MSc Thesis Topic: Entomopathogenic nematodes

Elegant symbiosis between nematodes and bacteria.

Entomopathogenic nematodes are used to control insects that are harmful to plants. The non-feeding “Dauer” juvenile seeks out insect hosts (mostly soil borne, larval stages) and initiates infections. When a host has been located, the nematode penetrates into the insect body cavity. Subsequently, a symbiotic bacterium (Xenorhabdus or Photorhabdus) is released from the nematode gut, which multiplies rapidly and causes rapid insect death.  Once the insect larva is completely digested, Dauer juveniles are formed and they will start searching for a new victim.     

Entomopathogenic nematodes/Picture: Lynn LeBeck University Hawaii
Entomopathogenic nematodes/Picture: Lynn LeBeck University Hawaii

Research questions:

  • What kind of entomopathogenic nematodes are naturally present in The Netherlands, and what ca be done to increase there effectiveness?
  • For what reasons application of entomopathogenic nematodes is so inefficient - currently millions if not billions of infective nematodes are needed to have an adequate effect on target insects. What can be done to improve the efficiency of this biocontrol agent?      

DNA barcoding will be used to detect, identify and quantify entomopathogenic nematodes.