The effectiveness of Virkon® S disinfectant against the invasive chironomid Eretmoptera murphyi and implications for Antarctic biosecurity practices
The flightless midge Eretmoptera murphyi is thought to be continuing its invasion of Signy Island via the treads of personnel boots. Current boot-wash biosecurity protocols in the Antarctic region rely on microbial biocides, primarily Virkon® S. As pesticides have limited approval for use in the Antarctic Treaty area, we investigated the efficacy of Virkon® S in controlling the spread of E. murphyi using boot-wash simulations and maximum threshold exposures. We found that E. murphyi tolerates over 8 h of submergence in 1% Virkon® S. Higher concentrations increased effectiveness, but larvae still exhibited > 50% survival after 5 h in 10% Virkon® S. Salt and hot water treatments (without Virkon® S) were explored as possible alternatives. Salt water proved ineffective, with mortality only in first-instar larvae across multi-day exposures. Larvae experienced 100% mortality when exposed for 10 s to 50°C water, but they showed complete survival at 45°C. Given that current boot-wash protocols alone are an ineffective control of this invasive insect, we advocate hot water (> 50°C) to remove soil, followed by Virkon® S as a microbial biocide on ‘clean’ boots. Implications for the spread of invasive invertebrates as a result of increased human activity in the Antarctic region are discussed.
Authors: Bartlett, Jesamine C., Radcliffe, Richard James, Convey, Pete ORCID record for Pete Convey, Hughes, Kevin A., Hayward, Scott A.L.