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Choice and No-Choice Bioassays to Study the Pupation Preference and Emergence Success of Ectropis grisescens

Published: October 30th, 2018



1Guangdong Key Laboratory for Innovation Development and Utilization of Forest Plant Germplasm, College of Forestry and Landscape Architecture, South China Agricultural University, 2College of Agriculture, South China Agricultural University, 3Tea Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, 4College of Horticulture, South China Agricultural University, 5College of Coast and Environment, Louisiana State University

Here, we present a protocol to investigate the pupation preference of mature larvae of Ectropis grisescens in response to soil factors (e.g., substrate type and moisture content) using choice bioassays. We also present a protocol of no-choice bioassays to determine the factors that affect the pupation behaviors and survivorship of E. grisescens.

Many insects live above the ground as larvae and adults and as pupate below the ground. Compared to the above-ground stages of their life cycles, less attention has been paid on how environmental factors affect these insects when they pupate within the soil. The tea looper, Ectropis grisescens Warren (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), is a severe pest of tea plants and has caused huge economic losses in South China. The protocols described here aim to investigate, through multiple-choice bioassays, whether mature last-instar E. grisescens larvae can discriminate soil variables such as the substrate type and moisture content, and determine, through no-choice bioassays, the impact of the substrate type and moisture content on pupation behaviors and the emergence success of E. grisescens. The results would enhance the understanding of the pupation ecology of E. grisescens and may bring insights into soil-management tactics for suppressing E. grisescens populations. In addition, these bioassays can be modified to study the influences of various factors on the pupation behaviors and survivorship of soil-pupating pests.

Compared to the larval and adult stages of insects, the pupal stage is highly vulnerable due to the limited mobile ability of pupae, which cannot rapidly escape from dangerous situations. Pupating below the ground is a common strategy used by diverse groups of insects (e.g., in the orders Diptera1,2,3,4, Coleoptera5, Hymenoptera6, Thysanoptera7, and Lepidoptera8,9,10

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1. Moisture-choice Bioassays to Determine Pupation Preference of E. grisescens

  1. Obtaining mature last-instar larvae of E. grisescens
    1. Cut fresh shoots (30 - 40 cm in length) of tea plants (Camellia sinensis L.). Insert 25 - 30 shoots into a 250 mL triangular flask. Fill the flask with tap water. Put 3 - 4 flasks (with tea shoots) in a plastic basin (upper side: 51 cm in diameter; bottom side: 40 cm in diameter; height: 16 cm).
    2. Release 1,000 - 2.......

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The moisture-choice bioassays showed that significantly more E. grisescens individuals pupated on or within the 5%- and 35%-moisture sand compared to the 80%-moisture sand (Figure 2a). However, significantly more individuals preferred to pupate on or within the soil (sandy loam 1 and 2 and silt loam) that had an intermediate moisture content (Figures 2b - 2d).

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Pupation preferences responding to different soil variables have been studied in a few pests6,9,22,23. For example, to study the preference of mature larvae of Bactrocera tryoni (Froggatt) (Diptera: Tephritidae) among different soil moisture conditions, Hulthen and Clarke22 set a 3 x 3 Latin-square design containing 9 containers filled with soil at either 0%, 75.......

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We thank Yuzhen Wen, Shiping Liang, Shengzhe Jian, and Yanjun Li (College of Forestry and Landscape Architecture, South China Agricultural University) for their help in the insect rearing and experimental set-up. This work was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 31600516), the Guangdong Natural Science Foundation (Grant No. 2016A030310445), and the Science and Technology Planning Project of Guangdong Province (Grant No. 2015A020208010).


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Triangular flask Bomex Chemical (Shanghai) Co., LTD 99 250 mL
Plastic basin Chahua, Fuzhou, China 100 upper side: 51 cm in diameter; bottom side: 40 cm in diameter; height: 16 cm
Zip lock bags Glad, Guangzhou, China 126/133
Polypropylene containers Youyou Plastic Factory, Taian, China 139/155/160/161/190 upper side: 20.0 cm [L] × 13.5 cm [W], bottom side: 17.0 cm [L] × 10.0 cm [W], height: 6.5 cm
Waterproof polyviny chloride sheet Yidimei, Shanghai, China 141
Tape V-tech, Guangzhou, China VT-710
Oven drier Kexi, Shanghai, China KXH-202-3A
Environmental chamber Life Apparatus, Ningbo, China PSX-280H

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