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Department of Entomology

Canas Lab members summer 2021



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. In addition, our team has engaged Ohioans to protect people and their animals from dangerous pests. Our efforts enabling rapid responses to emerging public health threats by uncovering novel insecticides and repellents, increasing awareness of household pests, and connecting academic researchers, public health officials, and community stakeholders.

SITUATION: Mosquitoes, bed bugs and ticks frequently bite humans and animals leaving painful or itchy bites. In some cases, the bites also transmit pathogens that cause serious illnesses in humans and/or animals, such as West Nile fever, Lyme disease, and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. 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 800% since 2012 and the number of counties reporting cases has doubled. Preventing disease transmission requires chemical pest control, yet many insects are becoming resistant to common insecticides, leaving us with fewer tools in our arsenal to combat this threat to public health. We also do not understand how urbanization is affecting the seasonal abundance of arthropod vectors or disease risk. To manage these pests and their ability to spread disease, we need new control tactics as well as improved communication and coordination with external agencies and the public.

RESPONSE: Entomology faculty are developing novel tools for pest control. For example, a partnership with the OSU College of Pharmacy is using artificial intelligence to identify unique chemicals derived from natural products that are toxic and repellent to mosquitoes, with the goal of developing safer and more effective insecticides and repellents. Entomology faculty are also uncovering how mosquitoes interpret environmental cues to begin overwintering, which may lead to novel control tactics. We are also studying the microbes (e.g., bacteria, fungi) that naturally inhabit and affect the biology of mosquitoes and ticks with the aim of identifying key microbes that influence disease transmission or survival. Additionally, our field surveillance is determining how urbanization affects seasonal changes in mosquito abundance and is identifying effective strategies to manage mosquito breeding grounds (e.g., stormwater infrastructure). We are engaging with the public by posting information on mosquitoes, bed bugs and ticks on our website (the Bite Site: and Ohioline, the centralized resource website for OSU Extension.

IMPACT: Efforts of Entomology faculty have increased our understanding of how our rapidly change environment influences mosquitoes, ticks, and bed bugs, along with the diseases they transmit to humans and domestic animals. We are leveraging this knowledge to enhance control of these pests and decrease disease transmission. Both our research and extension activities help protect Ohioans, their companion animals, and livestock. Our new, natural product-based chemicals have the potential to protect people from mosquitoes that transmit Zika virus and other important  mosquitoborne diseases (e.g., malaria), which collectively debilitate the health and well-being of hundreds of millions of people around the globe each year. We created multiple on-line video segments to educate Ohioans about pests and arthropod borne disease that collectively have reached over 30,000 viewers in 2022. Additionally, members of our team redesigned and updated the Tick ID card available through Ohio Extension Publications and since its redesign, over 8000 cards have been distributed. Collectively, our efforts are enabling rapid responses to emerging public health threats and increasing awareness among academic researchers, public health officials, and community stakeholders.

Community Science Education and Awareness Through Insects

IMPACT AREA: Extension; Outreach

INVESTIGATORS: Ellsworth, Ruisch, Filbrun, Leach, Basnagala, Michel, Cañas, Tilmon, Gardiner


SUMMARY:  Insects offer natural opportunities for enhancing science education among children and adults. Moreover, enhancing the public’s awareness of insects is key for early detection of potential pests that can negatively impact society. In response, Entomology personnel are using novel educational opportunities and resources to educate the public about science and the biology of insects.These efforts are recruiying student to CFAES, inspiring future scientists, enhancing the public’s science literacy, and providing key opportunities to identify and mitigate insect pests before significant damage occurs.

SITUATION: In general, science education in public schools is underfunded, resulting in fewer in-classroom resources and extracurricular experiences (e.g., field trips) that enhance science learning and make it more engaging. Moreover, the science of insects (Entomology) is rarely a focus in public school science curricula, despite the natural fascination that many children have with insects and the diversity of learning exercises that insects offer. Thus, the lack of Entomology in primary school science education is a missed opportunity to recruit, engage, and retain future scientists. Furthermore, the public is not well informed about Entomology and may be unaware of the various positive (e.g., pollination of food crops) and negative impacts (e.g., agricultural pests, disease transmission) that insects have in human societies. Informing the public with basic knowledge of insects and how to identify them can potentially improve awareness and detection of potential invasive pest species and limit the impacts on food crops or human health.

RESPONSE: Entomology outreach and extension specialists are developing outreach programs and materials to educate children in public schools and the general public about insects. The United Titanium Bug Zoo (Wooster) and Museum of Biological Diversity Insectary (Columbus) host open house events to the general public and receive organized visits from local schools and camps, providing invaluable opportunities for children and adults to handle live insects, observe them under microscopes, and learn about their basic biology. Moreover, the OSU BUGmobile, can be transported, which provides greater access to large community events (e.g., Farm Science Review, COSI Big Science Celebration, festivals) and to reach schools without resources to travel to an OSU campus. To educate the public and stakeholders about insect science, Entomology faculty and graduate students are generating state-of-the-art extension materials with 3D printers for easily identifying the early signs of invasive insects (e.g., spotted lantern fly). Presentations by Entomology faculty and graduate students in the Wooster Science Café provides additional opportunities to raise awareness of the general public about current entomological issues and to directly answer questions from the general public.

IMPACT: Efforts of Entomology outreach and extension specialists and faculty are increasing the general public’s understanding of science and insects, as well as how insects impact our society. Importantly, in-classroom visits and collaboration with local teachers is offering hands-on learning to students, sparking interest in general science and Entomology. Moreover, the live specimens, visiting experts, and BUGmobile offer novel and exciting opportunities to engage students and efficiently reach members of the general public who may otherwise never be exposed to Entomology. Moreover, the innovative 3D printing materials for identifying insect pests is enhancing the ability of the general public and stakeholders (e.g., producers) for early detection and mitigation of invasive pests to minimize their impacts on crop production. Collectively, in 2022, our outreach efforts have reached over 195,000 Ohioans and generated over 2,800 3D-printed insect identification materials that have been disseminated to stakeholders, students, and the general public. Our pollinator Extension program reached a global audience of over 20,000 viewers through our webinar series and are shared on YouTube for continued viewing.


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: 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 management practices that improve pollinator health to benefit Ohio’s agricultural and natural resources stakeholders. Through OSU outreach and extension programs, beekeepers, producers, natural resource managers, gardeners and others learn about bee management, habitat improvement strategies, and integrated pest management practices to improve pollination.

SITUATION: Bees are critical to fruit, nut, and vegetable production and ensure the health of native and  ornamental plants in Ohio. Several bee species of bees are managed for pollination services, including honey bees and bumble bees. Declines in honey bees and bumble bees, two of the primary agricultural pollinators in the USA, impact the economics of fruit, nut, and vegetable production nationwide. Honey bees are the primary pollinators of fruit and nut crops, but bumble bees are critical to support production of crops grown in greenhouses. For example, Ohio soybeans provide an underappreciated source of food for bees and source of nectar for honey production by Ohio beekeepers. Novel methods for the management of bees to maximize bee health are needed to provide pollination services.

RESPONSE: OSU conducted research and extension programming to address the health of Ohio beespecies. To provide pollination service to producers of greenhouse crops, methods for captive rearing of bumble bees were developed. These methods include research demonstrating ways to sterilize pollen fed to bumble bees in captivity so that pathogens and parasites can be removed, reducing the risk of disease outbreaks in commercial rearing facilities. Ohio beekeepers transport hives to California for almond bloom, but often encountered dangerous pesticides. We identified the main agrichemicals harming bees in almond production and produced 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. Landowners and crop producers need information to manage habitat for healthy manage and wild pollinators. We developed and offered webinar series on bumble bee conservation, native plant management, and habitat quality improvement to support landowner efforts to increase pollinator populations.

IMPACT: Our bee research and extension programming improves species conservation, bee and crop management, and landscape management. New publications detail methods for rearing bumble bees, expanding the range of species that can be developed commercially, and detailing methods to provide clean pollen as food for bee populations. 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, reducing insecticide sprays by 70% during almond bloom. 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. Additionally, screening of soybean varieties beneficial to honey bees was provided to growers who can now decide to plant varieties that benefit bees. OSU Pollinator outreach and Extension programs have expanded to reach over 20,700 participants in 2022 delivering our discoveries to a global audience.


Sustain Life

Agronomic Crop Insect Pest Control and Ecology (Kelley Tilmon) 

Biodiversity Informatics (Norm Johnson)

Bumble Bee Health and Genetics (Jamie Strange)

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

Ecology of Urban Greenspaces (Mary Gardiner)

Forest Entomology (Kayla Perry)

Honey Bee Health and Ecology (Reed Johnson)

Insect Population Genetics and Adaptation Lab (Andy Michel)

Integrated Pest Management in Controlled Environments (Luis Canas)

Landscaped Ecosystem and Forest Entomology Lab (Sam Ward)

Mosquito Diapause and Circadian Clock (Megan Meuti)

Specialty Crop Entomology (Ashley Leach)

Turfgrass Health (Shaohui Wu)

Vector Biology and Microbiome (Sarah Short)

Wooster Research & Outreach Facilities Virtual Tour