Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Douglas College study puts insect pest control under the microscope

Biologist Rob McGregor.
B.C. blueberry growers know all too well that aphids pose a threat to their valuable crops.

It’s a problem that can’t be solved by simply yelling "bug off!" at the insects. There’s need for effective pest-management strategies.

That's where the research of a Douglas College biologist comes in.

Rob McGregor, director of the College’s Institute of Urban Ecology, is launching a new study thanks to a $30,000 federal NSERC grant.

McGregor's research focuses on an area of agricultural pest management called biological control.

An alternative to applying chemical pesticides, this approach involves using predatory organisms to kill problem insects.

His new study will investigate the effectiveness of two species of aphid-feeding insects: a brown lacewing and a predatory midge.

Along with an NSERC-funded technician, the project will involve two student research assistants who will raise insects, conduct experiments and collect data.

As McGregor explains, it's all about helping the province’s blueberry industry tackle the aphid problem in a sustainable way.

"Ultimately," he says, "this work could help improve the quality and safety of food products in B.C. by reducing the environmental impact of pesticides."