Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, Vol.105, No.6, 2541-2557, 2021
Selection of entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana (Deuteromycotina: Hyphomycetes) for the biocontrol of Dendroctonus ponderosae (Coleoptera: Curculionidae, Scolytinae) in Western Canada
The mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae, has infested over similar to 16 Mha of pine forests in British Columbia killing >50% of mature lodgepole pine, Pinus contorta, trees in affected stands. At present, it is functionally an invasive species in Alberta, killing and reproducing in evolutionarily naive populations of lodgepole pine (P. contorta), novel jack pine (P. banksiana), and their hybrids. The entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana has shown some potential as a biocontrol agent of several bark beetle species. In this study, nine isolates of B. bassiana were examined for insect virulence characteristics, including conidiation rate, pigmentation, and infection rate in laboratory-reared D. ponderosae, to assess for their potential as biocontrol agents. The strains were categorized into three phenotypic groups based on pigmentation, conidial density, and myceliation rate. Virulence screening utilizing insect-based agar medium (D. ponderosae and European honeybee Apis mellifera carcasses) revealed no difference in selection of fungal growth. However, infection studies on D. ponderosae and A. mellifera showed contrasting results. In vivo A. mellifera infection model revealed similar to 5% mortality, representing the natural death rate of the hive population, whereas laboratory-reared D. ponderosae showed 100% mortality and mycosis. The LT50 (median lethal time 50) ranges from 2 to 5 +/- 0.33 days, and LT100 ranges from 4 to 6 +/- 0.5 days. We discuss the selective advantages of the three phenotypic groups in terms of virulence, pigmentation, conidial abundance, and tolerance to abiotic factors like UV and host tree monoterpenes. These results can further provide insights into the development of several phenotypically diverse B. bassiana strains in controlling the spread of the invasive D. ponderosae in Western Canada.