Identifying plant DNA in the sponging–feeding insect pest Drosophila suzukii
Drosophila suzukii (Diptera: Drosophilidae) is a highly polyphagous invasive pest threatening fruit production in the Americas and Europe. The current knowledge of its host plants is mainly based on oviposition and larval development in fruits, while little is known on the diet of the adult flies. This information is important for developing effective control strategies. Here, we examine DNA-based techniques to determine food plants of D. suzukii. Adult flies were fed with raspberries (Rubus idaeus) and allowed to digest up to 72 h after feeding. Raspberry DNA was detected by diagnostic PCR for up to 48 h post-feeding with a significant negative effect of time on DNA detection success but no significant differences between male and female flies in detection probabilities. As D. suzukii walks on plants, its body surface can get contaminated with DNA. With a bleaching experiment, we succeeded to remove contaminating external plant DNA, while the DNA in the gut content stayed unaffected. Finally, field-collected flies were subjected to a next-generation sequencing approach, demonstrating that plant DNA from different host plants can be efficiently detected in both bleached and non-bleached specimens. In order to safeguard against erroneous host plant detections, we recommend bleaching flies before they are subjected to DNA extraction. The current findings encourage the use of DNA-based gut content analysis in D. suzukii to obtain a better understanding of its feeding ecology which is a prerequisite for developing successful control strategies.