Justin Renkema, an assistant professor in entomology for the University of Florida, recently developed tools to help determine whether he’s found a biological control for Drosophila suzukii, or spotted wing drosophila (SWD).
Among other goals of the experiments, Renkema and his co-authors wanted to detect the DNA of the notorious fruit pest after it’s been eaten by a predatory rove beetle. This is a critical test to know whether one insect has eaten another, he said.
“The molecular tools we developed should be useful for testing whether other predators inhabiting fruit and berry fields consume SWD,” said Renkema, a new faculty member at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm.
In their experiment, Renkema and his co-authors also wanted to know how many SWD larvae or pupae a rove beetle could eat. Normally, SWD infest fruit, so they also tested the ability of the rove beetle to enter infested fruit, find the flies’ larvae and eat them.
They found that the rove beetle ate larvae, or immature flies, but not pupae – a more advanced developmental stage — of spotted wing drosophila, so more research is needed.
Native to Asia and first found in the continental U.S. in California in 2008, SWD has become common throughout most of the U.S. and North America, as well as in most European countries and southern Brazil.
The study, led by Renkema when he was a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Guelph in Canada, is published in the journal Biological Control.