The relationship between conidial dose, moulting and insect developmental stage on the susceptibility of cotton aphid, Aphis gossypii, to conidia of Lecanicillium attenuatum, an entomopathogenic fungus
The cotton aphid is one of the most serious pests of greenhouse vegetable crops worldwide. It is difficult to control because field populations usually include simultaneously several insect developmental stages. The current research evaluated an isolate (CS625) of Lecanicillium attenuatum, a fungal pathogen of aphids, as to its virulence against different developmental stages of cotton aphid, Aphis gossypii. The influence on mortality of several other factors also was examined: (a) insect moulting, (b) the number of conidia attached to insect cuticles and (c) germination rates of conidia on cuticles of aphids at various developmental stages. Mortality of cotton aphids treated with L. attenuatum conidia varied according to the developmental stage of the host, i.e. the LT50s with third-instar nymphs and adults was shorter than with first-instar nymphs. The number of spores attached to the surface of first-instar nymphs was approximately one-half of that on third-instar nymphs and adults. Also, the level of spore germination on the surface of first-instar nymphs was lower than on the surface of other stages of the aphid. After moulting, the numbers of conidia attached to new insect cuticles were less than on exuviae. These results suggest that early nymphal stages of cotton aphids may escape fungal disease due, at least in part, to a combination of three factors: low numbers of conidia attached to their cuticles; low levels of conidial germination and rapid ecdyses, which removed conidia before their germ tubes penetrated the host hemolymph.