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.
My lab’s research program focuses on vegetable pests including true bugs such as harlequin bug, and leaf beetles, such as cucumber beetles and Colorado potato beetle.
Our lab group includes Michael Athanas (Entomologist), Megan Herlihy (Biological Science Technician) and Tony DiMeglio (Student Assistant).
Willie Cabrera Walsh (Visiting Scientist) will be part of the lab group from May through September. Welcome Dr. Cabrera of 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).
We have initiated a Citizen Science Project, "Super Trap Plants for Harlequin Bug" which has about 20 cooperators in the DC and Baltimore region. For more information on this go to the
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 native 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.
Biological Control website [non-government, IOBC]
We have concluded our farm and garden trial of chia as a cover crop