Bug Vacuum Captures Unidentified Flying Bugs—and Invaluable Knowledge : USDA ARS


ARS and collaborating scientists in 10 states are using 20-foot bug vacs to collect critical data on the fate of soybean aphids and other flying insect pests. Photo by Doris Lagos-Kutz

Bug Vacuum captures unidentified flying insects – and valuable data

By Jan Suszkiw
May 28, 2020

During the third week of May, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists Doris Lagos-Kutz and Glen Hartman venture into a nearby field to set a timer for a chimney-like device that rises 20 feet into the air and a single one Purpose: To detect winged insects such as aphids (especially soybean aphids), thrips and other potential soybean pests.

Known as the “suction trap,” the fan-driven device is one of around 30 devices that are buzzing in 10 states as part of a network to collect annual seasonal data on the migratory flight patterns and geographic distribution of the soybean aphid Aphis glycines. Ultimately, such information can help improve the timing and use of countermeasures to mitigate the damage caused by the sap-sucking insect, an invasive species native to Asia that has been a major pest of the 40th since its discovery in 2000. US soybean crop has grown to $ 9 billion.

If insecticides, resistant strains, and biological control equate to weapons of war against soybean aphids, the traps could be compared to a primary means of collecting valuable “information” about the pests, noted Lagos-Kutz, a research fellow, and Hartman, plant pathologist at ARS Soybean / Maize Germplasm, Pathology and Genetics Research Unit in Urbana, Illinois.

In this and other states, the traps run daily from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. from mid-May to mid-October, drawing in air at a rate of 60 cubic meters per second – a force that plucks small insects in the air straight from the sky and guides them in a plastic container filled with a sample-preserving solution of water and antifreeze. A mesh screen over the top of the traps prevents larger winged animals such as bats and birds from facing a similar fate.

After receiving the suction trap samples collected by employees of the research station, Lagos-Kutz and Hartman sort and process the contents of the container once a week in their laboratory. They call the slurry of wings, legs, insect debris, and invisible microorganisms that live on or in the unfortunate insects, “aerobiological soup”. The term also reflects the wealth of data that can be gleaned from the traps about where insects move, mainly in the summer and fall seasons.

David Voegtlin of the Illinois Natural History Survey originally designed the data collection and analysis in 2001. Known as the Suction Trap Network (STN), its success today is evidence of the collaboration between participants in several states, Lagos-Kutz said. These include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. Support for the STN over the years has been provided in part through the North Central Soybean Research Program and the ARS “Integrated Management of Soybean Pathogens and Pests” project.

Some of the lessons that emerge from the effort are:

  • Soybean aphid outbreaks vary by year and location. For example, in the fall of 2009, soybean aphids had been blown up in such large numbers that people in Illinois mistook the flying pests for mosquitos.
  • An analysis of 9,167 trap samples from 2001 to 2018 found that Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin had the highest numbers of aphids, ranging from 146,114 (Minnesota) to 167,893 (Illinois). Kansas and Kentucky had the lowest scores at 13,509 and 14,329, respectively.
  • A total of 152 aphid species have been identified, excluding captured specimens that scientists have not yet identified. The most commonly identified species, besides soybean aphids, were Rhopalosiphum padi, R. maidis, Pemphigus spp., Tetraneura spp., Therioaphis trifolii, Capitophorus elaeagni, R. rufiabdominale, and Sitobion avenae.
  • Aphids typically migrate between winter host plants (sea buckthorn), on which the pest survives as eggs during the cold months, and then to soybeans, their summer host plants (spring migration). They also move inside and outside their summer host plant fields (summer hike) and back to the winter host plant (autumn hike).

Suction trap data also provides valuable information on other insect species, including thrips and mosquitoes. Studies For example, nine species of mosquitoes have discovered symbiotic bacteria that affect the biology, reproduction, and ability of their blood-feeding hosts to transmit parasites and pathogens, opening the door to new ways to combat those that cause disease in humans.

Other uses for suction trap data include tracking pest populations with traits for insecticide resistance, studying the effects of climate or habitat changes on pest populations, and detecting the spread of pests to new areas such as the sugarcane aphid that moved to Kansas, Manhattan. , Missouri (Columbia and Portageville), Louisiana (Chase), and northern Wisconsin.

Details of the project were published in the March 2020 issue of the American Entomologist by Lagos-Kutz, Hartman, Voegtlin and their co-authors.

Extending the suction traps to new states could also help paint a broader picture of the “aerial microbiome,” the community of microbes that reside within flying insects in transit. Similar studies are currently being carried out for microbiomes in soil, water and even in the human body, Hartman said.

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s premier scientific in-house research agency. Every day, ARS focuses on solving agricultural problems affecting America. Every dollar invested in agricultural research has an economic impact of $ 20.