Using Barcodes To Track Insects

Colorado potato beetle kuhar

DNA barcodes are being used by USDA scientists to monitor insects that inflict damage to a variety of crops including potatoes. The information gathered is being used to make decisions on insect control measures.

According to a recent article from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), DNA barcodes are being developed on a variety of animals and plants to catalogue the diversity of life on this planet.

Matthew Greenstone, an ARS entomologist at the agency’s Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory in Beltsville, MD, is using DNA barcodes for a different purpose: to identify insect predators with the ability to control the Colorado potato beetle, a major potato pest in the Eastern U.S.

Greenstone and his colleagues gathered four potato beetle predators, fed them lab-raised potato beetles and figured out how long the pest’s barcoded DNA could be detected in the gut of the predator. The results, published in the journal Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, show the importance of taking digestive rates into account when evaluating insect predators as biocontrol agents.

Read more about this research in the April 2012 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.  

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