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Light Trap Capture of Live Elenchus koebelei (Strepsiptera: Elenchidae)


Strepsiptera are a small order of obligately endoparasitic insects. Adult females are neotenic and never leave their host, instead bearing motile young that seek out their own insect hosts to infect. Males eclose without killing their hosts. In their 4-h adult lifespan, they fly off to search for mating opportunities, assisted by unconventional eyes with few, but large, ommatidia. Such distinctive features make Strepsiptera interesting in their own right, but also offer an opportunity to better understand evolutionary innovation. Unfortunately, Strepsiptera also are minute, reclusive, and difficult to obtain, severely reducing the study thereof, especially species not infecting solitary bees or social wasps. Here we describe methods for the successful capture of a strepsipteran species. We placed an ultraviolet light trap among Spartina alterniflora Loisel (Poaceae) shoots to attract adult male Elenchus koebelei Pierce (Strepsiptera: Elenchidae) in salt marshes in the southeastern United States. In 72 d of sampling, 488 adult males were captured between 30 min before and 15 min after sunrise. None arrived more than 63 min before or 36 min after sunrise. The majority of E. koebelei were caught at wind speeds ranging from 0 to 10 km/h; however, a light breeze of about 1.5 km/h appears to be preferred. The highest daily catches occurred when the temperature was between 23 and 26 °C. No Strepsiptera were caught at temperatures below 17 °C. With 521 adult male E. koebelei caught in a single light trap, our results show this little-known parasite may be reliably obtained, enhancing opportunities for further study.

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