The Knipling-Bushland U.S. Livestock Insects Research Laboratory (KBUSLIRL) in Kerrville, Texas, is an institution whose research on problems of livestock pest management has benefited not only the U.S. livestock industry, but livestock producers around the world for 54 years. Established and named the U.S. Livestock Insect Laboratory by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Entomology and Plant quarantine (now the Agricultural Research Service), at the site on the Schwethelm ranch in Kerr County, Texas, in 1946, the laboratory resulted from the consolidation of laboratories at three other sites in Texas (Dallas, Uvalde, and Menard) that were all doing screwworm research. It was the Menard laboratory in 1937 that Dr. Edward F. Knipling first developed the theory that the screwworm could be controlled using the sterile male technique. After Dr. Raymond C. Bushland, located in Kerrville, demonstrated in the early 1950’s that viable sterile male screwworms could be produced, this knowledge became the keystone component of the strategy that eventually led to the eradication of the screwworm from the United States, Mexico, and Central America. The laboratory moved from the Schwethelm ranch to its present site in 1963 and in 1988 the laboratory was rededicated and named in honor of Drs. Knipling and Bushland.
Along with the screwworm research, one of the laboratory’s main functions during the first decades of its existence was to test and screen the host of new synthetic organic pesticides with potential value for the control of all arthropod pests of livestock, including the screwworm. From those early days through the present, this laboratory has a history of cooperating with the cattle producers, regulatory agencies, and the animal health industry in the development of many of the insecticides and acaricides used to control arthropod pests of livestock. This includes the acaricides used by Veterinary Services of APHIS, USDA, in their program to prevent cattle fever ticks from spreading from Mexico back into the U.S. In addition, the laboratory pioneered research to develop insecticide delivery systems including boluses, microspheres, and ear tags; specialized self-treatment methods to control ticks on white-tailed deer and other ungulate wildlife; recombinant vaccines to protect livestock against pests such as the cattle grub and the scab mite; and with colleagues at another ARS laboratory developed a system for destroying the coumaphos in the waste liquid from dipping vats. Knowledge generated through research on the biology, ecology, and physiology of ectoparasites of cattle facilitated development of control methods and management strategies. In recent years, as pesticide resistance in populations of the southern cattle tick and the horn fly have become major problems, research to define the physiological and biochemical mechanisms of resistance along with molecular genetic studies to define the genetic basis of resistance, have provided in invaluable information and methods used in the diagnosis and management of resistance.
Not all the research of the laboratory has been done at the Kerrville site. The Cattle Fever Tick Research Laboratory located at Moore Field near Edinburg, Texas, is a sub-laboratory where much of the research to support the technological needs of the Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program is done under a strict quarantine. Through the years other major tick research programs have been located in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico; Falcon Heights, Texas; Poteau, Oklahoma; Mayagues, Puerto Rico; and St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Molokai, Hawaii, was the site of a horn fly eradication trial and Browning, Montana, was the location of a cattle grub eradication test.