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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Donald C. Weber

Research Entomologist

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. 

  

link to publications             

 

Our lab group includes Megan Herlihy (Biological Science Technician, MS Entomology, University of Massachusetts) and Nate Erwin (also Biological Science Technician and former Director, Smithsonian Insect Zoo). 

Michael Athanas (Entomologist) retired in July 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 in Argentina) www.fuedei.org !  

 

Zsofia Szendrei (former Postdoctoral Research Associate) is now Assistant Professor at Michigan State University Department of Entomology (see her Vegetable Entomology webpage).

 

 

 

Our latest discovery is the HARLEQUIN BUG AGGREGATION PHEROMONE.  We now focus on the best ways to put this discovery to work -- with mass trapping, trap crops, or other applications. 

 

See two recent publications on this!

 

 

 

 

 

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 staliRead about our findings here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Coleomegilla maculata a native generalist ladybird predator

Lebia grandis adult and larvae

Leptinotarsa juncta larvae and adult

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.

Potatoes planted into rye cover crop with rye straw mulch

Potato plantings in mixed cover crops

Critical to these investigations is the understanding of behavior and ecology of both the pests and their natural enemy complex.

link to publications

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.

 


Last Modified: 11/26/2014
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