Entomopathogenic fungus

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An entomopathogenic fungus is a fungus that can kill or seriously disable insects.

Grasshoppers killed by the entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana (Ascomycota: Hypocreales)

They don't need to enter into the body through oral ingestion or intake. Entomopathogenic fungi directly penetrates through the exoskeleton of the insect and damage the insect.

Typical life cycle[edit]

Green peach aphid, Myzus persicae, killed by the fungus Pandora neoaphidis (Zygomycota: Entomophthorales) Scale bar = 0.3 mm

These fungi usually attach to the external body surface of insects in the form of microscopic spores (usually asexual, mitosporic spores also called conidia). Under the right conditions of temperature and (usually high) humidity, these spores germinate, grow as hyphae and colonize the insect's cuticle; which they bore through by way of enzymatic hydrolysis, reaching the insects' body cavity (hemocoel).[1] Then, the fungal cells proliferate in the host body cavity, usually as walled hyphae or in the form of wall-less protoplasts (depending on the fungus involved). After some time the insect is usually killed (sometimes by fungal toxins), and new propagules (spores) are formed in or on the insect if environmental conditions are again right. High humidity is usually required for sporulation.


Cordyceps fungi are parasitoids of various arthropod species. Here is a wasp parasitized by the fungus Cordyceps.

The entomopathogenic fungi include taxa from several of the main fungal groups and do not form a monophyletic group. Many common and/or important entomopathogenic fungi are in the order Hypocreales of the Ascomycota: the asexual (anamorph) phases Beauveria, Isaria (was Paecilomyces), Hirsutella, Metarhizium, Nomuraea and the sexual (teleomorph) state Cordyceps; others (Entomophthora, Zoophthora, Pandora, Entomophaga) belong in the order Entomophthorales of the Zygomycota.

Fungi may also attack and kill other invertebrates: for example, Purpureocillium (Ophiocordycipitaceae) is used to control nematode pests.

Pest management[edit]

Since they are considered natural mortality agents and environmentally safe, entomopathogenic fungi for biological control of insects have been studied for more than 100 years. In particular, the asexual phases of Ascomycota (Beauveria spp., Isaria spp., Lecanicillium spp., Metarhizium spp., Purpureocillium spp., and others) are under scrutiny due to traits favouring their use as biopesticides.[2] The development of entomopathogens as pesticides depends on research into their host specificity, stability, formulation, and methods of application.


Most entomopathogenic fungi can be grown on artificial media. Some require complex media, while others, like Beauveria bassiana and exploitable species in the genus Metarhizium, can be grown on starch-rich substrates such as rice or wheat grains.


Entomophthorales are often reported as causing epizootics (outbreaks with many deaths) in nature. These fungi are virulent. The anamorphic Ascomycota (Metarhizium, Beauveria etc.) are reported as causing epizootics less frequently in nature.

Host relationship chemical cues[edit]

Entomopathogenic fungi such as Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium anisopliae successfully infect susceptible host populations through conidia.[3][4] The signaling cues between these fungi and their host targets are under investigation. The ability to sense these parasites can increase fitness for the host targets. Evidence suggests that signal recognition occurs within some hosts, but not others. For example, the ectoparasite Cephalonomia tarsalis is susceptible to B. bassiana but it cannot detect the presence of free conidia of this fungus or infected hosts.[5] Because they cannot detect these parasites, either the host or the host's offspring become infected and/or die. In contrast, termites detect and avoid some lethal conidia strains.[6] Other soil-dwelling insects have evolved the ability to detect and avoid certain entomopathogenic fungi.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fernandes EG, Valério HM, Feltrin T, Van Der Sand ST (2012). "Variability in the production of extracellular enzymes by entomopathogenic fungi grown on different substrates". Braz. J. Microbiol. 43 (2): 827–33. doi:10.1590/S1517-83822012000200049. PMC 3768820. PMID 24031896.
  2. ^ Strasser H, Vey A, Butt TM (28 June 2010). "Are There any Risks in Using Entomopathogenic Fungi for Pest Control, with Particular Reference to the Bioactive Metabolites of Metarhizium, Tolypocladium and Beauveria species?". Biocontrol Science and Technology. 10 (6): 717–735. doi:10.1080/09583150020011690. S2CID 83558063.
  3. ^ Vandenburg, J.D., Ramos, M. & Altre, J.A. (1998) Dose –response and age- and temperature-related susceptibility of the diamondback moth (Lepidoptera: Plutellidae) to two isolates of Beauveria bassiana (Hyphomycetes: Moniliaceae). Environmental Entomology, 27, 1017–1021.
  4. ^ Hughes, W.O.H., Petersen, K.S., Ugelvig, L.V., Pedersen, D., Thomsen, L., Poulsen, M. et al. (2004) Density-dependence and within-host competition in a semelparous parasite of leafcutting ants. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 4, 45.
  5. ^ Lord, J.C. (2001) Response of the wasp Cephalonomia tarsalis (Hymenoptera: Bethylidae) to Beauveria bassiana (Hyphomycetes: Moniliales) as free conidia or infection in its host, the sawtoothed grain beetle, Oryzaephilus surinamensis (Coleoptera: Silvanidae). Biological Control, 21, 300–304.
  6. ^ Myles, T.G. (2002) Alarm, aggregation, and defense by Reticulitermes flavipes in response to a naturally occurring isolate of Metarhizium anisopliae. Sociobiology, 40, 243–255.

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