Traditional morphological identification of insect trap catches can be highly effective, but can be difficult to implement on large trap samples, being a relatively slow approach often limited by the availability of taxonomic expertise. Various molecular approaches (e.g. PCR-RFLP, qPCR, DNA Barcoding) have been used as alternative identification methods for identification of trapped insects, however the recent development of metabarcoding, the molecular identification of samples through high-throughput DNA barcoding, now provides an alternative approach that addresses many of the limitations of previous molecular methods.
Metabarcoding is a relatively new identification method that has been primarily used for ecological studies, particularly for assessing diversity within soil and aquatic systems. However, many other fields including agriculture and biosecurity are now beginning to utilise this approach. Recent applications of metabarcoding for the identification of trapped insect pests and vectors were reviewed. High-throughput amplicon sequencing provides a cost-effective alternative to more traditional methods of identification, with several recent applications including: 1) surveillance for insect pests, and 2) detection of insect vectors and associated pathogens.
The ability to multiplex genetic markers, samples and specimens provides the high-throughput power of metabarcoding. A number of studies and reviews have begun to explore this approach in a biosecurity / surveillance context. Metabarcoding is likely to be much more commonly used in the future, given its ability to simultaneously identify insect taxa present within large trap samples.