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J Invertebr Pathol. 2001 Feb;77(2):129-37.

Growth and transmission of gut bacteria in the Western flower thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis.

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  • 1Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, Kruislaan 320, Amsterdam, 1098 SM, The Netherlands.


The Western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis), a polyphagous insect with global distribution, has a permanent association with a near Erwinia species TAC bacterium in its hindgut. Since this bacterium is able to grow outside the thrips, it is a facultative symbiont that is not completely dependent on the host. In this study we address the question of how the association is maintained and how bacteria are transmitted to newly hatched thrips larvae. Bacteria are passed on to new thrips via the food source. No evidence was found for vertical transmission from mother to offspring via the egg. Gut bacteria show unlimited growth during the larval (feeding) stages, and in the second instar stage 100% of the larvae become infected with high numbers of bacteria. In the prepupal and pupal stage, the number of bacteria declines, but increases again during the adult phase. A method to rear aposymbiotic (bacteria-free) thrips is described which enables studies on the impact of bacteria on the fitness of thrips.

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