Pollen beetles (Nitidulidae, Meligethinae) are among the most abundant flower-visiting insects in Europe. While some species damage millions of hectares of crops annually, the biology of many species is little known. We assessed the utility of a 797 base pair fragment of the cytochrome oxidase 1 gene to resolve Molecular Operational Taxonomic Units in 750 adult pollen beetles sampled from flowers of 63 plant species sampled across the UK and continental Europe. We used the same locus to analyse region-scale patterns in population structure and demography in an economically important pest, Brassicogethes aeneus. We identified 44 Meligethinae at ca. 2% divergence, 35 of which contained published sequences. A few specimens could not be identified because the MOTUs containing them included published sequences for multiple Linnaean species, suggesting either retention of ancestral haplotype polymorphism or identification errors in published sequences. Over 90% of UK specimens were identifiable as Brassicogethes aeneus. Plant associations of adult B. aeneus were found to be far wider taxonomically than for their larvae. UK Brassicogethes aeneus populations showed contrasting affiliations between the north (most similar to Scandinavia and the Baltic) and south (most similar to western continental Europe), with strong signatures of population growth in the south.
- DNA barcodes
- Pollen beetles