Use of molecular gut content analysis to decipher The Range of food plants of the invasive spotted lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula.
Spotted lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula (Hemiptera: Fulgoridae), is an introduced highly invasive insect pest in the US that poses a significant risk to forestry and agriculture. Assessing and predicting plant usage of the lanternfly has been challenging, and little is known regarding the lanternfly nymph association with its host plants. In this study, we focused on: (a) providing a protocol for using molecular markers for food plant identification of L. delicatula; (b) determining whether the ingested plant DNA corresponds with DNA of the plants from which the lanternfly was collected; and, (c) investigating the spectrum of ingested plants. We utilized gut contents of third and fourth instar nymphs that were collected from multiple plants; we isolated ingested plant DNA and identified consumed plants. We demonstrated that (a) up to 534 bp of the rbcL gene from ingested plants can be detected in L. delicatula guts, (b) ingested plants in ~93% of the nymphs did not correspond with the plants from which the nymphs were collected, and (c) both introduced and native plants, as well as woody and non-woody plants, were ingested. This information will aid effective the monitoring and management of the lanternfly, as well as predict the lanternfly host plants with range expansion.