Dragonflies as potential biological control on farms: prey assessment using a DNA approach

Project Overview

GNE21-257
Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2021: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 08/14/2022
Grant Recipient: University of Maryland
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
William Lamp
University of Maryland, College Park

Commodities

  • Agronomic: corn, other, soybeans

Practices

  • Pest Management: biological control, integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Dragonflies and damselflies are opportunistic predators as adults. However, the potential for adult dragonflies as biological control agents in agroecosystems has been understudied, in part because their diet is not fully understood. New molecular techniques using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) of fecal pellets can help researchers better understand dragonfly diet. The goal of this study is (1) to compare richness and abundance of assemblages of adult species of dragonflies and damselflies among farms and crops and (2) to compare prey composition using next generation sequencing of Erythemis simplicicollis (eastern pondhawk) feces between upland farm habitat and near water habitat. Visual encounter surveys will be conducted at four University of Maryland farms in central and western Maryland twice a month during the summer of 2021, and fecal samples will be collected from the target species once a month. Fecal samples will be prepared for DNA analysis by GENEWIZ, and sequences provided by GENEWIZ will be compared to the genetics sequence database GenBank. Results of this study will be published in local agricultural newsletters and pamphlets and an agricultural peer-reviewed journal, as well as presented at several professional meetings.  By determining what pest species dragonflies feed on in field crops, we hope to highlight the importance of adult dragonflies as generalist natural enemies in agriculture in order to persuade farmers to encourage dragonfly populations, and the associated predation, on their farms. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The overall goal of this study is to better understand Odonata community composition, prey selection and their potential for pest suppression in agroecosystems. This goal can be divided into two research objectives:

    1. To compare richness and abundance of assemblages of adult species of dragonflies and damselflies among farms and crops.
    2. To compare prey composition using next generation sequencing of Erythemis simplicicollis (eastern pondhawk) feces between upland farm habitat and near water habitat.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.