, Volume 96, Issue 9, pp 1115-1119

First online:

An immunological axis of biocontrol: infections in field-trapped insects

  • Hasan TunazAffiliated withFaculty of Agriculture, Department of Plant Protection, Kahramanmaraş Sütçü Imam University
  • , David StanleyAffiliated withBiological Control of Insects Research Laboratory, USDA/Agricultural Research Service Email author 

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Insect immunology is an active research arena, however, the vast majority of research in the area is conducted on model species taken from laboratory cultures. We tested the hypothesis that insects are regularly exposed to infections or invasions in nature and here report results of a field study designed to assess the extent of natural infections in insects collected from agrarian fields surrounding Kahramanmaraş, Turkey. Specimens were dissected to assess numbers of nodules. Formation of darkened, melanotic nodules is the predominant cellular immune reaction to microbial and parasitic infection, and once formed, the nodules are permanently attached to internal surfaces. The collected insects were healthy. Of the >400 examined specimens, at least some nodules were found in 98%. Numbers of nodules ranged from ∼2/individual to >100 nodules/individual. We conclude that insects are regularly challenged by microbial and parasitic infections from which they recover. The novel implication of our data is that insect immune systems may limit the host range and effectiveness of agents deployed in biological control programs. Knowledge of insect immune systems may contribute to increased use of biopesticides globally.


Biological control Insect immunology Naturally occurring infections Nodulation