Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cold-Blooded Cricket Killer

            The pet trade is a big industry. So is the pet food industry. But an emerging virus is making a big dent in the reptile food industry. One of the most common foods for pet reptiles is crickets (Acheta domesticus). Acheta domesticus Densovirus (AdDNV) is a fatal paralytic disease that is paralyzing the cricket industry. AdDNV is spread when nymphs eat the feces or corpses of infected adults. Cricket breeding facilities are large and crowded, so the virus has killed hundreds of millions of crickets or more. The unfortunate result has been an increase in the imports of potentially invasive species (which are resistant to AdDNV). A better option may be establishing breeding colonies of native wild crickets (Gryllus assimilis). Unfortunately, many breeders and pet stores are using illegal species of Gryllus or Acheta. Densoviruses affect other arthropods too, such as shrimp (and have consequently been problematic for shrimp farming). Thankfully, AdDNV has not been observed to afflict reptiles, tarantulas or other pets that eat crickets. If crickets that are in the pre-paralytic incubation period escape or are released, wild crickets or potentially even wild insects could become infected. AdDNV affect European cricket farms in 2002, and an unrelated cricket paralytic virus (CrPV) has decimated cricket farms in Australia. 

--Joe Getsy

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