The western corn rootworm, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), is the key pest of corn, Zea mays L., in North America. The western corn rootworm variant is a strain found in some parts of the United States that oviposits in soybean, Glycine max (L.) Merr., thereby circumventing crop rotation. Soybean herbivory is closely associated with oviposition; therefore, evidence of herbivory could serve as a proxy for rotation resistance. A digital image analysis method based on the characteristic green abdominal coloration of rootworm adults with soybean foliage in their guts was developed to estimate soybean herbivory rates of adult females. Image analysis software was used to develop and apply threshold limits that allowed only colors within the range that is characteristic of soybean herbivory to be displayed. When this method was applied to adult females swept from soybean fields in an area with high levels of rotation resistance, 54.3 ± 2.1% were estimated to have fed on soybean. This is similar to a previously reported estimate of 54.8%. Results when laboratory-generated negative controls were analyzed showed an acceptably low frequency of false positives. This method could be developed into a management tool if user-friendly software were developed for its implementation. In addition, researchers may find the method useful as a rapid, standardized screen for measuring frequencies of soybean herbivory.
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Vol. 103 • No. 4