By Richard Levine
During a visit to the University of Florida’s Department of Entomology and Nematology last week, I got the chance to spend some time with a lot of students, including some who are working with Dr. Phil Koehler, a UFL urban entomologist.
Some are studying bed bugs, and some are doing research on new pesticide formulations. A particulary interesting student was named Casey Parker, a graduate student who recently won a $2,000 research prize for designing a new mosquito trap.
The trap was designed to manage container-breeding mosquitoes such as the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) and the yellowfever mosquito (Aedes aegypti). It has a rough, ridged interior surface because these mosquitoes prefer to lay eggs on rough surfaces.
A small amount of water is added to the bottom of the trap, along with an insecticide known as an insect growth regulator, or IGR. Insect growth regulators hinder the growth of immature insects by mimicking insect hormones or by disrupting the production of chitin, a material that is present in all insect exoskeletons. However, IGRs do not work well (if at all) against adult insects, so they also added an adulticide to the interior walls of the trap.
Experiments showed that about 98% of the mosquitoes that entered the traps died within two to three days, and there was an 83% reduction in the mosquito egg population. Dr. Koehler told me that the traps could be manufactured cheaply in the future.
I got to spend time with about 20 other students during a pizza luncheon, a trip to a local brew pub, and a tour of a nearby state park. It was encouraging to hear how enthusiastic they were, not only about their research, but also about communicating science issues with the general public. One of them, a PhD student named Michael Bentley, is co-host of The Next Gen Scientist and also contributes to the Relax I’m an Entomologist Facebook page.
If you plan on attending the 2016 International Congress of Entomology in Orlando, FL, consider taking a two-hour drive to Gainesville to visit the UFL Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Richard Levine is Communications Program Manager at the Entomological Society of America and editor of the Entomology Today Blog.