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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Insect Management Systems for Urban Small Farms and Gardens

Location: Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory

Title: Baculovirus infection of the armyworm (Lepidoptera:Noctuidae) feeding on spiny- or smooth-edged grass (Festuca spp.) leaf blades

item Keathley, Craig
item Harrison, Robert - Bob
item Potter, Daniel

Submitted to: Biological Control
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/20/2012
Publication Date: 5/1/2012
Citation: Keathley, C.P., Harrison, R.L., Potter, D.A. 2012. Baculovirus infection of the armyworm (Lepidoptera:Noctuidae) feeding on spiny- or smooth-edged grass (Festuca spp.) leaf blades. Biological Control. 61(2):147-154.

Interpretive Summary: A moth species called the armyworm is a pest of different types of grasses in the USA, including pasture grasses, turfgrasses, and cereal grains. The use of chemical insecticides to kill these pests is no longer desirable due to negative ecological, environmental, and health consequences. Baculoviruses are a group of insect viruses that can be used to kill insect pests without the problems of chemical insecticides. In this study, the ability of a baculovirus to infect and kill armyworm caterpillars on different types of pasture grass was evaluated. The effects of different grasses on the gut of the armyworm were examined. Also, the number of armyworms infected and how long they survived after infection on different grasses were determined. The type of grass was found to have no effect on the gut of the armyworm, its susceptibility to baculovirus infection, or the survival time of infected armyworms. The information in this study contributes to progress towards developing baculoviruses that can be used as biopesticides against moth pests of grasses. Baculoviruses have a wide range of applications in addition to their use as biopesticides, and this study will be of interest to scientists in academia, government, and industry who work with this group of viruses.

Technical Abstract: Susceptibility of the armyworm, Mythimna unipuncta (Haworth), to infection by a baculovirus isolated from a Kentucky armyworm population was compared on two suspected progenitors of tall fescue, Festuca mairei and Festuca arundinacea subsp. fenas, with spiny leaf margins intact or removed to test whether leaf spines abrade or puncture the peritrophic matrix (PM) and facilitate passage of virions to infection sites in midgut tissue. Edge spines had no effect on percent infection or days to death of newly molted 5th instars fed spiny- or smooth-edged F. mairei leaf blades for 24 h before and after droplet feeding doses of 108 or 109 OBs per ml. Fifth instars fed spiny- or smooth-edged grass blades had similarly undamaged PMs when viewed by scanning electron microscope. Fourth instars fed virus-treated F. arundinacea subsp. fenas leaf blades with spiny edges intact or removed did not differ in proportion infected or days to death. The food bolus moves in a liquid medium within the PM, and frass dissections showed that edge spines were often located inside a food bolus separated from the PM by non-spiny plant material rather than contiguous with the PM; therefore, friction of edge spines with the PM may have been low. These results suggest that armyworms will not be less susceptible to baculovirus infection when feeding on tall fescue cultivars with smooth leaf edges planted for improved livestock performance compared with those feeding on standard spiny-edged cultivars. This is the first study to investigate the effects of a natural physical structure on disruption of the PM and infection by a baculovirus.

Last Modified: 08/17/2017
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