Has anybody started a collection of fungi-infected insects? I am looking to start one myself, but I’ve never managed to find an infected insect personally. I bought a cicada larva online that was infected by an unspecified species of (possibly) cordyceps, but it’s all I can find despite many identified all over the country on iNaturalist.
Please let me know if anybody has suggestions on where to find or buy specimens!
Welcome to the forum! Are you seeking to build a collection for scientific or aesthetic purposes? Finding infected insects in the wild isn’t too hard, although finding ones with cool stromata like Cordyceps s.l. is more difficult. My lab has sampled thousands of live and dead insects in the wild, and we’ve only found two with stromata like that. It’s best to look after a rain and in cooler weather—conditions that favor fungal growth. You can also try rearing live insects to see if they die of infection. That way, you are more likely to see fresh growth before it may be overtaken by saprophytes.
(Moved this to Nature Talk. @mycwazowski please read the About sections for each category before posting, thanks!)
Hi there Thomas! I am an amateur mycologist and I thought it would be interesting to start my own collecting and cataloging of different species. As far as I can find, there aren’t any collections focusing on the teleomorphic stage of insect-infecting fungi. The aesthetics, of course, are interesting as well. Of course, in Southern California where I am located, there is hardly enough rain for me to have hopes of finding my own.
I feel a bit uncomfortable intentionally trying to infect insects, but do you have any you suggest I look into further?
If you’re starting a scientific collection, I would generally avoid buying specimens online. That sort of data is generally suspect or unhelpfully vague.
I’m fairly new to insect pathology, but I imagine this is because fungal culture collections keep live cultures frozen. I don’t know if it’s possible to keep (Ophio)Cordycipitaceae teleomorphs frozen. And dried mycosed cadavers would be in insect collections, not fungal collections.
Certainly this time of year would be not very rewarding, but try looking around in the days following the winter rains. See if you can find some Beauveria first—that’s generally the most common genus.
I just meant observing live insects to see if they happen to die of anything. But you could also try the Galleria bait method, which involves putting waxworm larvae in moistened dirt samples to see if any entomopathogens can be isolated. You could also use mealworms or any sort of readily available insect larvae. Being bred in captivity, these tend to be particularly susceptible to pathogens, which can be both good and bad.
I’ll also add that any sort of IDs past family or genus will definitely need molecular work, but there is still a lot of cool work to be done! My lab is finding out that there are lots of entomopathogenic fungi out there, many of which were previously unknown as entomopathogens, but they usually occur in low numbers. Keep looking, and I’m sure you’ll find something!
I understand that Cordyceps have a significant economic value in Asia.
I don’t know how far you would want to quest for this, but Bhutan has a tradition of collecting cordyceps.
Years ago, I emailed to Daniel Winkler (mushroaming.com) with a question about Cordyceps. He was so nice knowledgeable and wrote back a very detailed answer quite quickly. Here is his blog on Cordyceps:
Yes, Southeast Asia is quite the diversity hotspot for these fungi. There’s loads of new species being described every year.
Thank you! I have head of his myco-adventures, but I suppose I never thought he would reply to general interest inquiries. I will reach out to him