Entomophaga maimaiga (entomopathogen)

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gypsy moth caterpillar killed by Entomophaga maimaiga (click on image to enlarge it)
Author(s): Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service
Source: IPM Images
gypsy moth caterpillar killed by Entomophaga maimaiga (click on image to enlarge it)
Author(s): Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service
Source: IPM Images

Entomophaga maimaiga (entomopathogen) Humber, Shimazu & R.S. Soper 1988

This fungus is an important pathogen of the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar), originating from eastern Asia. It was deliberately released in North America in 1910, but in spite of various surveys not reported from there until 1989, when it started to cause widespread epizootics. For a review see Hajek & Delalibera (2010). It was subsequently also released in Europe, where it again became established in gypsy moth populations (e.g. see Pilarska et al., 2006).

The pathogen has few other hosts and is compatible with other natural enemies of the gypsy moth like the Lymantria dispar multiple nucleopolyhedrovirus. It produces 2 types of spores:
Short-lived conidia are discharged from cadavers and the secondary conidia can immediately germinate and cause infections.
Resting spores (azygospores) overwinter in the soil, mainly around the base of trees. They germinate under suitable conditions the following spring, but some remain dormant for 10-12 years after an epizootic.

The typical life cycle involves early instar gypsy moth larvae becoming infected by germinating resting spores and producing conidiophores on their body surface. These actively discharge conidia which infect mainly mid - and late instar larvae. The older larvae produced predominantly resting spores inside their body. Their cadavers drop to the ground, decompose and release the resting spores which persist until at least the following spring.

For a review of the life cycle of this fungus see Hajek et al. (2018).