Increased Larval Growth and Preference for Virus-Infected Leaves by the Mexican Bean Beetle,Epilachna varivestisMulsant, a Plant Virus Vector

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Phaseolus vulgaris L. cv. ‘Black Valentine’ is a systemic host for the plant viruses Southern bean mosaic virus (SBMV) and bean pod mottle virus (BPMV). The Mexican bean beetle, Epilachna varivestis Mulsant, is a vector of SBMV and BPMV. Our objective was to determine if the interaction of SBMV and BPMV with ‘Black Valentine’ bean plants would affect beetle behavior and growth. In adult feeding preference test assays, beetles preferred and ingested more of the virus-infected bean leaf tissue than the noninfected leaf tissue. Beetle larvae that fed on SBMV- or BPMV-infected plants weighed more than those that fed on healthy plants. Our experiments suggest that there might be a mutually beneficial relationship between the beetle and the viruses that it vectors. The virus benefits from being transmitted and the beetle benefits from better larval growth when feeding on virus-infected leaf tissue. This study further demonstrates the complexity of relationships between multiple organisms.

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