Laboratory bioassays and field-cage trials of Metarhizium spp. isolates with field-collected Mormon crickets (Anabrus simplex)
The Mormon cricket (MC) is an important pest in the western United States. This study evaluated the virulence in the laboratory of 32 isolates of Metarhizium spp. towards field-collected MCs. Additionally, four isolates were tested in outdoor field-cage studies. All 32 Metarhizium isolates were pathogenic towards the MC (could induce some mortality in the laboratory), including four isolates of the grasshopper-specialist species M. acridum. Virulence varied considerably among the isolates. Field studies, conducted in 2008–2009, showed a statistically significant effect of fungal treatments in both years. Pairwise comparison of the survival curves, however, revealed that, in 2008, three of the isolates did not differ statistically from the non-fungus control treatment. In 2009, all three of the isolates tested had significantly lower survival rates than the control treatment: MCs exposed to M. robertsii isolate DWR 346 had the lowest survival with a LT50 of 16 days. We hypothesize that the poor field performance resulted from a combination of negative environmental effects and isolate selection, and propose that further field studies with additional isolates are needed to identify an efficacious fungal agent for MC biocontrol.