2014. Agroecosystem resilience to an invasive insect species that could expand its geographical range in response to global climate change, Agr. Ecosyst. Environ, 186, 54–63.

Bacon, S.J., Bacher, S., Aebi, A., 2012. Gaps in border controls are related to quarantine alien insect invasions in Europe. PLoS ONE, 7, e47689.

Bale, J.S., Masters, G.J., Hodkinson, I.D., Awmack, C., Bezemer, T.M., Brown, V.K., Butterfield, J., Buse, A., Coulson, J.C., Farrar, J., Good, J.E.G., Harrington, R., Hartley, S., Jones, T.H., Lindroth, R.L., Press, M.C., Symrnioudis, I., Watt, A.D., Whittaker, J.B., 2002. Herbivory in global climate change research: direct effects of rising temperature on insect herbivores. Glob. Change Biol., 8, 1-16.

Bebber, D.P., Ramotowski, M.A.T., Gurr, S.J., 2013. Crop pests and pathogens move polewards in a warming world. Nat. Clim. Change, 3, 985-988.

Bell, J.R., Alderson, L., Izera, D., Kruger, T., Parker, S., Pickup, J., Shortall, C.R., Taylor, M.S., Verrier, P., Harrington, R., 2015. Long-term phenological trends, species accumulation rates, aphid traits and climate: five decades of change in migrating aphids. J. Anim. Ecol., 84, 21-34.

Deutsch, C. A., Tewksbury, J. J., Tigchelaar, M., Battisti, D. S., Merrill, S. C., Huey, R. B., Naylor, R. L., 2018. Increase in crop losses to insect pests in a warming climate. Science, 361, 916–919.

FOEN, 2016. Strategie der Schweiz zu invasiven gebietsfremden Arten. Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), Bern, Switzerland.

Mazzi, D., Bravin, E., Meraner, M., Finger, R., Kuske, S., 2017. Economic impact of the introduction and establishment of Drosophila suzukii on sweet cherry production in Switzerland. Insects, 8, 1-13.

Seebens, H., Blackburn, T.M., Dyer, E.E., Genovesi, P., Hulme, P.E., Jeschke, J.M., Pagad, S., Pysek, P., Winter, M., Arianoutsou, M., Bacher, S., Blasius, B., Brundu, G., Capinha, C., Celesti-Grapow, L., Dawson, W., Dullinger, S., Fuentes, N., Jager, H., Kartesz, J., Kenis, M., Kreft, H., Kuhn, I., Lenzner, B., Liebhold, A., Mosena, A., Moser, D., Nishino, M., Pearman, D., Pergl, J., Rabitsch, W., Rojas-Sandoval, J., Roques, A., Rorke, S., Rossinelli, S., Roy, H.E., Scalera, R., Schindler, S., Stajerova, K., Tokarska-Guzik, B., van Kleunen, M., Walker, K., Weigelt, P., Yamanaka, T., Essl, F., 2017. No saturation in the accumulation of alien species worldwide. Nat. Commun., 8, 9.

Swiss Science Academies (2016). Brennpunkt Klima Schweiz. Grundlagen, Folgen und Perspektiven. Swiss Academies Reports, 11(5), [available online, 14 June 2018].

Tobin, P.C., Nagarkatti, S., Loeb, G., Saunders, M.C., 2008. Historical and projected interactions between climate change and insect voltinism in a multivoltine species. Glob. Change Biol., 14, 951-957.

Tylianakis, J.M., Didham, R.K., Bascompte, J., Wardle, D.A., 2008. Global change and species interactions in terrestrial ecosystems. Ecol. Lett. 11, 1351-1363.

Additional Reading

Eitzinger, J., Kersebaum K.C., Formayer H., 2009. Landwirtschaft im Klimawandel – Auswirkungen und Anpassungsstrategien für die Land- und Forstwirtschaft in Mitteleuropa. AgriMedia, ERLING Verlag GmbH, Clenze (Germany).

FOEN, 2009: Klimainformationen im Dienste der Ernährungssicherheit. Faktenblatt 4, 3. World Climate Conference, Geneva, Switzerland [available online, 14 June 2018].

Linder, C., Kehrli, P., Viret, O., 2016. Ravageurs et auxiliaires. In La Vigne, vol. 2.

Online Journals

Last modification 28.09.2023

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Department of Crop Sciences

Sibylle Stöckli

Agroecology and Environment
Climate and Agriculture Group

Pierluigi Calanca

Plant Protection
Phytopathology and Zoology in Fruit and Vegetable Production Group

Dominique Mazzi

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