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Homalodisca vitripennis (Germar) (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae), the glassy-winged sharpshooter, is one of the most important vectors of the bacterium, Xylella fastidiosa subsp. piercei (Xanthomonadales: Xanthomonadaceae) that causes Pierce's Disease in grapevines in California. In the present study we report a new method for studying pathogen transmission or probing behavior of H. vitripennis. When confined, H. vitripennis attempt to probe the surface of sterile containers 48 hours post-acquisition of X. f. piercei. The saliva deposited during attempted feeding probes was found to contain X. f. piercei. We observed no correlation between X. f. piercei titers in the foregut of H. vitripennis that fed on Xylella-infected grapevines and the presence of this bacterium in the deposited saliva. The infection rate after a 48 h post-acquisition feeding on healthy citrus and grapevines was observed to be 77% for H. vitripennis that fed on grapevines and 81% for H. vitripennis that fed on citrus, with no difference in the number of positive probing sites from H. vitripennis that fed on either grapevine or citrus. This method is amenable for individual assessment of X. f. piercei-infecuvity, with samples less likely to be affected by tissue contamination that is usually present in whole body extracts.
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