Bionomics of a Phoretic Association Between Paenibacillus sp. and the Entomopathogenic Nematode Steinernema diaprepesi


  • F. E. El-Borai
  • L. W. Duncan
  • J. F. Preston


antagonism, competition, diaprepes abbreviatus, entomopathogenic nematode, paenibacillus, phoresis, 16S rdna, steinernema diaprepesi, xenorhabdus sp.


Spores of an unidentified bacterium were discovered adhering to cuticles of third-stage infective juvenile (IJ) Steinernema diaprepesi endemic in a central Florida citrus orchard. The spores were cup-shaped, 5 to 6 mm in length, and contained a central endospore. Based on 16S rDNA gene sequencing, the bacterium is closely related to the insect pathogens Paenibacillus popilliae and P. lentimorbus. However, unlike the latter bacteria, the Paenibacillus sp. is non-fastidious and grew readily on several standard media. The bacterium did not attach to cuticles of several entomopathogenic or plant-parasitic nematodes tested, suggesting host specificity to S. diaprepesi. Attachment of Paenibacillus sp. to the third-stage cuticle of S. diaprepesi differed from Paenibacillus spp. associated with heterorhabditid entomopathogenic nematodes, which attach to the IJ sheath (second-stage cuticle). The inability to detect endospores within the body of S. diaprepesi indicates that the bacterial association with the nematode is phoretic. The Paenibacillus sp. showed limited virulence to Diaprepes abbreviatus, requiring inoculation of larvae with 108 spores to achieve death of the insect and reproduction of the bacterium. The effect of the bacterium on the nematode population biology was studied in 25-cm-long vertical sand columns. A single D. abbreviatus larva was confined below 15-cm depth, and the soil surface was inoculated with either spore-free or spore-encumbered IJ nematodes. After 7 days, the proportion of IJ below 5-cm depth was seven-fold greater for spore-free IJ than for spore-encumbered nematodes. Mortality of D. abbreviatus larvae was 72% greater (P = 0.01) for spore-free compared to spore-encumbered S. diaprepesi. More than 5 times as many progeny IJs (P = 0.01) were produced by spore-free compared to spore-encumbered nematodes. These data suggest that the bacterium is a component of the D. abbreviatus food web with some potential to regulate a natural enemy of the insect.