Once rodents have been successfully eradicated from Lord Howe Island, Australia, the critically endangered Lord Howe Island stick insect (Dryococelus australis (Montrouzier)) may be reintroduced, a century after it was thought to have become extinct. In captive populations of D. australis, elevated mortalities have been associated with bacterial pathogens. To better define the infectious risk posed by entomopathogens to the reintroduction program, we investigated the bacteria isolated from captive D. australis kept at Melbourne Zoo and on Lord Howe Island and from environmental samples and free-living invertebrates collected on various parts of the island. At Melbourne Zoo, Serratia and Pseudomonas spp. were the bacteria most frequently isolated between 2013 and 2019. Serratia spp. were also the organisms most frequently isolated from insects sampled in April 2019 from the captive population on Lord Howe Island. In addition, Serratia spp. were isolated from a range of environmental samples collected on Lord Howe Island during March–April 2019. These environmental isolates had a broader range of biochemical and molecular characteristics than those obtained from the captive insect populations. A large proportion of these isolates were urease positive and had biochemical profiles previously not described for Serratia spp. This study highlights the need for better surveillance for potential pathogens in understudied regions and sites. We conclude that infections caused by Serratia spp. might pose a problem to the captive breeding program for D. australis but that the risk of introducing novel pathogens to Lord Howe Island through infected insects is low. Our study explores some of the potential risks involved in captive breeding and provides a valuable example of using pathogen surveillance to better inform an invertebrate conservation program.

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