New analysis to establish and handle devastating pest bugs


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Technology that was first used to distinguish healthy tissues from cancerous tissues in humans has been successfully used to identify insects.

Every year insect pests cause massive economic damage to agriculture and forestry, either through direct attack on crops or through the transmission of diseases.

Research by the University of Liverpool in collaboration with International Pheromone Solutions (IPS), a leader in integrated pest management, could have tremendous benefits for the food industry. The technology could enable breeders and importers to identify pest insect species quickly and accurately.

The research was supported by Liverpool Ph.D. carried out. Student Iris Wagner. They used a new analytical method called Rapid Evaporative Ionization Mass Spectrometry (REIMS). REIMS is a real-time analytical method that quickly burns the sample tissue and creates a fingerprint based on the molecular composition of the insect.

For the study, the team of scientists first examined five arthropod species such as spiders and beetles. Once convinced of the technique, the team focused on closely related species of fruit flies (Drosophila spp.). Two of the species were closely related and their females were morphologically very similar, making typing using traditional methods such as identification using morphotaxonomic keys very difficult.

REIMS could distinguish between adult and immature species, as well as male from female – all important information for producers who need to monitor and treat the infestation.

According to Dr. Sam Jones, Technical Director for IPS, DNA analysis is currently the method of choice for identifying very similar species. The ability of REIMS to distinguish the immature stages (larvae) of many groups of insects in seconds is particularly promising. This eliminates the need to raise immaturity as a prerequisite for identification into adulthood.

Dr. Jones explains, “It is very exciting that we have found another use for REIMS. The problem that this application brilliantly overcomes is how to distinguish species that are difficult to identify even by experts. We thought REIMS could be a quick alternative to PCR testing and we found it worked really well, which is a fantastic development. Speaking of infestation that could destroy a crop and a livelihood, or a large shipping container of goods, Every day becomes critical, and a test that takes seconds allows many individual insects to be analyzed.

“It is very important that we can identify pests quickly and then determine a strategy. Some pests are more serious than others. If you can correctly identify one or more pests, this can aid decision-making.”

Ph.D. Student Iris Wagner added, “I was surprised at the quality of the information generated by burning an insect sample. Although the learning algorithms were complex, they were able to identify patterns in the data that we couldn’t see manually and create successful classification models. “

The next phase of the study that needs funding is to examine how the technology can be used for field use.

Dr. Jones added, “It could be very beneficial if we could use the insect food (droppings) from infested plants or larvae that are particularly difficult to identify. This would be particularly useful for ‘quarantine pests’ when imported goods were infested. Sometimes you cannot see the actual pest – just the larvae, the food and the damage. It is important to identify the presence of pests quickly before they can escape and possibly multiply – when the environmental conditions are suitable. ”

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More information:
Iris Wagner et al. The Application of Mass Spectrometry with Rapid Evaporative Ionization in the Analysis of Drosophila Species – A Potential New Tool in Entomology, Open Biology (2020). DOI: 10.1098 / rsob.200196 Provided by the University of Liverpool

Quote: New research on the identification and control of devastating pest insects (2021, April 29) was accessed on April 29, 2021 from

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