© H Brier, Queensland Government
© R. Teakle, Queensland Government
© K. Knight, Queensland Government
Fungal diseases of insects (also known as entomopathogenic fungi) occur naturally in the environment. Epizootics (naturally occurring outbreaks) can rapidly decimate pest populations, particularly where pests are in close contact (such as aphid colonies).
- Beauveria bassiana
- Entomopthora sp.
- Metarhizium anisopliae
- Nomuraea rileyi.
A fuzzy or velvety layer covers the insect. Fungal spore colour varies between species, but the most commonly found species range from white to dark green:
- Entomophthora—white (spores are forcibly discharged, forming a halo around the dead insect)
- Metarhizium—dark green
- Nomuraea—light green.
Distribution and habitat
Generally more successful in moist or humid environments.
Caterpillar hosts include Helicoverpa, loopers, Spodoptera and other armyworm species.
Metarhizium sp. also infects grasshoppers, locusts, cockroaches and true bugs.
Fungal pathogens also affect a wide range of other arthropods including aphids, beetles, ants, flies, and even mites, ticks and fleas.
Life cycle and ecology
Spores germinate and grow through the exoskeleton. As the fungus develops, the insect is filled with threadlike structures (hyphae). Millions of spores are then produced on the dead insect's surface.
Factors that influence effectiveness
Successful establishment of the fungus in an insect population is highly dependent on environmental conditions.
Many entomopathogenic fungi have been investigated as potential biocontrol agents. In Australia, a biopesticide containing spores of the fungus Metarhizium anisopliae is available for locusts and grasshoppers in pastures.
Registered chemicals database—Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA)
- Last reviewed: 14 Jan 2020
- Last updated: 21 Jan 2020