The prevalence of Wolbachia in multiple cockroach species and its implication for urban insect management

S. O. Oladipupo, Y. Laidoudi, J. F. Beckmann, X. P. Hu and A. G. Appel,  Journal of Economic Entomology,  2023.

Cockroach management relies heavily on the use of conventional insecticides in urban settings, which no longer provide the anticipated level of control. Knowledge of cockroach endosymbionts, like Wolbachia, might provide novel avenues for control. Therefore, we screened 16 cockroach species belonging to 3 families (Ectobiidae, Blattidae, and Blaberidae) for the presence of Wolbachia. We mapped the evolution of Wolbachia-cockroach relationships based on maximum likelihood phylogeny and phylogenetic species clustering on a multi-loci sequence dataset (i.e., coxA, virD4, hcpA, and gatB) of Wolbachia genes. We confirmed the previous report of Wolbachia in 1 Ectobiid species; Supella longipalpa (Fab.), and detected the presence of Wolbachia in 2 Ectobiid species; Balta notulata (Stål) and Pseudomops septentrionalis Hebard, and 1 Blaberid species; Gromphadorhina portentosa (Schaum). All cockroach-associated Wolbachia herein detected were clustered with the ancestor of F clade Wolbachia of Cimex lectularius L. (bed bugs). Since Wolbachia provision C. lectularius with biotin vitamins that confer reproductive fitness, we screened the cockroach-associated Wolbachia for the presence of biotin genes. In toto, our results reveal 2 important findings: (i) Wolbachia is relatively uncommon among cockroach species infecting about 25% of species investigated, and (ii) cockroach-associated Wolbachia have biotin genes that likely provide nutritional benefits to their hosts. Thus, we discuss the potential of exploring Wolbachia as a tool for urban insect management.

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