Research Projects

Below is just a sampling of some of the ongoing current projects in the Morrison Lab.

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Assessing long-lasting insecticide netting as an alternative integrated pest management tactic for stored product insects

Bed nets have been used to help control vectors of arthropod-borne disease since the 1990s in tropical regions of the world. Bed nets are also known as long-lasting insecticide nets (LLINs), and consist of polyethylene mesh netting impregnated with insecticides. More recently, these nets have been considered for their use in control of agricultural pests before harvest. We are evaluating the ability of LLINs to intercept and prevent the dispersal of stored product insects in the post-harvest supply chain. Our work may contribute to the development and validation of an alternative tactic to intercept immigrating stored product insects in and around food facilities.

 

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Development of attract-and-kill to manage stored product insects in and around facilities

One behaviorally-based management strategy we are working on developing is termed attract-and-kill. The concept behind this is simple: we deploy attractive pheromones or kairomones to attract foraging stored product insects to a spatially circumscribed area, where they come into contact with an insecticide and are removed from the foraging population. We can thus protect and reduce direct contact of insecticides on post-harvest commodities by managing insects in a different location. We are currently evaluating potential attractants and trap designs for a potential attract-and-kill device.

 

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Improving surveillance tools and management tactics for invasive quarantine stored product insects

The invasive khapra beetle, Trogoderma granarium, has been rated as one of the top 100 worst invasive species. It was identified from 151 sites in 3 U.S. States in 1953, and the U.S. spent $11 million to eradicate it, which translates to $90 million in today’s currency. Though the effort was successful, there have been an increasing number of interceptions of the khapra beetle at U.S. ports and borders by APHIS, raising the concern that it may become established. If this happens, it would be devastating for the post-harvest supply chain since khapra beetle can feed on a large variety of animal and plant products. The work in my lab is looking at developing effective surveillance tools and validating them, which involves trips to APHIS-approved quarantine facilities, and international collaborations to trap the insect abroad. A related project is looking at whether the closely related species, Trogoderma variabile (warehouse beetle), can be used as a behavioral surrogate species for this pest to speed research and discovery.

 

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Developing reduced-risk and organic strategies for managing stored product insects

Most food facilities use phosphine as a fumigant to treat stored product insect infestations. However, there is growing resistance to phosphine worldwide, and there is an increasing demand by consumers for organic or reduced-insecticide products even in the post-harvest supply chain. As a result, my lab is involved in evaluating reduced-risk or organic products to achieve control to help diversify IPM programs for food facilities. This includes evaluating the behavioral ecology and chemical ecology of insects after exposure to alternatives, in addition to assessing direct mortality and knockdown.

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