Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory
Summary of Research:
My research focus is insect ecology with a commitment to improvement of pest management.
This effort involves the evaluation of environmentally-friendly tactics such as native biological controls, deployment of aggregation pheromones, and changes in cultural practices, and emphasizes solutions for small farms and gardens in urban agriculture.
Our research program focuses on vegetable pests including true bugs such as harlequin bug, brown marmorated stink bugs, and leaf beetles, such as cucumber beetles and Colorado potato beetle.
Asian wasp, enemy of stink bugs, found
in the United States! Megan Herlihy of our lab recovered the tiny (~1mm long) parasitoid Trissolcus japonicus from brown marmorated stink bug egg masses placed out in different habitats in Beltsville during summer 2014. Read more about this surprising discovery at the StopBMSB.org website of Northeast IPM Center. Published article is in Journal of Hymenoptera Research. The is part of a broader effort to characterize BMSB natural enemies, resulting in this newly-published study in PLoS One. We have continued this research with colleagues in 2015 and T. japonicus is now detected in Maryland, Virginia, DC, and the state of Washington. A poster and three presentations at the Entomological Society Eastern Branch meetings in January 2016 showed the results!
Our lab group includes Megan Herlihy (Biological Science Technician, MS Entomology, University of Massachusetts), Nate Erwin (also Biological Science Technician and former Director, Smithsonian Insect Zoo), Liz Fread (Biological Science Aide, and recent graduate of Virginia Tech), and Emma Thrift (Student Aide, University of Maryland).
Michael Athanas (Entomologist) retired in July 2014 after more than 25 years of service. We still call on him to tie up many loose ends. Thank you, Mike!
Willie Cabrera Walsh (Visiting Scientist during 2013) is now President of la Fundación para el Estudio de Especies Invasivas (the Foundation for Research on Invasive Species (based in Argentina)) www.fuedei.org !
Anthony (Tony) DiMeglio (former Biological Science Technician) is now a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Tom Kuhar at Virginia Tech. He is pursuing a Masters degree investigating field behavior of harlequin bug.
Matt Klein (former Biological Science Technician) is now a graduate student at Oregon State, at the Hermiston Agricultural Research Station in eastern Oregon, with Dr. Silvia Rondon, pursuing a Masters degree studying ecological pest management, especially of the zebra-chip vector, potato psyllid.
Zsofia Szendrei (former Postdoctoral Research Associate) is now Assistant Professor at Michigan State University Department of Entomology (see her Vegetable Entomology webpage).
There are many species of STINK BUGS (Family Pentatomidae); see the
Field Guide to Stink Bugs (2nd edition) for more info and identification. Both harlequin bugs and brown marmorated stink bugs are in this family, along with other plant-feeders (some of which are crop pests) and beneficial (predatory) stink bugs!
Now that we have figured out the HARLEQUIN BUG AGGREGATION PHEROMONE, we will focus on the best ways to put this discovery to work -- with mass trapping, trap crops, or other applications.
See two recent publications on the harlequin bug pheromone!
Brown marmorated stink bug is best attracted to traps by a combination of its aggregation pheromone and the aggregation pheromone of another Asian stink bug, Plautia stali. Read about our findings here!
For more information on brown marmorated stink bugs, see Northeast IPM project website STOPBMSB.ORG .
Colorado potato beetle is the most important insect defoliator of potatoes in North America and Europe, and also an important pest of tomato and eggplant crops. None of the control techniques developed against this pest during the past 135 years has provided long-term protection of potato crops, and the beetle continues to be a major threat, evolving pesticide resistance repeatedly. Read more about it here.
Surprisingly little is known about natural enemies of this key pest, and part of our project is directed to answering questions about their biology, impact on the pest, and potential role in conventional, alternative and organic crop systems. Click on each picture for more information on different species of natural enemies!
Predation of insect pests can happen any time of day or night! Read about nocturnal predation research in October 2009 Agricultural Research magazine.
Use of cover crops along with crop rotation may form the foundation of sustainable approaches to managing Colorado potato beetle and other potato pests. We are documenting how much, and by what mechanisms, different cropping systems suppress beetle numbers and damage, with the aim of improving potato pest management.
Critical to these investigations is the understanding of behavior and ecology of both the pests and their natural enemy complex.
Recent Publications and Presentations
Biological Control website [non-government, IOBC]
We have concluded our farm and garden trial of chia as a cover crop
and so are no longer providing free chia seed.
Thank you to all of our cooperators.