Sensitive environmental DNA (eDNA) methods to detect hemlock woolly adelgid and its biological control predators Leucotaraxis silver flies and a Laricobius beetle
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Environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis can be a powerful tool for the early detection of invasive organisms. However, research on terrestrial eDNA detection from foliage surfaces has been limited. In this study, we developed methods to capture and detect eDNA using qPCR from an invasive forest pest, hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae), and three of its biological control predators Leucotaraxis piniperda, Leucotaraxis argenticollis, and Laricobius nigrinus. We designed four highly efficient qPCR assays with a low limit of detection (1–10 copies/reaction). The assay targeting A. tsugae was species-specific. The assays targeting Le. piniperda, and Le. argenticollis were biotype-specific in addition to being species-specific demonstrating applications of eDNA analysis beyond species-level detection. The La. nigrinus assay also detected DNA from closely related and hybridizing Laricobius rubidus. The eDNA methods were evaluated against traditional detection methods. We collected foliage samples from three strata (bottom, middle, and top) of eastern hemlock trees to detect the presence of A. tsugae. The detection of the biological control predators was evaluated using western hemlock foliage samples collected from the predators' native range in western Washington. The eDNA methods had significantly higher positive detection rates (2.8–4.5 times) than conventional methods of all target species. The strata of sampling were not significant in determining the presence of A. tsugae infestation. The eDNA concentration positively correlated with the observed density for all species. This study demonstrates the efficacy of eDNA analysis as a more sensitive tool for early detection of A. tsugae and to track the establishment of its biological control predators.
KeywordsAdelges tsugae; biological control; biotype-specific qPCR; eDNA; hemlock woolly adelgid; invasive species; Laricobius nigrinus; Leucopis argenticollis; Leucopis piniperda
Kirtane, Anish; Dietschler, Nicholas J.; Bittner, Tonya D.; Lefebvre, Marshall Bigler; Celis, Sabrina; O'Connor, Katharine; Havill, Nathan; Whitmore, Mark C. 2022. Sensitive environmental DNA (eDNA) methods to detect hemlock woolly adelgid and its biological control predators Leucotaraxis silver flies and a Laricobius beetle. Environmental DNA. 14 p. https://doi.org/10.1002/edn3.317.