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Monitored stinkbugs

Stinkbug with attached electrode (close-up) and monitoring equipment: learning more about damage to corn, soybean and wheat crops

Antônio Panizzi/Embrapa Wheat Stinkbug with attached electrode (close-up) and monitoring equipment: learning more about damage to corn, soybean and wheat cropsAntônio Panizzi/Embrapa Wheat

The feeding behavior of stinkbugs has been electrically monitored for the first time in Brazil, which may be helpful in fighting these pests of corn, soybean and wheat crops.  The technique used, known as an Electrical Penetration Graph (EPG), is performed in the laboratory and consists in attaching the bugs to a copper electrode and a gold wire connected to an amplifier and a computer.  “We used a dental file to scrape away the waxy coating from the insect’s body, where we attached an electrode, using glue containing diluted silver to permit passage of an electrical current,” explains Antônio Panizzi, researcher at Embrapa Wheat (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, Wheat Division) in Passo Fundo, Rio Grande do Sul State.  Panizzi coordinated the project, in which researcher Tiago Lucini also participated.  The monitored stinkbugs belong to the species Dichelops melacanthus.  These bugs use piercing mouthparts known as stylets to feed on plants, injecting saliva to destroy plant tissue and obtain nutrients, consequently causing damage.  In this type of experiment, one wire is connected to the insect and another is attached to the host plant.  An electrical circuit is established when the insect inserts its stylets into the plant.  The electrical signals that record the bug’s activity are sent to a computer and displayed in the form of a graph.  The study will guide future genetic modifications to plants, aiming to enable them to express toxins or block the action of pest insects.

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