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Keywords:

  • AFLP;
  • Acrobasis nuxvorella;
  • pecan;
  • sex pheromone;
  • Lepidoptera;
  • Pyralidae;
  • Juglandaceae;
  • Carya illinoinensis;
  • monitoring program;
  • genetic isolation;
  • assortative mating;
  • pherotypes

Abstract

The pecan nut casebearer, Acrobasis nuxvorella Nuenzig (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae), is the most damaging insect pest of pecan, Carya illinoinensis (Wang) K. Koch (Juglandaceae), in the USA and Mexico. A pheromone monitoring program for A. nuxvorella has been developed to assist pecan growers in the timing of insecticide applications. The discovery that there are two pheromone types produced by A. nuxvorella has led to complications in the implementation of pheromone monitoring programs. One pheromone (referred to as standard) is attractive to moths in the southern USA, but not in Mexico. The other pheromone (referred to as Mexican) is attractive to moths in the southern USA and in Mexico. Because most male lepidopterans respond only to a specific pheromone, it was suspected that there were two pheromone strains of A. nuxvorella, one exclusively present in the northern distribution of A. nuxvorella (USA strain) and the other widely distributed from Sonora, Chihuahua, and Durango in northern Mexico to Texas, Georgia, and Oklahoma in the USA (Mexican strain). The goal of this research was to determine whether differences in pheromone response are sufficient to genetically isolate A. nuxvorella into pheromone strains. To confirm the existence of the two alleged pheromone strains, amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers were obtained and analyzed. Four primer combinations were used to obtain a total of 483 polymorphic AFLP markers. Our results indicated that the standard and Mexican pheromones did not group A. nuxvorella into pheromone strains. However, three genetically distinct populations of A. nuxvorella were identified. Two of those three populations are sympatric throughout the southern USA and one is allopatric relative to the other two and occurs exclusively in pecan growing regions of Mexico.