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Department of Entomology

Canas Lab members summer 2021


Wooster Research & Outreach Facilities Virtual Tour

CFAES Knowledge Exchange Highlights Current Bee Research


focus on pests to improve public and animal health

IMPACT AREA: Research; Extension

INVESTIGATORS: Piermarini, Short, Meuti, Phillip


SUMMARY: Many insects and ticks injure and spread diseases to wildlife, livestock and humans. Our One Health entomology team has created new tools to combat insects and ticks and engaged Ohioans to protect them and their animals from dangerous pests. Our efforts have uncovered novel insecticides, increased awareness of household pests, connected academic researchers, public health officials and community stakeholders, and enabled rapid responses to emerging public health threats.

SITUATION: Mosquitoes, bed bugs and ticks frequently bite humans and animals. These attacks can be painful or and potentially transmit pathogens that cause West Nile, Lyme and many other diseases to humans and animals. These diseases, and the pests that carry them, are rapidly expanding across the globe and within Ohio. For example, the number of human cases of Lyme disease in Ohio has increased over 500% since 2009. Preventing disease transmission requires a better understanding of pest distribution and improved management strategies. Many pests are adapting and expanding to changing landscapes in urban and suburban ecosystems. Furthermore, many insects are becoming resistant to insecticides, leaving us with fewer sustainable tools to combat this public health threat. To manage these pests and their ability to spread disease, we need a better understanding on how they respond to ecologies and control as well as improve coordination with external agencies and the public.

RESPONSE: We have discovered and developed novel mechanisms for pest control. For example, a partnership with the OSU College of Pharmacy has identified unique chemicals from the Cinnamosma plant that are toxic and repellent against mosquitoes and outperform most current repellants (e.g. DEET). This naturally based compound could eventually replace harmful, synthetic insecticides. We are understanding how mosquitoes interpret environmental cues to begin overwintering, which may lead to control tactics. We are also studying mosquito and tick microbiomes with the aim of identifying key microbial species that may improve pest control. Additionally, our field surveillance is determining how urbanization affects seasonal changes in mosquito abundance and is identifying effective strategies to manage mosquitoes in stormwater infrastructure. We are expanding public engagement with information on mosquitoes, bed bugs and ticks on our website (the Bite Site).

IMPACT: Our efforts have increased our understanding of how pests, diseases and our rapidly changing environment interact, and its impact for improving pest control and decreasing disease transmission. Our research and extension activities keep Ohioans and other stakeholders safe and reduces disease risk to pets and livestock. Our new, plant-based chemicals have the potential to protect people from mosquitoes that transmit Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever, West Nile fever, and chikungunya fever, which collectively debilitate the health and well-being of hundreds of millions of people around the globe each year. Our “Mystery Bugs and Bites” fact sheet was the 5th most viewed in January 2021, and our Bed Bug Field Guide mobile app has >10,000 downloads. We also released 3 new fact sheets on mosquitoes that have been viewed over 730 times since their release in September 2021. Additionally, members of our team redesigned and updated the Tick ID card available through Ohio Extension Publications, also organized the Ohio Regional Tick symposium in October 2021. This event brought together 85 academic researchers, public health professionals and key stakeholders to develop strategies to combat the burgeoning threat of tickborne disease within Ohio and the surrounding region.

protecting agricultural crops from insects

IMPACT AREA: Research; Extension

INVESTIGATORS: Tilmon, Michel, Cañas, Leach

FUNDING SOURCES: USDA-NIFA-CPPM and eIPM, Hatch; The Ohio Soybean Council, The North Central Soybean Research Program, North Central IPM Center, Ohio Grape Industry Committee, Various Agribusiness Industries

SUMMARY:  Ohio farmers grow a large diversity of crops through both indoor and outdoor agriculture, which is responsible for over $3.6 Billion. Despite this tremendous output, Ohio farmers face emerging and expanded threats from a variety of insects that decrease yield, damage crop quality and require insecticide applications. Our Insect Pest Management team is integrating research and extension to improve our monitoring and control of these pests and to ensure that Ohio agricultural food production is safe and sustainable.

SITUATION: Insects continuously threaten Ohio food production. Many farmers rely on traditional, biological, organic and modern (e.g., transgenic) insect control. Yet, some insects are now resistant to these tools, especially insecticides and even transgenic crops. Many of the insects in Ohio are invasive, and farmers require information and training to identify, monitor and manage them to limit yield losses. Insect outbreaks that were once rare are becoming more frequent, likely due to a rapidly changing climate. To successfully manage these pests and to ensure a safer and more productive food supply, we need to coordinate and engage with many stakeholders, including farmers, federal agencies, and representative from commodity and agricultural industry. These stakeholders require improved management strategies supported by unbiased research.

RESPONSE:  Farmers cannot control pests without knowing when they are present; therefore, we expanded our insect trapping network. This network monitored more than 10 insect pests of corn (both field and sweet), soybean, wheat, fruits and vegetables. We delivered this information via various newsletters that reached our state, regional and national stakeholders. By comparing trap numbers from past years, these data are helping understand impact of climate change on pest abundance and distribution. Collaborating with farmers, OSU Extension and agricultural industries, we developed management guidelines for the invasive Asiatic garden beetle, a significant pest of corn. We increased research activities and extension communications in response to the fall armyworm outbreak in pastures and turf. We created novel, 3D printed extension tools that improve insect identification and help our stakeholders gain confidence in monitoring for invasive crop pests. Our research is also identifying genetic mechanisms for insect resistance that can be eventually used for more rapid and accurate diagnostics.

IMPACT: Entomologists have expanded efforts in engaging and communicating insect crop pest management. We have distributed over 13,000 field guides and 13,000 quick ID cards to help control stink bugs and the invasive soybean gall midge across Ohio and the Midwest. We are pioneering the use of 3D printing technology with extension and outreach activities to improve learning and stakeholder confidence in scouting and pest management decisions. With cooperation among OSU extension, agricultural industry, and other land-grant universities, corn growers afflicted with Asiatic garden beetle now have new tools to prevent damage and are changing tactics to control caterpillars based on new information on insecticide and transgenic resistance.

Ensuring Pollination by Conserving and Protecting Ohio’s Managed and Native Bees

IMPACT AREA: Research; Extension

INVESTIGATORS: Strange, R. Johnson, Gardiner, Ellsworth, Lin

FUNDING: USDA-NIFA-AFRI, USFWS,  Almond Board of California, National Honey Board, NSF, USDA-NIFA-IPM

SUMMARY: Whether in rural or urban ecosystems, Ohio’s fruits, vegetables and ornamental plants require pollination, often provided by bees. Over 400 bee species live in Ohio, but their populations and their pollination service are threatened by pesticides, diseases, habitat degradation, heavy metal pollution, and climate change. Our pollination team has investigated the degree, the causes, and remediations for bee declines and provide information to Ohio’s agricultural and natural resources stakeholders. Through OSU outreach and extension programs, beekeepers, producers, natural resource managers, gardeners and others learn about bee biology, habitat strategies, and integrated pest management practices to conserve bee health.

SITUATION: Bees are critical to fruit, nut, and vegetable production and ensure the health of native and ornamental plants in Ohio. Several bee species in Ohio are declining, such as the endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (RPBB). Declines in honey bees, the primary agricultural pollinators in the USA, impact the economics of fruit, nut, and vegetable production nationwide; however, Ohio soybeans provide an underappreciated source of food for bees and source of nectar for honey production by Ohio beekeepers. Threats to bumble bee populations are mainly epizootic diseases, whereas honey bees are primarily impacted by parasitic mites. Other factors impacting bee health include climate change and habitat alterations in rural and urban ecosystems. Bees face high pesticide exposure and limited food sources in agroecosystems, whereas urban settings present heavy metal pollution and a lack of suitable habitat. These pressures occur nationwide, and, as hives travel throughout the USA, impact Ohio food production. Identifying the scope of bee declines, causal factors, and remediating actions are important for Ohio agriculture.

RESPONSE: OSU conducted research and extension programming to address the health of Ohio bee species. With the US Fish & Wildlife Service, we developed a non-lethal pathogen detection method to sample endangered RPBB with rapid results to improve conservation decision making. Ohio beekeepers transport hives to California for almond bloom, but often encountered dangerous pesticides. We identified the main culprits used in almond production, and offered alternative management guidelines to sustain bee health. We are determining soybean varieties that are most beneficial for bees and beekeepers and are collaborating with farmers to develop ways to better support bees in corn and soybean agricultural systems. Within the city of Cleveland we have documented 26% of Ohio’s species – demonstrating the importance of urban green spaces as habitat. Weedy plants such as red clover and chicory provide important forage for these urban bees. Further, establishing “pocket prairies” of native wildflowers on vacant lots aids the reproductive success of native wild bees within the city. Unfortunately, we have found that bumble bees foraging in Cleveland accumulate heavy metals in their provisions (cadmium, chromium, arsenic, and lead) and this results in significantly higher brood mortality. Our pollinator education programs have expanded to reach over 9,600 participants in 2021. 

IMPACT: Our bee research and extension programming improves species conservation, bee and crop management, and urban landscape management. The USFWS is using the recommendations for RPBB conservation to set research priorities and prioritize federal funds for projects in the Great Lakes Research Initiative. Non-lethal pathogen sampling is being integrated to assess bumble bee health in areas where endangered species exist. Our findings that insecticides and spray adjuvants, common additives to pesticide applications, can cause harm to bees has led to changes in the recommendations by the Almond Board of California’s “Best Management Practices” to avoid using these products. This interaction with almond stakeholders resulted in a70% reduction in insecticide use during almond bloom and pollination. Our studies on the mutually beneficial interactions between soybeans and honey bees encourage farmers to reduce insecticide use during soybean bloom and adjust the timing of application to minimize pesticide exposure for bees. We demonstrated that weedy plants in vacant lots sustain a variety of bee species. Season long, city-wide bee forage can be achieved by monthly mowing of vacant land – a practice that many municipalities are employing. Further, adding pocket prairies of native vegetation can provide high quality habitat to support bee health and reproductive success. Our heavy metal findings have resulted in a new partnership with Kurtz Bros. Inc. (Independence, OH) to develop and test low-cost soil amendments to reduce the bioavailability of lead and other heavy metals in urban soils, reducing exposure risks for people and biodiversity.


Sustain Life

Biological control, IPM in controlled environments (Luis Canas)

Ecology of Urban Greenspaces (Mary Gardiner)

The Bee Lab (Reed Johnson)

Biodiversity Informatics (Norm Johnson)

Specialty Crop Entomology (Ashley Leach)

Mosquito Diapause and Circadian Clock (Megan Meuti)

Insect Population Genetics and Adaptation Lab (Andy Michel)

Chemical Ecology and Metabolomics, Insect-Plant Interactions (Larry Phelan)

Molecular Physiology of Arthropod Vectors (Peter Piermarini)

Chemical Ecology (Chris Ranger)

Vector Biology and Microbiome (Sarah Short)

Bumble Bee Health and Genetics (Jamie Strange)

Agronomic Crop Insect Pest Control and Ecology (Kelley Tilmon)