Adult Colorado potato beetle dining on a potato
leaf. Click the image for more information about it.
DNA Fingerprints for Insects
September 26, 2005
Using genetic fingerprinting,
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientists have developed a method to identify immature forms of beneficial
insects that could help control the pesky Colorado potato beetle.
Scientists have difficulty identifying immature forms of beneficial
predators because they look so different from adults--and most identification
guides are based on adult forms.
Now scientists at the ARS
Biocontrol Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., have developed DNA fingerprinting
tools that match the immature predators to adults that have been positively
Led by entomologist and research leader
Greenstone, the group first demonstrated that these techniques can be
applied to agriculturally important spider and ground beetle species, in a
paper published in the September 2005 issue of the journal Molecular
These techniques will be of immediate value to scientists, whose findings
will then be used by extension personnel and consultants to advise growers on
how to preserve and foster the most important predatory species.
Biological control--the management of pests by killing them with beneficial
organisms, like predatoratory and parasitic insects--is a major alternative to
control with chemical pesticides. Spiders and predatory insects play a major
role in biological control of insect pests. Understanding their role is
hampered by the inability to identify their immature forms.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.