Optimization of a Host Diet for in vivo Production of Entomopathogenic Nematodes

David Shapiro-Ilan, M. Guadalupe Rojas, Juan A. Morales-Ramos, W. Louis Tedders


To facilitate improved in vivo culture of entomopathogenic nematodes, production of both insect hosts and nematodes should be optimized for maximum fitness, quality, and cost efficiency. In previous studies, we developed an improved diet for Tenebrio molitor, a host that is used for in vivo nematode production, and we demonstrated that single insect diet components (e.g., lipids and proteins) can have a positive or negative impact on entomopathogenic nematode fitness and quality. In this study, we tested components of our improved T. molitor diet (lipids, cholesterol, and a salt [MnSO4]) alone and in combination for effects on host susceptibility and reproductive capacity of Heterorhabditis indica and Steinernema carpocapsae. Our results indicated that moderate levels of lipids (10%) increased host susceptibility to S. carpocapsae but did not affect H. indica, whereas cholesterol and MnSO4 increased host susceptibility to H. indica but not S. carpocapsae. The combined T. molitor diet (improved for increased insect growth) increased host susceptibility to S. carpocapsae and had a neutral effect on H. indica; interactions among single diet ingredients were observed. No effects of insect host diet were detected on the reproductive capacity of either nematode species in T. molitor. Subsequently, progeny infective juveniles, derived from nematodes grown in T. molitor that were fed diets with varying nutritive components were tested for virulence to and reproduction capacity in the target pest Diaprepes abbreviatus. The progeny nematodes produced from differing T. molitor diet treatments did not differ in virulence except H. indica derived from a diet that lacked cholesterol or MnS04 (but contained lipids) did not cause significant D. abbreviatus suppression relative to the water control. We conclude that the improved insect host diet is compatible with production of H. indica and S. carpocapsae, and increases host susceptibility in S. carpocapsae. Furthermore, in a general sense, our results indicate host diets can be optimized for improved in vivo entomopathogenic nematode production efficiency. This is the first report of an insect diet that was optimized for both host and entomopathogenic nematode production. Additionally, our study indicates that host diet may impact broader aspects of entomopathogenic nematode ecology and pest control efficacy.

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