Pathogenicity of individual isolates of entomopathogenic fungi affects feeding preference of red imported fire ants Solenopsis invicta
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Seven isolates of entomopathogenic fungi, Isaria fumosorosea (IFCF-H and IFCF-L), Beauveria bassiana s.l. (Bb02 and Bb04) and Metarhizium anisopliae s.l. (Ma01, SM076 and M09), were selected for their pathogenicity against Solenopsis invicta as well as feeding preference of S. invicta. When ants were treated with a conidial suspension at a concentration of 1 × 10 8 conidia/ml, the median lethal times (LT 50 ) of IFCF-H, IFCF-L, Bb02, Bb04, Ma01, SM076 and M09 were 3. 4, 162.6, 7.3, 2.8, 3.8, 7.3 and 2.7 days, respectively, after 10 days. The median lethal concentrations (LC 50 ) on the 10th day after inoculation were 1.20 × 10 7 , 1.56 × 10 10 , 4.23 × 10 7 , 3.04 × 10 6 , 6.13 × 10 6 , 2.90 × 10 7 and 9.90 × 10 5 conidia/ml, respectively. Furthermore, S. invicta consumed significantly less solution fla- voured with Bb04 conidia than the control, which was demonstrated by the lowest preference index (PREF = 0.09). S. invicta did not have a significant feeding preference for other fungal isolates. The pathogenicity (LC 50 ) of fungal isolates was not significantly correlated (R 2 = 0.013) with the PREF of S. invicta. However, in the paired-choice experiments between different virulent isolates belonging to the same genera, S. invicta tended to select the solution flavoured with conidia of relatively lower pathogenic isolates such as IFCF-L, Bb02 and SM076. We conclude that the pathogenicity of congeneric fungi may affect the feeding preference of S. invicta. Red imported fire ants might adjust their feeding response to entomopathogenic fungi based on the profile of microbial volatile organic compounds.
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