Wolbachia is an endosymbiotic bacterium that infects roughly 40-60% of insect species worldwide, making it one of the most successful organisms on earth. But that estimate is based almost entirely on terrestrial insects. Is Wolbachia also a common invader of insects that live in water?
Eric Sazama and I are collaborating with Dr. Scot Ouellette to answer this question. Eric has been screening hundreds of insects for Wolbachia. So far, the answer to the question is…complicated. Wolbachia is present in up to 70% of aquatic insects. Surprisingly, the prevalence of Wolbachia is also highly variable across sites, even sites that are relatively close (~20 river miles). In addition to documenting its prevalence, we’re ultimately interested in understanding how Wolbachia might alter ecosystem connections by reducing emergence of aquatic insects.