University of California

Serratia marcescens Bizio as an insect pathogen


Edward A. Steinhaus

Author Affiliations

Edward A. Steinhaus was Professor of Insect Pathology and Insect Pathologist in the Experiment Station, Berkeley; Director, Laboratory of Insect Pathology.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 28(14):351-380. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v28n14p351. February 1959.

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Serratia marcescens Bizio is a small, gram-negative, rodshaped bacterium characterized by the production of a red pigment. Generally speaking, it is a saprophytic organism commonly found in water and soil, and in milk, bread, and other foods. It has been known by several synonyms, including Bacillus prodigiosus (Flügge), Bacterium prodigiosum (Lehm, and Neum.), and Chromobacterium prodigiosum (Top. and Wil.). Under ordinary circumstances it is nonpathogenic to vertebrates except in enormous doses. It has been found associated with insects in several ways and under a variety of conditions (Steinhaus, 1946), (1949). In the present paper we are primarily concerned with it as a pathogen for insects.

Of the three species of Serratia (tribe Serrateae, family Enterobacteriaceae) that have been recorded as being associated with insects, only Serratia marcescens has been known, at times, to cause disease in insects. Cao (1906a), (b) used Serratia kilensis (Lehm. and Neum.), as well as S. marcescens, to demonstrate the ability of flies to transmit bacteria. Inasmuch as the experimental flies died somewhat sooner than usual, it is possible that the bacteria played some role in their deaths. S. kilensis was originally isolated from water and is presumed to be widely distributed. A third species, Serratia plymuthicum (Lehm. and Neum.), has been isolated (Steinhaus, 1941) from numerous specimens of the cricket Neombius fasciatus var. fasciatus DeGeer collected in nature in Ohio. Since the crickets appeared to be healthy and normal in every respect, the bacterium was considered to be a saprophytic inhabitant of their alimentary tract. Ordinarily it is found in water and various foods.

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Steinhaus E. 1959. Serratia marcescens Bizio as an insect pathogen. Hilgardia 28(14):351-380. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v28n14p351
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