Beauveria bassiana, a Natural Fungus Possibly Capable of Insect Pest Supression
If you’re in any way familiar with YouTube, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the “Ant Zombie” video, but in case you haven’t, this viral video depicts an entomopathogenic (entomo=insect, pathogenic=causing disease) fungus slowly taking over the mind of an insect before consuming it from the inside out!
While this is definitely an amazing natural phenomenon, it isn’t even the best part. There are several other fungi that perform the same insect-toxic function, and we in the pest management field are trying to harness the power of these extremely beneficial organisms.
Beauveria bassiana is a naturally occurring soil-borne fungus that has been proven to be pathogenic to insects.
This fungus penetrates the insect’s cuticle, or outer shell, and essentially eats it from the inside out. When the fungus is finished with the insect, it grows back out of the cuticle and develops into a downy-looking white mold that specialists have called White Muscardine Disease.
Beauveria bassiana was discovered in 1835 by Agostino Bassi, an Italian Entomologist. Bassi isolated the fungus when domesticated silkworms became infected with White Muscardine.
Many pesticide companies have tried to harness the power of Beauveria due to the fact that it poses little threat to mammals, including humans.
There are many commercially available spray and bait insecticides containing Beauveria spores that have been Reduced-Risk and USDA Organic approved.
While Beauveria has the ability to infect many types of insects, with close attention to method and placement of application, beneficial insects such as bees will not be harmed.
So why isn’t everyone using it? It’s a little bit more expensive. Considering the extremely short-term effects of other organic options, I put insect-toxic fungi high on the priority list.
We at PPC are currently looking into Beauveria as a fly control method, along with a few other applications.
Proceedings. 1999. New England Vegetable and Berry Growers Conference and Trade Show, Sturbridge, MA. p. 313-315.
Li ZZ, Li CR, Huang B, Fan MZ (2001). “Discovery and demonstration of the teleomorph of Beauveria bassiana (Bals.) Vuill., an important entomogenous fungus”. Chinese Science Bulletin 46 (9): 751–3