DNA barcoding of commercial biological control agents: a quality management framework
Abstract: Biological control is a key component of greenhouse integrated pest management (IPM) programs throughout the world. Numerous organizations now rear and distribute biological control agents (BCAs) for greenhouse pest management and research purposes. Commercial arthropod colonies require replenishment with wild caught individuals to maintain high levels of fitness and hence BCA performance. However, this practice risks contaminating colonies with closely related species. These contaminant species have the potential to be distributed to greenhouse producers with unknown ramifications for biological control programs. Unfortunately, morphological identification of many BCA species can be challenging due to factors such as lack of taxonomic expertise and the presence of cryptic species. Alternatively, a standardized molecular approach can be applied to aid in the identification of BCA specimens as part of a quality management framework for both BCA producers and researchers. For this purpose we have constructed a DNA barcode reference library for most of the commercially available BCAs in North America. We highlight instances of divergence within some ‘species’ and provide recommendations for researchers using commercially obtained BCAs.