This project tests the hypothesis that we can enhance current biocontrol agents by manipulating the microbiome of biocontrol agents or pests. This manipulation will accentuate the virulence of transmitted viruses and/or deliver microbes that cause specific pandemics in target pest populations.

Biocontrol can be an effective and environmentally friendly method of pest species suppression. However, recent Bio-Protection Research Centre research identified situations where biocontrol fails, as a result of rapid evolution in targeted pest species or the development of resistance to pesticides.

This raises the question: are there ways we could exploit the search capabilities of natural enemies, especially parasitoids or predators, to deliver more effective pest control rather than just suppression?

The introduction of Varroa mite into New Zealand is a good example; this mite selects for, and vectors, virulent strains of honeybee viruses. As a consequence, commercial honeybee populations now rely on human delivered miticide treatments for survival. Consistent with this, a growing literature shows that modifying the microbiota of pests can usefully alter their physiology.  Such enhanced biocontrol agents can then be used in resilient landscape design (Pou 3).

Our team is assessing the microbiome and virome associated with Argentine stem weevil and its parasitoid control agent Microctonus hyperodae from multiple New Zealand locations. In addition, by examining historic samples, we have identified a novel virus infecting this species.

Project Team

Prof. Peter Dearden

Prof. Peter Dearden

Roles

Deputy Director

Researcher

Institution

University of Otago

Projects
Project 2.2
[email protected]
Dr. Mark Hurst

Dr. Mark Hurst

Roles

Researcher

Institution

AgResearch

Projects
Project 2.2
[email protected]arch.co.nz
Dr. Nick Waipara

Dr. Nick Waipara

Roles

Researcher

Institution

Plant & Food Research

[email protected]
Prof. Murray Cox

Prof. Murray Cox

Roles

Researcher

Institution

Massey University

Projects
Project 2.2
[email protected]
Dr. Sarah Inwood

Dr. Sarah Inwood

Roles

Postdoctoral Fellow

Institution

University of Otago

Projects
Project 2.2
[email protected]