Date of Award

5-2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Major Professor

Gary F. McCracken

Committee Members

James Fordyce, Alison Buchan

Abstract

Bats are generalist predators of night flying insects, including many crop pests. Pecan nut casebearer (Acrobasis nuxvorella), hickory shuckworm (Cydia caryana), and several stink bug species are some of the most damaging crop pests in pecan orchards. Attracting bats to agricultural areas using bats houses may reduce the numbers of these pests and, consequently, their economic impact. This study uses quantitative polymerase chain reaction (QPCR) of mitochondrial DNA found in the guano of bats living in bat houses on organic pecan orchards to document the consumption of pecan nut casebearer, hickory shuckworm, and corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea), which is one of the most destructive pests of many crops throughout the world. This study also uses direct sequencing of insect remains in bat fecal pellets to identify species of stink bugs consumed by bats in bat houses. Evidence that bats prey upon crop pests supports the hypothesis that bats are both economically and ecologically beneficial to pecan farmers and provides incentives for bat conservation.

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