Molecular Markers Discriminate Closely Related Species Encarsia diaspidicola and Encarsia berlesei (Hymenoptera: Aphelinidae): Biocontrol Candidate Agents for White Peach Scale in Hawaii

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We genetically characterized Encarsia diapsidicola Silvestri and Encarsia berlesei Howard (Hymenoptera: Aphelinidae) by two molecular methods: phylogenetic analysis of the cytochrome oxidase subunit I gene (COI) and intersimple sequence repeat-polymerase chain reaction (ISSR-PCR) DNA fingerprinting. These two closely related endoparasitoids are candidate biological control agents for the white peach scale, Pseudaulacaspis pentagona Targioni-Tozetti (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), in Hawaii. We developed species-specific COI molecular markers that discriminated the two species, and we tested the utility of the E. diaspidicola-specific COI marker to detect parasitism of white peach scale. The COI sequence data uncovered 46-bp differences between the two Encarsia spp. The level of COI genetic divergence between the two species was 9.7%, and the two clustered into their own clade on a parismonious phylogram. ISSR-PCR readily discriminated the two Encarsia spp. because each was observed with fixed species-specific banding patterns. The COI molecular markers were specific for each species because cross-reactivity was not observed with nontarget species. The E. diaspidicola-specific COI markers were successful at detecting parasitism of white peach scale by E. diaspidicola by 24 h. Both molecular marker types successfully discriminated the two Encarsia spp., whereas the COI markers will be useful as tools to assess levels of parasitism in the field and to study competitive interactions between parasitoids.


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