Do aphids in Dutch sweet pepper greenhouses carry heritable elements that protect them against biocontrol parasitoids?

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Biological control (biocontrol) of crop pests is a sustainable alternative to the use of biodiversity and organismal health-harming chemical pesticides. Aphids can be biologically controlled with parasitoid wasps; however, variable results of parasitoid-based aphid biocontrol in greenhouses are reported. Aphids may display genetically encoded (endogenous) defences that increase aphid resistance against parasitoids as under high parasitoid pressure there will be selection for parasitoid-resistant aphids, potentially affecting the success of parasitoid-based aphid biocontrol in greenhouses. Additionally, aphids may carry secondary bacterial endosymbionts that protect them against parasitoids. We studied whether there is variation in either of these heritable elements in aphids in greenhouses of sweet pepper, an agro-economically important crop in the Netherlands that is prone to aphid pests and where pest management heavily relies on biocontrol. We sampled aphid populations in organic (biocontrol only) and conventional (biocontrol and pesticides) sweet pepper greenhouses in the Netherlands during the 2019 crop growth season. We assessed the aphid microbiome through both diagnostic PCR and 16S rRNA sequencing and did not detect any secondary endosymbionts in the two most encountered aphid species, Myzus persicae and Aulacorthum solani. We also compared multiple aphid lines collected from different greenhouses for variation in levels of endogenous-based resistance against the parasitoids commonly used as biocontrol agents. We found no differences in the levels of endogenous-based resistance between different aphid lines. This study does not support the hypothesis that protective endosymbionts or the presence of endogenous resistant aphid lines affects the success of parasitoid-based biocontrol of aphids in Dutch greenhouses. Future investigations will need to address what is causing the variable successes of aphid biocontrol and what (biological and management-related) lessons can be learned for aphid control in other crops, and biocontrol in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1580-1593
JournalEvolutionary Applications
Issue number10
Early online date21 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Aphidius parasitoids
  • Aulacorthum solani
  • biocontrol
  • defensive symbiosis
  • endogenous resistance
  • Myzus persicae


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