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Identifying the predator complex of Homalodisca vitripennis (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae): a comparative study of the efficacy of an ELISA and PCR gut content assay

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A growing number of ecologists are using molecular gut content assays to qualitatively measure predation. The two most popular gut content assays are immunoassays employing pest-specific monoclonal antibodies (mAb) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays employing pest-specific DNA. Here, we present results from the first study to simultaneously use both methods to identify predators of the glassy winged sharpshooter (GWSS), Homalodisca vitripennis (Germar) (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae). A total of 1,229 arthropod predators, representing 30 taxa, were collected from urban landscapes in central California and assayed first by means of enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) using a GWSS egg-specific mAb and then by PCR using a GWSS-specific DNA marker that amplifies a 197-base pair fragment of its cytochrome oxidase gene (subunit I). The gut content analyses revealed that GWSS remains were present in 15.5% of the predators examined, with 18% of the spiders and 11% of the insect predators testing positive. Common spider predators included members of the Salticidae, Clubionidae, Anyphaenidae, Miturgidae, and Corinnidae families. Common insect predators included lacewings (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae), praying mantis (Mantodea: Mantidae), ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), assassin bugs (Hemiptera: Reduviidae), and damsel bugs (Hemiptera: Nabidae). Comparison of the two assays indicated that they were not equally effective at detecting GWSS remains in predator guts. The advantages of combining the attributes of both types of assays to more precisely assess field predation and the pros and cons of each assay for mass-screening predators are discussed.

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We would like to thank Jenny Barker, Juanita Corza, D. Patrick Dwyer, Marissa Gonzalez, Dan Langhorst, Lisa Ledezma, Xiufeng Li, Scott Machtley, Chrissie Pflipsen, Murray Pryor, Tarcisio Ruiz, Heather Terry, Erik Stone, and Glenn Yokota for their excellent technical support. We are also grateful to Brian Hogg for identifying spider specimens, James Eaves for helping with statistical analyses, and David Morgan and Isabelle Lauzière for providing GWSS prey specimens. The manuscript was improved by comments from Jeff Fabrick, Mark Sisterson, and two anonymous reviewers. This work was funded by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the University of California’s Pierce’s Disease Grant Program, and the USDA-ARS.

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Correspondence to James Hagler.

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This article reports the results of research only. Mention of a proprietary product does not constitute an endorsement or a recommendation by the USDA for its use.

Communicated by Blair Wolf.

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Fournier, V., Hagler, J., Daane, K. et al. Identifying the predator complex of Homalodisca vitripennis (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae): a comparative study of the efficacy of an ELISA and PCR gut content assay. Oecologia 157, 629–640 (2008).

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  • Conservation biological control
  • Generalist predators
  • Gut content
  • PCR
  • Predator-prey interactions
  • Spiders