PROTEIN SELF-MARKING BY EMERALD ASH BORER: AN EVALUATION OF EFFICACY AND PERSISTENCE
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.