New biological control textbook

My former PhD advisor, George E. Heimpel of the University of Minnesota, along with Nick J. Mills of UC Berkeley, just published a new textbook on biological control. I’ve been fortunate to read most of the draft chapters of this book prior to publication, and I can say that it is the best book on biological control available. Without a doubt. In my opinion, it’s also in the top tier of books available on invasion…

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Anne Nielsen’s fruit entomology lab

Earlier this week, I began working as a postdoc in the insect ecology lab of Anne Nielsen in the Department of Entomology at Rutgers University. I’m excited to work in her lab, and to start working in a new ecological system. I’ll be focused on the population dynamics and biological control of the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys). I’m sad to leave my friends and colleagues at the University of Minnesota behind, but I guess this…

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BIOCAT is updated!!!

Image: Fig 2 from Cock et al. (2016) BioControl. Finally, there is an update to Greathead & Greathead’s (1992) database on  classical biological control of insects! Cock et al. (2016) present a nice update in BioControl of Greathead & Greathead’s seminal paper, and they allude to more papers and analyses to come. Awesome! This update is important because so many changes have occurred in the last couple decades regarding ecological risk assessment of classical biological control…

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Pest control ~ Landscape complexity

Image: Fig 1 from Rusch et al. (2016) Agric Ecosyst Environ. It’s well demonstrated that increased habitat complexity tends to increase arthropod biodiversity and, importantly, the abundance of natural enemies. Therefore, it is thought that increasing complexity in agricultural landscapes should increase the level of pest control too. But is this true? Does increased landscape complexity actually result in fewer pests? There have been a few great studies that have looked at this question (e.g. Gardiner…

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Test of the enemy release hypothesis (Schultheis et al. 2015)

Image: Figure 1 from Schultheis et al. (2015) Ecology. The enemy release hypothesis (ERH) seeks to explain why some exotic species become invasive.  Basically,  ERH proposes that a lack of co-evolved natural enemies in the introduced (adventive) range means that there will be less top-down pressure regulating the exotic species, which allows it to reach higher densities than it does in its native range. Of course, the intensity of top-down pressure is not the only…

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Support for intermediate landscape complexity hypothesis (Jonsson et al. 2015)

Image: Representation of the ‘intermediate landscape-complexity hypothesis’ from Tscharntke et al. (2012). With agricultural intensification pushing to provide more food, bioenergy, and other products for a growing human population, there is also a great need for concurrent intensification of ecological services like biological control of pest insects. There have been many strategies tried over the years to increase ecosystem services on farms, for example planting flower strips with the intent of providing extra resources for biological control…

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Trissolcus japonicus in North America

Image: Elijah Talamas, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Systematic Entomology Laboratory via StopBMSB.org) A parasitoid of Halyomorpha halys (the brown marmorated stink bug) has been found in North America. This parasitoid, Trissolcus japonicus (Hymenoptera: Scelionidae), was being evaluated in quarantine as a potential classical biological control agent of H. halys. Read this for more details.

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Classical Biological Control and Extinctions?

My favorite definition of “biological control” is a graphical definition. Figure 1 shows a Levins’ diagram, where circles represent a negative interaction and arrows represent a positive interaction; solid lines represent a direct interaction and dashed lines represent an indirect interaction. Levins’ diagrams were introduced to me by Dave Andow; my PhD advisor, George Heimpel, drew my attention to their usefulness in defining biological control. Essentially, biological control is a situation where a biological population has an indirect…

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Indirect suppression of Harmonia axyridis? (Bahlai et al. 2015)

I didn’t expect to write about insecticide use again so soon, but upon reading Christie Bahlai and colleagues’ new manuscript (preprint available online in Ecological Applications), I find myself pulled back in. Their paper (Title: “Shifts in dynamic regime of an invasive lady beetle are linked to the invasion and insecticidal management of its prey”) presents data on regional trap captures of Harmonia axyridis, along with reports of soybean aphid infestation levels. The authors subdivided H. axyridis densities into 3…

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