Insect vector and phytopathogen interactions are mediated by host plants. Insects interact with pathogens directly or indirectly and they may prefer host plants based on infection status. Performance on infected hosts varies depending on the type of pathogen involved. Species specific studies of economically important insects and phytopathogens are needed to understand how these interactions impact crop yields. Onion thrips, Thrips tabaci Lindeman (Thysanoptera:Thripidae), is an economically devastating insect pest of onions (Allium cepa L., Asparagales: Amaryllidaceae) worldwide and it co-occurs simultaneously with many different pathogens. Colletotrichum coccodes (Wallr) (Glomerellales: Glomerellaceae) is a generalist fungal pathogen that attacks onion foliage, causing tan lesions and decreasing yield. Onion thrips and C. coccodes represent two important pests of onions, but the relationship between onion thrips and C. coccodes infected onions has not been studied, and it is unclear if onion thrips contribute to the spread of C. coccodes in onion fields. A four-choice test with control, artificially injured, artificially injured + symptomatic, and inoculated-symptomatic onion suggests that onion thrips distinguish between hosts based on health status. Furthermore, a two-choice test with control, inoculated-asymptomatic, and inoculated-symptomatic onion pairings revealed that onion thrips distinguish between hosts based on infection status and prefer inoculated-symptomatic hosts. In a no-choice test, onion thrips numbers increased on inoculated-symptomatic plants compared to control or inoculated-asymptomatic plants. Overall, we found that onion thrips preferred and performed best on C. coccodes infected plants.
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Vol. 51 • No. 6