Environmental and behavioral factors that affect the infection of wireworms [Agriotes obscurus L. (Coleoptera: Elateridae)] by a unique isolate of Metarhizium anisopliae Sorokin (Hypocreales: Clavicipitaceae) were studied. After wireworms were placed in soil containing 106 M. anisopliae conidia/g and incubated at 6, 12, or 18°C, significant disease development and wireworm mortality occurred only in those wireworms incubated at 18°C. At this temperature, mortality was found to be dependant on the time exposed to the contaminated soil, and a minimum exposure time of 48 h was required to cause significant levels of mortality. Despite the restrictive effect of cooler temperatures on disease development and mortality, infected wireworms did not choose temperatures that inhibited disease development when given the opportunity to do so in a separate experiment. Finally, wireworms were repelled by M. anisopliae–contaminated soil at a rate that increased with the soil conidia concentration, but the rate of emigration was reduced when a food source was present. The results of this study indicate that factors including temperature, time exposed to M. anisopliae, conidia soil concentration, and food availability will affect mortality rates of wireworms and are likely to affect field performance of M. anisopliae as a biological control.
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