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Artificial diets for the production of natural enemies (predators and parasitoids) of greenhouse pest insects

Contract nr: FAIR-CT98-4322
Project nr: 4322
Project type: SC
Starting date: 01/02/1999
Duration: 36 months
Total cost: 1,139,000 EUR
EC Contribution: 925,000 EUR
Scientific Officer: Massimo BURIONI
Research topic: Plant health

The use of chemicals to control insect pests generates many drawbacks concerning agriculture, environment and human health. These drawbacks could be greatly reduced by using natural enemies to control pest insects. Biological control using insect predators (e.g., coccinellids, heteropterans) and parasitoids (e.g., Trichogramma,...) is already used in practice and has proved to be efficient in many situations. The extension of biological control is strongly limited by the necessity to produce large numbers of entomophagous insects at competitive cost. Efforts to shorten the production line have been performed by using alternative hosts/prey or artificial diets, but in many cases empirically established artificial diets, if any, are not suited to good quality production of entomophagous insects.
In recent years, an increasing interest has been observed worldwide for artificial rearing of parasitoids and predators of agricultural pest insects, and more and more research teams, especially in the USA, have developed programmes on such subjects, with encouraging results. To preserve the scientific and economic independence of the European Union, it is necessary to develop European research strategies in this field. A solid background exists in Europe on the artificial rearing of parasitoids and predators and different teams have been implicated in this research for years.

The objective of this project is to define artificial diets for the in vitro production of some important predators and parasitoids, based on an analytical and rational approach. Artificial diets for different predators (one coccinellid and two heteropterans) and one aphid parasitoid will be based on biochemical analyses of their natural or substituted food. Reliable quality control parameters of the entomophages produced will be used in order to adjust dietary composition and formulation.

The work will focus on the development and optimisation of artificial diets for coccinellid (Harmonia), heteropteran (Orius, Dicyphus) predators, and a braconid parasitoid of aphids (Aphidius). The predator species (Harmonia, Orius, Dicyphus) feed on aphids as natural food and can be produced on Ephestia kuehniella eggs as substitution food. All the selected insects are important biocontrol agents which are already used in various greenhouse crops in Europe against aphids, aleyrodids, and thrips.
Analyses of the food (biochemical analyses of main nutrients, determination of other components such as feeding stimulants, consistency agents, preservative agents, etc.) will allow us to determine nutritional and other physiological needs. According to available substrates, different diets suited to each species will be formulated partly by computation. Quality of entomophages obtained on newly developed diets or on adjustments of available diets will be compared with that of control entomophages reared on natural food by using different quality parameters, including biochemical, physiological, and behavioural traits. The differences between insects obtained on natural and artificial foods, will allow us to further modify and improve the artificial diets.
For the predatory coccinellid Harmonia axyridis, an industrial partner will validate the results from the research in order to optimise the rearing procedures for the industrial production and distribution of this promising natural enemy.

Current situation/results:
For the first six months, the research tasks were conducted in the order planned for this period:
- biochemical analyses (proteins, lipids, carbohydrates) of the food (Ephestia eggs and aphids);
- digestive enzymatic patterns of the 3 predators;
- specific studies of the parasitoid A. ervi;
- tests of existing artificial diets for the predators (biological parameters).
The first meeting, held in Lyon, France in March 1999 allowed us to launch the contract by exchanging the latest practical information and planning the initial research work to be done in the following months. All the participating teams were represented.
The biochemical analyses of proteins (total and free amino acids) and lipids (fatty acids in neutral- and phospo- lipids) of the food (aphids and Ephestia kuehniella eggs) were conducted successfully on the biological material purchased by the participant concerned. The enzymatic analyses with the digestive tracts were conducted on the three predatory species (Harmonia, Orius, and Dicyphus). Detailed information was gathered concerning the host-parasitoid relationships between aphid-hosts and Aphidius ervi: modifications of the hemolymph composition in aminoacids after parasitisation, mainly in aromatic amino acids; presence of proteins linked with the parasitism. The first attempts to test existing diets concerning the predators especially to define the culture conditions were conducted with some success; adults were obtained with the three predatory species.
The first carcass analyses of young adults of the predators cultured in natural standard conditions were carried out, to give control references for further analyses of entomophages produced on experimental artificial diets.

Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique
Rue de l'Université 147
F-75338 Paris 07
Tel.: +33 4 72 43 83 56
Fax: +33 4 72 43 85 34


  • André FERRAN
    Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique
    Rue de l'Université 147
    F-75338 Paris
    Tel.: +33 4 93 67 89 06
    Fax: +33 4 93 67 88 98
  • Francesco PENNACCHIO
    Universita degli studi della Basilicata
    Via N. Sauro 85
    I-85100 Potenza
    Tel.: +39 09 71 47 43 33
    Fax: +39 09 71 55 748
  • Jacques FRANDON
    Avenue de la grande armée 83
    F-75782 Paris Cedex 16
    Tel.: +33 4 93 12 17 89
    Fax: +33 4 93 12 14 06
  • Patrick DE CLERCQ
    University of Gent
    Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 25
    B-9000 Gent
    Tel.: +32 9 264 61 58
    Fax: +32 9 264 62 39
  • Cristina CASTANE
    Institut de Recerca i Tecnologia Agroalimentaries
    Passeig de Gracia 44
    E-08007 Barcelona
    Tel.: +34 93 750 75 11
    Fax: +34 93 753 39 54
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