ARS Scientists Use Invertebrate Collections to Help
Solve Agricultural Problems
January 15, 2010
Creepy, crawly spiders and bugs are
just some of the unusual creatures in the Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
invertebrate collections. While many find insects a nuisance, ARS scientists
rely on these collections to study insect species and to find ways to protect
U.S. crops and people from them.
The accessions in the collections come from all over the world. Among the
most impressive are the rhinoceros, hercules, and king stag beetlessome 6
inches in lengthat the National Museum
of Natural History in Washington, D.C. These are among the 35 million
insect and mite specimens in the museums
When U.S. customs officials want to know more about a foreign insect found
in a suspicious package, they can turn to the collection and ARS researchers to
investigate the invertebrates biology, taxonomy, distribution and origin.
Such collaborative efforts can help prevent the spread of exotic pests.
During the 2003-2004 growing season, the Aphid Biotype and Natural Enemy
Collectionhome to more than 100,000 specimens located in Stillwater,
Okla.was used to help solve the Russian wheat aphid outbreak in Colorado.
Specimens in the collection allowed scientists to quickly determine that the
biotype was not a new introduction to the country, and helped them understand
pest resistance differences and come up with solutions to control the pest.
Just as important as the size and uses of the collections are the techniques
used to preserve them. At the
Insect Genetics and Biochemistry Research Unit in Fargo, N.D.,
cryopreservation and cold storage technologies are vital in long-term
preservation of insect germplasm, including that of the devastating screwworm
more about how the invertebrate collections help solve agricultural
problems in the January 2010 issue of Agricultural Research magazine,
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture. This
research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.