A DNA extraction method for insects from sticky traps: targeting a low abundance pest, Phthorimaea absoluta (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), in mixed species communities.
Invasive insects can cause catastrophic damage to ecosystems and cost billions of dollars each year due to management expenses and lost revenue. Rapid detection is an important step to prevent invasive insects from spreading, but improvements in detection capabilities are needed for bulk collections like those from sticky traps. Here we present a bulk DNA extraction method designed for the detection of Phthorimaea absoluta Meyrick (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), an invasive moth that can decimate tomato crops. We test the extraction method for insect specimens on sticky traps, subjected to different temperature and humidity conditions, and among mock insect communities left in the field for up to 21 d. We find that the extraction method yielded high success (>92%) in recovering target DNA across field and lab trials, without a decline in recovery after three weeks, across all treatments. These results may have a large impact on tomato growing regions where P. absoluta is in the early stages of invasion or not yet present. The extraction method can also be used to improve detection capabilities for other bulk insect collections, especially those using sticky traps, to the benefit of pest surveys and biodiversity studies.