This project involves investigating the microbiome of the biocontrol system involving the pest Argentine stem weevil (ASW) and its biocontrol agent, a parasitic wasp Microctonus hyperodae. Sarah will examine the microbiomes, the bacteria and viruses carried by, ASW and the parasitic wasp, using historic and contemporary samples from around Aotearoa New Zealand.
This research aims to understand why biocontrol effectiveness against ASW has declined, and to develop methods to enhance biocontrol through manipulation of the microbiome. Additionally, the microbiome of the Varroa mite, a parasite of honeybees that transmits viruses and negatively affects honeybee populations, will be investigated and manipulated. The goal is to uncover the role of the microbiome pest control and to develop tools for microbiome manipulation to improve pest control strategies.
Why This Matters
The goal is to uncover the importance and role of the microbiome in invertebrate pest and biocontrol agent species, something often overlooked in other such systems. Having uncovered this, tools can then be developed to manipulate the microbiome of pest or biocontrol agents, to improve current pest control strategies.
- Investigate bacteria present in ASW, and whether changes in abundance of these species is linked to the decline of biocontrol.
- Assemble a complete genome for the novel virus discovered infecting Microctonus hyperodae, and investigate variation in that genome between historic and contemporary samples throughout Aotearoa.
- Characterise virus load dynamics in Microctonus hyperodae throughout rearing for biocontrol, after release, and after biocontrol decline.
- Investigate the presence of bacterial endosymbionts known to influence virus load in the Varroa mite.