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Urban Insect Pest Management Program: Bionomics and Control of Select Pests of Importance in Texas Urban Environments


OBJECTIVE I: To discover the basic biological and ecological parameters that limit the development and distribution of pest insect populations in urban environments. Primary emphasis will be given to pest ant species and subterranean termites, while additional work with cockroaches and bed bugs will be pursued as interest and resources are identified. <P>OBECTIVE II: To develop, implement and evaluate biological control systems as part of an integrated pest management program for insect management in urban environments (specifically ants, cockroaches, and termites).<P>OBJECTIVE III: To develop, implement and evaluate integrated management strategies involving pesticides used for the management of ants, cockroaches, bed bugs, and termites in urban environments.<P>OBJECTIVE IV: To develop and implement a technology transfer system based on the results of the research from Objectives I-III that will meet the needs of AgriLife Extension personnel, the public and professional pest control companies.

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Non-Technical Summary: Urban and structural entomology emphasizes integrated management of insect pest populations associated with the near environment of humans, and their companion and service animals. The most effective pest management technologies are based on biological principles best discovered through basic and applied research.Virtually every individual living in the United States is affected by insects associated with their near environment. Several insect species are vectors of serious debilitating human and animal disease agents; others cause allergic reactions due to their bites, stings or body fragments; and others attack structures and homes, which are usually the most important investment a family makes. The challenge for urban entomologists in AgriLife Research is to anticipate, and meet the needs for, pest management in urban and structural settings for all Texans. According to the U.S. Census Bureau there are approximately 27 million people living in Texas within 8.5 million households. Texas is the second most populated state in the country with one of the fastest growth rates (2.0%). Changes in land use from agricultural to urban are projected in order to accommodate the influx of new residents. The most recognized insect pests include ants (specifically the Red Imported Fire Ant [RIFA]), cockroaches, termites (subterranean and drywood), fleas, and bed bugs. The mild climate that attracts people to Texas is also favorable to the survival and growth of insect populations, many of which are invasive species causing economic losses to the state. Presently, there are approximately 3,300 licensed professional pest control companies providing employment for 20,000 registered apprentices and certified technicians and applicators in Texas. The economic impact of these businesses exceeds $1 billion per year. All of these professional pest management personnel require both initial training and continuing education opportunities. This provides a major challenge for both AgriLife Extension and Research programs.In general, populations of insect pests associated with the near environments of humans have been managed through the use of pesticides. Most people attempt to control pests themselves before contracting for professional pest control services. Internet sales of pest control products, equipment and devices are allowing more people to attempt pest management on their own without the assistance of professionals. When surveyed, most Americans believed the development of new, ?green? approaches to manage insect populations in their homes and immediate surroundings are needed. New pesticides and non-chemical control methods, which control pests without harming humans or their pets are desired. Thus the challenge for scientists, Extension personnel, and professional pest control operators is to develop and implement more efficacious pest management programs for urban/structural pests, while at the same time continuing to address environmental concerns. <P> Approach: RESEARCH APPROACHES (Objective 1): 1. Subject insects will be collected and cultured. Investigations will be done on factors that limit growth and expansion of endemic and invasive populations. 2. Foraging behavior will be evaluated to determine the principal factors that direct the processes of food and resource finding, resource partitioning, and reproduction maximization. 3. It has been difficult to define a colony, and approaches will be taken utilizing observations, marking (mark recapture technologies) and genetics (mitochondrial and/or nuclear markers, and other PCR based technologies.4.Preference tests will be conducted to determine preferred, acceptable and non-acceptable requisites for survival. RESEARCH APPROACHES (Objective 2): 1. Biological agents will be cultured and maintained in the insectary. 2. Parasites, predators and pathogens will be isolated and cultured utilizing appropriate procedures. All Federal, State, and University guidelines will be followed in isolating, culturing, and evaluating these biological agents.3. Relationships between hosts and their parasites, predators, and pathogens will be studied. RESEARCH APPROACHES (Objective 3):1. Contacts will be maintained with pesticide manufacturers and suppliers to ensure that newly developed pesticides are available for testing. 2. Field work will be done with cockroaches in public housing facilities with adequate populations of test insects. 3. Termiticide test plots will be established for both native subterranean and Formosan termites. Treated soil samples will be analyzed for the presence of active termiticide and metabolites through the use of a gas chromatograph (GC) and high performance liquid chromatograph (HPLC) utilizing appropriate analytical techniques. Borate evaluations will be analyzed via inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectra-photometry (ICP-OES). 4. Evaluation of termite bait products (feed through insecticides) will be done in several urban areas in structures with defined termite infestations. RESEARCH APPROACHES (Objective 4):1. Results of all research projects will be published in a timely manner in refereed journals and other publications appropriate for the subject matter.2. Researchers will work with AgriLife Extension personnel in the development and preparation of bulletins, handbooks, newsletters, other printed materials, videos, and slide presentations on subjects germane to urban entomology, and the management of insect populations associated with structures. The annual Pest Management Conference and Workshop, the correspondence course on Termite Biology & Control, and the Philip J. Hamman Termite Control School will be offered on a continuing basis. Websites will be maintained and updated including: urban and Researchers will also participate in field days, conferences, training programs and meetings of professional societies in discussing results of research with urban insects.

Gold, Roger
Texas A&M University
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