Characterization of Biocontrol Traits in Heterorhabditis floridensis: A Species with Broad Temperature Tolerance.

David I. Shapiro-Ilan, Dana Blackburn, Larry Duncan, Fahiem El-Borai, Heather Koppenhöfer, Patrick Tailliez, Jr., Byron J. Adams


Biological characteristics of two strains of the entomopathogenic nematode, Heterorhabditis floridensis (332 isolated in Florida and K22 isolated in Georgia) were described. The identity of the nematode’s symbiotic bacteria was elucidated and found to be Photorhabdus luminescens subsp. luminescens. Beneficial traits pertinent to biocontrol (environmental tolerance and virulence) were characterized. The range of temperature tolerance in the H. floridensis strains was broad and showed a high level of heat tolerance. The H. floridensis strains caused higher mortality or infection in G. mellonella at 308C and 358C compared with S. riobrave (355), a strain widely known to be heat tolerant, and the H. floridensis strains were also capable of infecting at 178C whereas S. riobrave (355) was not. However, at higher temperatures (378C and 398C), though H. floridensis readily infected G. mellonella, S. riobrave strains caused higher levels of mortality. Desiccation tolerance in H. floridensis was similar to Heterorhabditis indica (Hom1) and S. riobrave (355) and superior to S. feltiae (SN). H. bacteriophora (Oswego) and S. carpocapsae (All) exhibited higher desiccation tolerance than the H. floridensis strains. The virulence of H. floridensis to four insect pests (Aethina tumida, Conotrachelus nenuphar, Diaprepes abbreviatus, and Tenebrio molitor) was determined relative to seven other nematodes: H. bacteriophora (Oswego), H. indica (Hom1), S. carpocapsae (All), S. feltiae (SN), S. glaseri (4-8 and Vs strains), and S. riobrave (355). Virulence to A. tumida was similar among the H. floridensis strains and other nematodes except S. glaseri (Vs), S. feltiae, and S. riobrave failed to cause higher mortality than the control. Only H. bacteriophora, H. indica, S. feltiae, S. riobrave, and S. glaseri (4-8) caused higher mortality than the control in C. nenuphar. All nematodes were pathogenic to D. abbreviatus though S. glaseri (4-8) and S. riobrave (355) were the most virulent. S. carpocapsae was the most virulent to T. molitor. In summary, the H. floridensis strains possess a wide niche breadth in temperature tolerance and have virulence and desiccation levels that are similar to a number of other entomopathogenic nematodes. The strains may be useful for biocontrol purposes in environments where temperature extremes occur within short durations.

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