Using an Endosymbiotic Microbe to Combat Wheat Stem Sawflies

(Photo by R. K. D. Peterson)

The wheat stem sawfly damages cereal crops and native grasses to the tune of ~$350 million over the Northern Great Plains. Adult flies deposit their eggs into the hallow stems of wheat. Damage to the stem occurs when the larvae emerge and feed on the internal parenchyma and vascular tissue of the plant.

In collaboration with the Montana State University Wheat Stem Sawfly Project, headed by entomologist Dr. David Weaver, we have identified a bacterial symbiont of the genus Spiroplasma that is associated with the sawfly and have been working towards characterizing the Spiroplasma (currently named Spiroplasma sp. WSS) and its relationship with the Wheat Stem Sawfly.

This project was initially funded by the Montana Wheat & Barley Committee to help obtain a more complete understanding of how this species of bacteria can impact the fitness of these agricultural pests. The ultimate goal of this project is to provide a unique approach that manipulates the host:microbe relationship to manage this significant pest.

In our initial efforts we applied a metagenomic approach to capture the genome of Spiroplasma WSS and then use this to increase our understanding of the bacterium’s metabolic contributions to the sawfly host. Further inquiries on Wheat Stem Sawfly biology and pest management may be directed towards Dr. David Weaver ( Further questions specifically on the Sawfly-associated Spiroplasma project may be directed towards Dr. Yeoman.

Related Publications

Yeoman CJ, Brutscher LM, Esen Ö, İbaoğlu F, Fowler C, Eren AM, Wanner K, Weaver DK. 2019. Genome-resolved insights into a novel Spiroplasma symbiont of the Wheat Stem Sawfly (Cephus cinctus). Peer J. In press