Wolbachia Lab!

Purpose: The purpose of this lab was to determine how many of the collected Bay Area insects have the Wolbachia bacteria in their DNA


  1. What is Wolbachia?
    1. Wolbachia is a bacteria infecting arthropods and nematode worms that can change the sex of the host as well as kill their offspring
  2. Why is Wolbachia being studied? What did you discover in your research?
    1. Studies have shown that Wolbachia can be used to stop the mosquitos that spread diseases like zika and dengue and also finding ways to end this virus can be useful in curing diseases like Lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis) and Onchocerciasis (river blindness.)
  3. What kinds of relationships does Wolbachia have with other organisms?
    1. Wolbachia is parasitic to other organisms as this bacteria benefits at the expense of the other organism Specifically, Wolbachia is an endosymbiotic parasite which means that it lives inside the host cell.



Wolbachia lab collage


I was going to list out all the steps, but that would be a very long list! So, instead, I will summarize. First, we all brought in bugs from our houses or our surrounding areas and froze them in alcohol. Next, we mashed up the abdomen of the bug, and if your bug was a certain size, you had to cut it to make sure you just get the reproductive parts of the insect! I needed to cut mine because I caught (my dad caught) a moth and this bug was pretty big! After the abdomen was all smushed in our microfuge tubes, we had to separate the DNA from the pellet (the stuff we do not need). We did this by centrifuging many times and adding different liquids like NaCl and Lysis Buffer which bind together to give us a clear DNA sample. After going through multiple steps, it was time for the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machine which replicates the DNA thus allowing the electrophoresis gels to be clear. Also on the gel electrophoresis, we included a positive control and a ladder both of which help us determine what is DNA and what is Wolbachia so thus we know whether or not the insect had been infected with Wolbachia bacteria.


Personally, my moth was not infected by Wolbachia and had a visible DNA on the gel! Out of the 11 girls who performed this experiment, there were only 4 insects infected with Wolbachia and all of them came from the Redwood city/ San Carlos area. A coincidence? I think not.


The experience of this lab was much easier and more fun than the other labs because I was more prepared being that I understand the topic and work more. Maybe it was the fact that this was my last lab and I had all the knowledge of my other labs in the back of my mind, or maybe I was just less stressed. Regardless, this was definitely my favorite lab being that I 100% understand what was going on. I understood all the tools we were using like the centrifuge and electrophoreses, even though occasionally I had micropipette troubles.