The pine processionary moth, Thaumetopoea pityocampa (Denis and Schiffermüller), is an important insect in the Mediterranean region, as it defoliates pines and its urticating hairs can cause allergic reactions in humans and animals. Moreover, this species exhibits an interesting genetic structure as recently a distinct East-North African mtDNA lineage (‘ENA clade’) has been described.This clade has been recently detected in Greek populations where it has currently expanded its range by replacing the ‘endemic’ T. pityocampa lineages. Here, we report new data on the rapid spread of ‘ENA clade’ in the Greek island Evoia in only a few years. As the underlying mechanisms of the ‘ENA clade’ range expansion has not been studied so far, we screened T. pityocampa for an infection with the heritable bacterial endosymbionts Wolbachia (Bacteria: Anaplasmataceae), Cardinium (Bacteria: Bacteroidaceae), Rickettsia (Bacteria: Rickettsiaceae) and Spiroplasma (Bacteria: Spiroplasmataceae). These bacteria can manipulate the reproduction of infected hosts, something that could potentially explain the rapid spread of ‘ENA clade’ lineage. Therefore, we screened 28 individuals that exhibited T. pityocampa ‘ENA clade’ and ‘endemic’ T. pityocampa haplotypes from nine populations scattered all over Greece. None of them was infected with any of the four endosymbionts, suggesting that these bacteria do not cause reproductive manipulations in T. pityocampa lineages and, thus, other factors should be explored in future research efforts.
Pine Processionary Moth