IDENTIFYING HOST STRAINS OF FALL ARMYWORM (LEPIDOPTERA\ NOCTUIDAE) IN FLORIDA USING MITOCHONDRIAL MARKERS

R. L. Meagher Jr., M. Gallo-Meagher

Abstract


Two molecular techniques were used to identify host strains of fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda (J. E. Smith) from male moths captured in pheromone-baited traps in north-central and central Florida. Moths collected in 1998 were analyzed using direct detection of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) RFLPs generated from restriction endonuclease digestion of total DNA, while moths collected in 2000 and 2001 were analyzed using a mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) gene PCR-RFLP marker. Both techniques could distinguish between rice and corn strain moths, however, the COI PCR-RFLP marker was more robust as indicated by a time interval experiment that showed that moths held for up to 15 days in a “bucket trap” could still be used for strain diagnosis. In a field study, our strategy gave results consistent with expectations. Rice strain moths were common in habitats with large areas of small grasses, corn strain moths were common in large areas planted to corn, and habitats with mixed large- and small-grass plantings contained both strains. Our methodology of combining pheromone traps with PCR-RFLP analysis will provide a valuable sampling system to determine the population ecology habits and strain isolating mechanisms of fall armyworm populations in numerous habitats, including overwintering areas of southern Florida.

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