Host specificity of microsporidia pathogenic to forest lepidoptera

Leellen F. Solter, Daniela K. Pilarska, Charles F. Vossbrinck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The host specificity of microsporidian pathogens of Lepidoptera was studied in Bulgaria where native populations of Lymantria dispar and their endemic microsporidia occur. L. dispar and sympatric lepidopteran larvae were collected from four sites in central and western Bulgaria. Three species of microsporidia, Vairimorpha sp., Nosema sp., and Endoreticulatus sp. are known to be endemic in three L. dispar populations, with one species in each population. No microsporidia were found in a fourth L. dispar population. In addition to the L. dispar microsporidia, 11 isolates of microsporidia were recovered from the 1494 individual lepidopteran hosts collected in these sites. When fed to L. dispar, 3 isolates produced infections that were atypical of infections in the natural hosts; one additional isolate produced an atypical infection in Spodoptera exigua. A Nosema sp. isolated from a noctuid host produced heavy infections in L. dispar larvae. Sequencing revealed that the noctuid microsporidium and the closely related Vairimorpha sp. and Nosema sp. microsporidia from L. dispar are distinctly different isolates. These investigations strengthen previous laboratory predictions of narrow host ranges for the Nosema and Vairimorpha microsporidia recovered from L. dispar in Europe. In addition, the Endoreticulatus sp., which was predicted from laboratory studies to be a generalist, was not found in Lepidoptera species sympatric with L. dispar. The results from our study indicate that laboratory testing may considerably underestimate the host specificity of many terrestrial microsporidia. Nevertheless, infectivity to nontarget hosts in the laboratory may set the stage for understanding the evolution of closely related microsporidia found in different host species. (C) 2000 Academic Press.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-56
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Control
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000


  • Ecological host range
  • Endoreticulatus sp.
  • Host specificity
  • Lepidoptera
  • Lymantria dispar
  • Nosema sp.
  • Vairimorpha sp.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Insect Science

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Host specificity of microsporidia pathogenic to forest lepidoptera'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this