Entomopathogenic nematodes (Rhabditida: Steinernematidae and Heterorhabditidae) (EPNs) are generalist obligate pathogens present in the soil of most ecosystems. They have the potential to infect a broad host range, yet the potential for endemic EPNs to regulate soil-dwelling insect populations has received limited attention. We investigated the population dynamics of endemic EPNs to determine their ability to regulate annual bluegrass weevil (Listronotus maculicollis) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) populations, a major pest of turfgrass in the northeastern United States. Weekly sampling of nematode and L. maculicollis populations was conducted in untreated fairway transects on three golf courses in New Jersey between April and October of 2006 and 2007. Steinernema carpocapsae and Heterorhabditis bacteriophora were found infecting all weevil stages from third instar to teneral adults. Both EPN species exhibited a distinct seasonality, appearing in high densities in the weeks immediately following high densities of first generation weevils in the soil. A positive temporal relationship was observed between densities of EPN-infected weevils and weevil stages between third instar and pupa, but L. maculicollis generational mortality due to EPN infection was highly variable between years and sites, ranging between 0 and 50%. Although infection densities and larval densities were positively correlated, per capita mortality did not increase with increased weevil densities. EPN distribution dynamically cycled between aggregated and uniform throughout the season across fairways. Few significant relationships were found to support the hypothesis that weevil spatial dispersion influences EPN spatial dispersion. The variability in EPN seasonal occurrence and generational impact on L. maculicollis together with the lack of spatial association with L. maculicollis suggest an inability of endemic EPN populations to reliably regulate weevil populations on golf course fairways.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Soil Science