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The role of food plant and pathogen-induced behaviour in the persistence of a nucleopolyhedrovirus

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JournalJournal of invertebrate pathology
DatePublished - Jan 2005
Issue number1
Number of pages9
Pages (from-to)49-57
Original languageEnglish


Insect baculoviruses can survive between epidemics as infectious particles external to the host. Many pathogens persist in reservoirs, i.e., microhabitats where survival is enhanced, for example due to protection from the degrading effects of UV irradiation. However, the probability of infecting new susceptible hosts is usually reduced. Persistence of pathogens and their movement in and out of reservoirs is an important, albeit little understood, aspect of insect pathogen ecology. This study investigated interactions between the behaviour of infected insect hosts, virus distribution and plant species on the persistence of the winter moth (Operophtera brumata) nucleopolyhedrovirus. Habitat influenced the persistence of infectious baculovirus in the field: virus on Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) and oak (Quercus robur) in forested areas retained more infectivity than virus on heather (Calluna vulgaris) in an unshaded habitat. Plant species per se did not directly affect the persistence of virus on the foliage of potted seedlings. Virally infected insects had altered behaviour and moved down plants relative to control insects, whereas in other systems larvae show height-seeking behaviour. Consequently, the majority of virus particles were distributed on plant stems. In two experiments (one using winter moth NPV and one Mamestra brassicae NPV) virus persisted better oil plant stems relative to foliage. Neonate larvae were shown to be able to acquire infections from tree stems contaminated with a low level of virus. These data suggest that plant steins may be important reservoirs for between-year persistence of this pathogen. The observed virus-induced changes in host behaviour in winter moth could enhance the viral persistence by increasing the deposition of occlusion bodies in these reservoirs. (C) 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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