Robert Healey

Project Title: The Effect of a Spider Venom Derived Peptide on the Striped Cucumber Beetle

Mentor: Lisa Tewksbury

Abstract: The Striped Cucumber Beetle is a common pest of cucurbit crops that also vectors bacterial wilt disease. It is commonly treated with commercial chemical insecticides.  The company VestaronTM asked us to test the efficacy of an alternative insecticide they had developed. The insecticide, Spear-P, is a neurotoxic peptide derived from spider venom that has less negative effects on beneficial insects and humans. To determine the efficacy of Spear-P we observed the mortality of beetles over the course of two trials consisting of different Spear-P formulations. Beetles were captured from the field, placed in a cup along with greenhouse grown leaves from cucurbits, and observed for several days. In the second trial we compared the Spear-P to Sevin®, a commonly used commercial insecticide. We found that while Spear-P did not work as quickly as Sevin®, it yielded similar results by the end of the experiment. This shows that along with being a less toxic alternative to Sevin®, Spear-P can provide effective control of the cucumber beetle.