Other than Bacillus thuringiensis Berliner, few bacteria are lethal to the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata [Say]), a major pest of potatoes and eggplant. Expanded use of biologicals for the control of Colorado potato beetle will improve resistance management, reduce pesticide use, and produce novel compounds for potential use in transgenic plants. Using freeze-dried, rehydrated artificial diet in pellet form to screen bacteria lethal to other insects, we determined that strains of Photorhabdus luminescens killed Colorado potato beetle larvae. The LC50 for second instar larvae of strain HM5-1 was 6.4 ± 1.87 × 107 cells per diet pellet. In an attempt to find additional naturally occurring P. luminescens strains toxic to Colorado potato beetle larvae, we recovered, from soil, bacteria that produced a purple pigment. This bacterial strain, identified as Chromobacterium sp. by 16S ribosomal DNA sequencing, was also toxic to Colorado potato beetle larvae within 3 d. The LC50 for second instar larvae for these bacteria was 2.0 ± 0.79 × 108 cells per diet pellet, while the LC50 was approximately 1 log lower for third instar larvae. P. luminescens appeared to kill by means of a protein toxin that may be similar to the described lepidopteran protein toxins. Based on the heat and acid stability, the toxin or toxins that Chromobacterium sp. produces, while not fully characterized, do not appear to be typical proteins. In both bacteria, the toxins are made after exponential growth ceases.
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Vol. 97 • No. 3