PROTEIN SELF-MARKING BY EMERALD ASH BORER: AN EVALUATION OF EFFICACY AND PERSISTENCE
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Understanding the dispersal ability of invasive insects provides useful insights for developing effective management strategies. Historically, methods for marking insects for dispersal studies have been expensive, time-consuming, and labor-intensive, especially for woodboring beetles. In addition, capturing or rearing insects requires human handling, which can alter behavior. Immunomarking is a well-established technique for studying the dispersal of insects, however, it has not been broadly applied to woodborers. This study evaluates the potential for using immunoproteins applied directly to woodborer-infested trees to mark emerging beetles. Specifically, in the first experiment I sprayed varying concentrations of ovalbumin (egg white) solution directly onto logs infested with emerald ash borer (EAB, Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire) (Buprestidae: Agrilini) and ELISA was used to detect the presence of protein on emerged beetles. To test the persistence of the mark, I applied varying concentrations of albumin to freeze-killed beetles, mounted them on pins, and placed them in an exposed location outdoors. Adult EAB self-marked as they emerged from protein-treated trees, with higher protein concentrations persisting for longer on the cuticle when exposed to sun and rain. This technique offers a convenient, inexpensive and durable means of marking woodborers and circumvents the need for human handling, allowing for more natural behavior and more realistic estimates of dispersal. Protein self-marking may find application in studies of woodborer dispersal within natural forest environments.