Role of bacteria in the oviposition behaviour and larval development of stable flies

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Stable flies, Stomoxys calcitrans (L.), are the most important pests of cattle in the United States. However, adequate management strategies for stable flies, especially for pastured cattle, are lacking. Microbial/symbiont-based approaches offer novel venues for management of insect pests and/or vector-borne human and animal pathogens. Unfortunately, the fundamental knowledge of stable fly–microbial associations and their effect on stable fly biology is lacking. In this study, stable flies laid greater numbers of eggs on a substrate with an active microbial community (> 95% of total eggs oviposited) than on a sterilized substrate. In addition, stable fly larvae could not develop in a sterilized natural or artificial substrate/medium. Bacteria were isolated and identified from a natural stable fly oviposition/developmental habitat and their individual effect on stable fly oviposition response and larval development was evaluated in laboratory bioassays. Of nine bacterial strains evaluated in the oviposition bioassays, Citrobacter freundii stimulated oviposition to the greatest extent. C. freundii also sustained stable fly development, but to a lesser degree than Serratia fanticola. Serratia marcescens and Aeromonas spp. neither stimulated oviposition nor supported stable fly development. These results demonstrate a stable fly bacterial symbiosis; stable fly larval development depends on a live microbial community in the natural habitat, and stable fly females are capable of selecting an oviposition site based on the microbially derived stimuli that indicate the suitability of the substrate for larval development. This study shows a promising starting point for exploiting stable fly–bacterial associations for development of novel approaches for stable fly management.

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