Opposing Growth Responses of Lepidopteran Larvae to the Establishment of Gut Microbiota

Charles J. Mason, Michelle Peiffer, Bosheng Chen, Kelli Hoover, Gary W. Felton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Gut microbiota can have diverse impacts on hosts, the nature of which often depend on the circumstances. For insect gut microbes, the quality and nature of host diets can be a significant force in swinging the pendulum from inconsequential to functionally important. In our study, we addressed whether beneficial microbes in one species impart similar functions to related species under identical conditions. Using fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), beet armyworm (Spodoptera exigua), and other noctuid hosts, we implemented an axenic rearing strategy and manipulated gut bacterial populations and dietary conditions. Our results revealed that some gut Enterococcus and Enterobacter isolates can facilitate utilization of a poor diet substrate by fall armyworm, but this was not the case for other more optimized diets. While Enterococcus provided benefits to fall armyworm, it was decidedly antagonistic to beet armyworm (Spodoptera exigua) under identical conditions. Unique isolates and bacterial introductions at early growth stages were critical to how both larval hosts performed. Our results provide robust evidence of the roles in which bacteria support lepidopteran larval growth, but also indicate that the directionality of these relationships can differ among congener hosts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMicrobiology Spectrum
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Ecology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology
  • Infectious Diseases


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