Bubonic plague is a lethal bacterial disease of great historical importance. The plague organism, Yersinia pestis, is primarily transmitted by fleas (Siphonaptera). In natural settings, where its range expands, Y. pestis resides in association with wild rodents and their fleas (sylvatic plague). While chemical insecticides are used against plague vector fleas, biological approaches have not been as critically evaluated. Benign and cost-effective control methods are sorely needed, particularly where imperiled species are at risk. Here we explore the potential of two representative insect pathogenic fungi, Beauveria bassiana Vuillemin 1912 (Hypocreales: Cordycipitaceae) and Metarhizium anisopliae Metschnikoff 1879 (Hypocreales: Clavicipitaceae), each already used commercially worldwide in large-scale agricultural applications, as candidate biopesticides for application against fleas. We review the life cycles, flea virulence, commercial production, and field application of these fungi, and ecological and safety considerations. Pathogenic fungi infections among natural flea populations suggest that conditions within at least some rodent burrows are favorable, and laboratory studies demonstrate lethality of these fungi to at least some representative flea species. Continued study and advancements with these fungi, under appropriate safety measures, may allow for effective biocontrol of plague vector fleas to protect imperiled species, decrease plague outbreaks in key rodent species, and limit plague in humans.
|Title||Insect pathogenic fungi for biocontrol of plague vector fleas: A review|
|Authors||David A. Eads, Stefan Jaronski, Dean E. Biggins, Jeffrey Wimsatt|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Journal of Integrated Pest Management|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Fort Collins Science Center|
Dean Biggins, Ph.D.
Dean Biggins, Ph.D.