Natural Bacteria as a Weapon Against Olive Moth Pests

Jim Crocker
1st April, 2024

Natural Bacteria as a Weapon Against Olive Moth Pests

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In Egyptian olive orchards, bacteria were isolated from sick olive leaf moth larvae
  • These bacteria produce enzymes that can kill moth larvae at certain concentrations
  • The bacteria also affected the moths' ability to develop into adults
The olive leaf moth, Palpita unionalis, is a pest that causes considerable damage to olive crops, threatening the agricultural industry and food supply. In a recent study by the Desert Research Center[1], researchers have taken an innovative approach to tackling this problem by exploring the use of natural enemies - specifically bacteria that produce protease enzymes - against the moth larvae. Proteases are enzymes that break down proteins, which can be lethal to insects if their gut proteins are targeted. The study involved collecting bacteria from dying olive leaf moth larvae found in the field and then testing these bacteria in the lab to see if they could kill healthy larvae. The effectiveness of the bacteria was measured by determining the concentration needed to kill 30%, 50%, and 90% of the larvae (LC30, LC50, and LC90). The impact of the bacteria didn't stop at the larval stage; researchers also looked at how the LC50 concentration affected the moths' ability to pupate and reach adulthood. This approach of using bacteria as biocontrol agents is not entirely new. Previous studies have shown that certain Bacillus subtilis strains produce enzymes that can inhibit the growth of fungi harmful to plants[2]. Similarly, gut microbes from the tobacco caterpillar, another agricultural pest, have been identified to cause larval mortality and reduce the insect’s reproductive potential[3]. These findings suggest that microbes associated with insects can be turned against them to protect crops. Moreover, Bacillus thuringiensis, a well-known bacterium used in bioinsecticides, has been found to produce crystal proteins with insecticidal properties[4]. Another intriguing discovery is that some Bacillus species carry a gene similar to the viral enhancin gene, which can increase the lethality of other insecticidal proteins by breaking down protective gut barriers in insects[5]. These pieces of research demonstrate the potential of bacteria and their enzymes as biological control agents. The study from the Desert Research Center builds upon these earlier findings by identifying bacteria that naturally occur in moribund olive leaf moth larvae. By isolating these specific bacteria and testing their larvicidal properties, the research provides a new potential solution to control the olive leaf moth population. The use of such natural biocontrol agents could be a sustainable alternative to chemical pesticides, which can have negative environmental impacts and lead to resistance in pest populations. The methods used in the study are grounded in established scientific techniques, ensuring that the results are reliable and could be applied in real-world scenarios. The research not only adds to our understanding of how bacteria can be used to control insect pests but also offers a practical solution to a specific agricultural problem. By harnessing the power of protease-producing bacteria, there is potential to develop a biocontrol product that could be used by olive farmers to protect their crops from the damaging effects of the olive leaf moth. In conclusion, the Desert Research Center's study on the larvicidal efficacy of protease-producing bacteria against the olive leaf moth is a promising step forward in the field of biocontrol. This research, supported by previous studies[2][3][4][5], underscores the potential of utilizing natural microbial agents to address agricultural challenges, providing an eco-friendly alternative to chemical pesticides and contributing to sustainable agricultural practices.



Main Study

1) Biocontrol efficacy of native protease-producing bacterial isolates against the olive leaf moth, Palpita unionalis (Hübner) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae)

Published 30th March, 2024

Related Studies

2) Antifungical Activity of Autochthonous Bacillus subtilis Isolated from Prosopis juliflora against Phytopathogenic Fungi.

3) Insecticidal and growth inhibitory activity of gut microbes isolated from adults of Spodoptera litura (Fab.).

4) Novel Bacillus thuringiensis binary insecticidal crystal proteins active on western corn rootworm, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte.

Journal: Applied and environmental microbiology, Issue: Vol 68, Issue 3, Mar 2002

5) Bacillus thuringiensis bel protein enhances the toxicity of Cry1Ac protein to Helicoverpa armigera larvae by degrading insect intestinal mucin.

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