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Canadian Teen Publishes Research on Diamondback Moth Parasitoids

Adamo Young, a grade-12 student in Ottawa who loves science, recently published research on a wasp that is an efficient killer of an agricultural pest. His article, “War of the wasps: is Diadegma insulare or Microplitis plutellae a more effective parasitoid of the Diamondback Moth, Plutella xylostella?” was published in this week’s issue of the scientific journal The Canadian Field-Naturalist, and it was subject to the same peer-review process and met the same scientific standards as articles authored by professors and other professional scientists.

Young found a mentor in Dr. Peter Mason, a research scientist at the Experimental Farm in Ottawa, and his research focused on an agricultural pest, the diamondback moth, and the wasps that kill it.

The diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella (L.), invaded Canada a long time ago, and brought with it an appetite for crops such as cabbage and canola. Researchers have known for years that two wasp species — Diadegma insulare (Muesebeck) and Microplitis plutellae (Haliday) — can kill the pest moth. The wasps lay their eggs in moth caterpillars, then the baby wasps grow up eating the caterpillar from the inside out until the wasps emerge from the caterpillar, killing the caterpillar in the process.

“It’s kind of like the movie Alien,” Young explained.

While researchers knew these wasps kill the moth pest, they didn’t know which wasp was more effective under different conditions. Young designed and performed experiments to see which wasp is better at controlling diamondback moth populations under various conditions. He found that one wasp species was a tireless killing machine, whereas the other wasp was only effective at killing moths under limited conditions. The results will help farmers and greenhouse operators combat the moth pest without the need for pesticides.

“My research won first prize at the Ottawa regional science fair, and two of the judges were editors of The Canadian Field-Naturalist. They said my research was good enough to be published,” Young said. So he wrote his research as a scientific paper and submitted it.

“It’s pretty cool to say you’ve published a scientific paper,” he said.

According to the abstract, the study showed that “D. insulare was a better parasitoid overall, achieving a level of parasitism equal to or higher than M. plutellae at all densities. Microplitis plutellae performed best at a lower host density (76% ± 9% of 10 hosts vs. 43% ± 3% of 40 hosts). Diadegma insulare performed similarly at all densities tested (75% ± 5% of 10 hosts, 83% ± 4% of 20 hosts, and 79% ± 6% of 40 hosts). This suggests that D. insulare may be the better parasitoid overall and should be applied in severe, large-scale infestations, while M. plutellae may be better for small-scale infestations.”

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War of the wasps: is Diadegma insulare or Microplitis plutellae a more effective parasitoid of the Diamondback Moth, Plutella xylostella?

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