BACKGROUND: Like numerous other animals, biocontrol agents (BCAs) of arthropod pests carry various microorganisms that may have diverse effects on the biology of their eukaryote hosts. We postulated that it is possible to improve the efficacy of BCAs by manipulating the composition of their associated microbiota. The parasitoid wasp Anagyrus vladimiri (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae) from a mass-rearing facility was chosen for testing this hypothesis. RESULTS: High-throughput sequencing analysis indicated that fungal abundance in A. vladimiri was low and variable, whereas the bacterial community was dominated by the endosymbiont Wolbachia. Wolbachia was fixed in the mass-rearing population, whereas in field-collected A. vladimiri Wolbachia's prevalence was only approximately 20%. Identification of Wolbachia strains from the two populations by Multi Locus Sequence Typing, revealed two closely related but unique strains. A series of bioassays with the mass-rearing Wolbachia-fixed (W+) and a derived antibiotic-treated Wolbachia-free (W–) lines revealed that: (i) Wolbachia does not induce reproductive manipulations; (ii) W– females have higher fecundity when reared individually, but not when reared with conspecifics; (iii) W+ females outcompete W– when they share hosts for oviposition; (iv) longevity and developmental time were similar in both lines. CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that W+ A. vladimiri have no clear fitness benefit under mass-rearing conditions and may be disadvantageous under lab-controlled conditions. In a broader view, the results suggest that augmentative biological control can benefit from manipulation of the microbiome of natural enemies.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was funded by the Chief Scientist of Agriculture in Israel, grant no. 20‐02‐0092. The authors would like to thank Gopinath Selvaraj and Sagie Gottlieb for technical help, Gilad M. Oren for graphic assistance, Rakefet Sharon for providing pheromones and Eyal Erel for insects and rearing consultancy.
© 2020 Society of Chemical Industry
- augmentative biological control
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Insect Science