The Use of Meconia to Nondestructively Detect Sublethal Infections in Heliothines (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)

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The utility of using meconia to nondestructively detect entomopathogens of lepidopterous heliothines was examined. Early-instar tobacco budworm [Heliothis virescens (F.)] or cotton bollworm [Helicoverpa zea (Boddie)] larvae were inoculated with cytoplasmic polyhedrosis virus (CPV), Serratia marcescens Bizio, or Nosema heliothidis Lutz and Splendor, and the presence of each of the entomopathogens in adults and the meconia discharged during adult eclosion was determined. As the dose of CPV occlusion bodies and N. heliothidis spores but not S. marcescens cells ingested by larvae increased, a greater number of both adults and meconia were infested with the entomopathogens. For all three entomopathogens, no difference was observed between males and females for any of the parameters tested. The accuracy of the meconium method for predicting the presence of the entomopathogens in the adults (i.e., number of individuals in which meconia and adults were both positive, or meconia and adults were both negative) was ≥92% for CPV, and ≥79% for S. marcescens and N. heliothidis. Very few false negative predictions (i.e., the meconium was negative but the adult was positive) were observed for CPV (≤1%). The prevalence of false negative predictions ranged from 2 to 9%, and 5 to 21% for S. marcescens and N. heliothidis, respectively. The prevalence of false positive predictions (i.e., the meconium was positive but the adult was negative) was ≤7% for CPV, ≤13% for S. marcescens, and 0% for N. heliothidis. The results of this study demonstrate that although not absolute, the meconium method will be an efficacious method to detect nondestructively entomopathogens causing sublethal infections in heliothines, and possibly other insects, and thereby facilitate the rearing of specific pathogen free insects.

Keywords: Chronic infection; SPF; disease; technique

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 2003

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  • Journal of Economic Entomology is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December. The journal publishes articles on the economic significance of insects and is divided into the following sections: apiculture & social insects; arthropods in relation to plant disease; forum; insecticide resistance and resistance management; ecotoxicology; biological and microbial control; ecology and behavior; sampling and biostatistics; household and structural insects; medical entomology; molecular entomology; veterinary entomology; forest entomology; horticultural entomology; field and forage crops, and small grains; stored-product; commodity treatment and quarantine entomology; and plant resistance. In addition to research papers, Journal of Economic Entomology publishes Letters to the Editor, interpretive articles in a Forum section, Short Communications, Rapid Communications, and Book Reviews.
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