The boll weevil, Anthonomus grandis grandis Boheman (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), is a serious pest of cultivated cotton, Gossypium hirsutum L., in the Americas, and reinfestation of zones from which they have been eradicated is of perpetual concern. Extensive arrays of pheromone traps monitor for reintroductions, but occasionally the traps collect nontarget weevils that can be misidentified by scouts. For example, the congeneric pepper weevil, Anthonomus eugenii Cano, and other superficially similar weevils are attracted to components of the boll weevil lure or trap color. Although morphologically distinguishable by trained personnel, the potential for misidentification is compounded when captured weevils are dismembered or partially consumed by ants or ground beetles that sometimes feed on them in the traps. Because misidentification can have expensive consequences, a molecular diagnostic tool would be of great value to eradication managers. We demonstrate that a cocktail of three primer pairs in a single polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplify species-specific microsatellites that unambiguously distinguish the boll weevil from three other weevil species tested, including pepper weevil; cranberry weevil, Anthonomus eugenii musculus Say; and pecan weevil, Curculio caryae Horn. However, it does not distinguish the boll weevil from the subspecific “thurberia” weevil. A universal internal transcribed spacer primer pair included in the cocktail cross-amplifies DNA from all species, serving as a positive control. Furthermore, the diagnostic primers amplified the target microsatellites from various boll weevil adult body parts, indicating that the PCR technology using the primer cocktail is sensitive enough to positively identify a boll weevil even when the body is partly degraded.
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Vol. 102 • No. 2