Spatial Patterns of Entomopathogenic Nematodes in Microcosms: Implications for Laboratory Experiments


  • L. W. Duncan
  • D. G. Dunn
  • C. W. McCoy


Laboratory microcosms were used to: i) measure the effects of soil moisture on survival of Steinernema riobravis and ii) investigate the suitability of using microcosms to study motility and survival of these nematodes. Nematodes recovered from soil contained in petri dishes declined by more than 95% during 7 days, whereas nematodes recovered from the inner surfaces of dishes increased 35-fold. After 7 days in dishes, 20 times as many nematodes were recovered from dish surfaces than from soil. Nematodes exhibited a negative geotropism; greater numbers of nematodes were recovered from the lid surfaces than from the surfaces of dishes. Survivorship of nematodes in soil in plastic centrifuge tubes was somewhat greater than in petri dishes, and fewer nematodes ascended above the soil line in tubes than dishes. Downward migration of nematodes was inversely related to soil column diameter, possibly due to relatively unimpeded movement along container surfaces. An assay was developed by which nematodes were rinsed from the inner surfaces of centrifuge tubes into the soil. The resulting slurry was then processed on Baermann trays to recover motile nematodes. Nematode survival in soil in centrifuge tubes was higher at soil moistures between 2-4% than at lower (0.5-1.0%) and higher (4.0-12.0%) moisture levels. Survival of S. riobravis may be enhanced by quiescence induced by moisture deficits. Key words: entomopathogenic nematode, spatial distribution, soil moisture, Steinernema riobravis, survival