Viability of Claviceps africana Spores Ingested by Adult Corn Earworm Moths, Helicoverpa zea (Boddie) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)

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A study was conducted in College Station, TX, to determine the viability of Claviceps africana spores in the digestive tract of adult corn earworm moths, Helicoverpa zea (Boddie). Both sexes were exposed to ergot-infected sorghum panicles for 30 min, and spores were recovered from excreta of the moths at 24-, 48-, and 72-h intervals after feeding. Recovered spores were quantified, and viability was determined by the germination rate of macroconidia. Nearly a 100-fold greater concentration of spores was recovered from female excreta at the three time intervals compared with male excreta. Concentration of spores in female and male excreta was greatest at 24 h, with a significant reduction at the later time intervals. Spore germination rates for both sexes were greater at 24 h, with survival being significantly reduced at the 72-h interval. Spores in female excreta survived longer than those from male excreta. Spore survival over time was significantly reduced in male excreta. Spore concentration and survival were greater from female excreta, which is key, because egg-laying activities on sorghum panicles intensify during flowering, and this source of ergot spores could contribute to the spread of the disease. This study demonstrates that corn earworm moths can internally carry viable ergot spores for several days and can act as primary dispersal agents for the fungus. This is important because contaminated moths migrating from areas in Mexico and southern Texas where ergot is endemic could transmit and spread the disease to other sorghum growing regions of the United States.

Keywords: Claviceps africana; Helicoverpa zea; corn earworm; sorghum headworm

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2004

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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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