Research aims. The internationally distributed Helicoverpa armigera [Noctuidae] is being used to examine the processes fundamental to the location-to-plant-to-insect elemental profile imprinting in phytophagous insects, including the turn over of elements in adult insects, the influence of polyphagy and local variation in precipitation 2H. This improved understanding is being applied to assess the validity of using stable isotope ratios and trace element profiles to differentiate insects of New Zealand natal origin from insects of exotic origin.
Results. An integrated method of TC-IRMS, ICP-MS and MC-ICP-MS analyses of natural abundance 2H, 87Sr/86Sr, 207Pb/206Pb and 208Pb/206Pb isotope ratios and trace element profiles from single insect specimens has been developed. No single geo-location marker has been found in a preliminary comparison of international moths, although the latitudinal cline of δ2H on a continental scale is confirmed. However, multivariate analysis revealed successful geo-location discrimination for some areas.
Conclusion. The promising but imperfect geo-location demonstrated here provides solid leads for further investigation. Any geo-location system developed is likely to be applicable to other disciplines, including forensics, ecological studies and pest management.