A failed field test has led to a major discovery about Asian citrus psyllids (ACP). According to new research, the bacterium that causes HLB disease can interfere with ACP’s sense of smell, rendering some kinds of insect traps useless. The work is currently available as a preprint.
HLB, also known as citrus greening, is caused by the Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas) bacterium.
Like many insects, male psyllids use their sense of smell to locate females. One strategy to control the pest is to use traps baited with acetic acid to lure and kill males. Field tests of acetic acid traps in California citrus groves, which are free of the HLB, showed promising results.
But when Fundecitrus researchers tested the same traps in São Paulo, Brazil, where HLB is present, the traps failed. The researchers collected psyllids from these citrus groves and found that many were infected with CLas and Wohlbachia bacteria.
Working with Professor Walter Leal of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at University of California, Davis, the Brazilian researchers studied how the bacteria affected psyllids’ response to chemical lures. The team of researchers found that infected psyllids were much less responsive to acetic acid than uninfected insects.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of a pathogen infection affecting a vector’s response to a sex attractant,” the researchers reported. The discovery raises both new avenues of research as well as challenges to controlling this devastating crop disease.
Leal is a corresponding author on the preprint. Coauthors at Fundecitrus are Haroldo Volpe, Michele Carmo-Sousa, Rejane Luvizotto, Renato de Freitas, Victoria Esperança, Josiane Darolt, Abner Pegoraro, Nelson Arno Wulff and Marcelo Miranda. Coauthors at University of São Paulo are Diego Magalhães, Arodi Favaris and Jose Bento.
Source: UC Davis
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