Virtual NCUE / IPAC Showcases Important Research In Urban Entomology – PCT

Students, researchers and other industry professionals tuned in via Zoom to honor award winners and discuss research and career topics at the virtual National Conference on Urban Entomology & Invasive Pests Conference (NCUE & IPAC), May 24-25. Held biennially since 1986, the event was moved to its original 2020 date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the first day of the conference, 11 undergraduate and graduate students gave 10-minute presentations on various aspects of urban entomology and invasive ant management as part of the NCUE/IPAC student paper competition.

Maria A. Gonzalez-Morales, a Ph.D. candidate at North Carolina State University, took home first place and $1,000 for her paper, “Resistance to Fipronil in the Common Bed Bug, Cimex lectularius L. (Hemiptera: Cimicidae).” Her research aims to understand the resistance of bedbugs and cockroaches to insecticides to improve urban pest management.

Other presenters included Cari Lewis, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Tulsa, who shared her paper “Decade-Long Upsurge in Target Site Insecticide Resistance in Bed Bug Populations in the United States.”

Lewis studied the long-term effects of insecticide use on urban insect pests by sampling 233 bed bugs from across the country for knockdown resistance mutations from 2018-2019. She compared this data with research from entomologists in 2009. “I wanted to determine if there is a long-term effect of insecticide use on bed bug genetics from now to 10 years ago,” she explained.

Her findings supported her prediction that through the long-term use of insecticides, bed bugs in the city have evolved to possess knockdown resistance mutations. Lewis took second place in the student newspaper competition, receiving $750.

Richard Murphy, a Ph.D. student at Auburn University, presented “Video Analysis of a Termite Colony, Reticuliterme flavipesDuring Trelona Termiticide Bait Exposure.” His accompanying video footage showed the gradual demise of a termite colony when it was exposed to carrion.

“We have successfully documented behaviors that are important to our understanding of termite bait interaction,” Murphy said. “We documented successful efficacy behaviors in terms of total colony collapse.”

Allison Johnson, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Georgia, shared research on how well participants of a variety of skills — from certified entomologists to junior high students — in her presentation “Old Tactics, New Tools: A Survey of Reticuliterm knife in Georgia.”

Johnson’s research concluded that while experienced entomologists provided the most reliable identification of species, with minimal training, other groups, including graduate, undergraduate and junior high students, were also able to produce accurate identifications.

“With limited training, a small group of participants can quickly learn to recognize these characters in a study of this style and get quite close to an experienced entomologist with a high degree of confidence in those category placements,” said Johnson, who took third place and $500. for her presentation.

Undergraduate Marlo Black of the University of Tennessee and doctoral student Mark Janowiecki of Texas A&M University each received $1,500 grants at the conference. Scholarships were open to graduate and undergraduate students studying full-time urban entomology or industrial pest management at an accredited college or university in the United States.

Usually, a scholarship is also awarded to a master’s level student, but NCUE/IPAC has not received any applicants in this category.

On day two of NCUE/IPAC, Distinguished Achievement Award winner Dr. Ed Vargo, professor and endowed chair at Texas A&M University, recognized for his contributions to urban entomology—particularly the biology and management of termites and bedbugs—and delivered the Arnold Mallis Memorial Award lecture, “Urban Entomology Through the Eyes of a Molecular Ecologist.” He discussed his research on genetic identification of subterranean termite colonies and colony culture structures in invasive ants and subterranean termites.

“Urban entomology and molecular ecology — these aren’t two terms you often hear together,” Vargo said. “I think it’s probably a shame that we don’t often hear these two terms together, because they’re two disciplines that I think have a lot to offer each other. Molecular ecology is a very large area of ​​growth that has taken over a lot of biology and has the potential to provide truly incredible insights into the biology of organisms. And, of course, urban entomology offers us a lot of really amazing insects and other pests to study.”

Vargo’s work has focused on the colony culture systems of social insects and the genetic fingerprints of colonies. He began his career researching ant reproductive biology at the University of Georgia. He then spent two years in Toulouse, France, studying the physiology and behavior of Argentine ants. Later, at the University of Texas at Austin, he worked with the Texas Department of Agriculture, where he credited himself for the impact fire ants have on the public. He has published more than 130 scientific papers on urban pests.

Next year’s NCUE/IPAC conference is scheduled for May 15-18 at the Sheraton Salt Lake City Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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