SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University Library.
ANN HAJEK: Thank you. Well, I'm really happy that you could all come, and I'm happy to have a chance to tell you about the new book that we spent a lot of time working on.
So I guess I'll just start right away. And this is the pointer? Yeah, there we go. OK. So here is the book that this talk is going to be about. But let's go back a little bit-- there we go-- to how this started. And it started when I started on the faculty and I needed to design a course. And I designed a course called Natural Enemies, and it was about biological control, different aspects of biological control.
And where was a textbook that I could use? I wanted to use a textbook. I needed an introductory book because it was an introductory course. And here's what was out there. That this one was too many stories. It was all case studies. This one was only theory. And this one had no illustrations.
So my husband described this as The Three Bears meets The Little Red Hen, because I came out of that saying OK, well, I better write my own book. So here's what I did. I wrote this book, and it was published in 2004. From when I signed the contract with Cambridge University Press until when it came out was six years.
And so then, when it was time to-- there were a lot of changes in the field. A new book was needed. And so when it came time to do a second edition, I added another person to do it with. Remember, the last one took six years. I thought would be faster to have another person. Well, it was five years. It's a little bit faster. But still, it's just a slow process. So yeah.
And this is the book that I'm going to be talking about. And in order to do a book, this book, I worked with a lot of people. The first edition was read by specialists, and the second edition was read by specialists, and asking people to use their illustrations. And for the second edition, one person who was really super helpful was Sana Gardescu, who's worked in my lab for a long time. She especially helped with all of the copyright permissions for figures. This sounds something like nothing, but it actually takes an enormous amount of time and persistence.
And then other folks that helped with it, two folks in my lab who helped with it, David and [? Carrie. ?] So I want to just say that it took a lot of time finding figures and then getting permissions to use the figures. And this is a picture. Sometimes it was actually hard to get the figures.
This is a picture of a little fish. How big do you think this fish is? Yeah. Yeah, right. Like this. It's like this. This is a statue in Sochi in Russia. I found out that it existed. I did contact a colleague in Novosibirsk, who then contacted his colleagues in Sochi, who went to the place and went to the statue, took pictures, sent them to Novosibirsk, and those got sent to me.
So there's an inscription down here talking about how this little fish called Gambusia ate all of the mosquito larvae, which stopped the malaria epidemic that they were having in Sochi. And so they made this statue. I don't think there's very many biocontrol agents that there's a statue to them. And so I really wanted this picture. So sometimes it was hard to get pictures. Just an example.
So there's, like, 150 pictures. Some of them have numerous pictures in. And there are photographs and graphs and drawings. And throughout the book we also have stories, case studies. Every chapter has a couple of separate boxed stories that you can kind of read whenever you want. And so this is one that's about controlling, using a fungus to control weed trees and bushes, and it's actually registered in Canada.
So I'm not going to talk anymore about that. But just to tell you, there's really diverse stories as you go through, and they're all stories that highlight different aspects of what's talked about in the text.
So what does natural enemies mean? And I thought I should actually talk about some actual natural enemies. And here I'm wanting to explain what is this insect, and why is this insect on the cover of the book? It's called a green lacewing, and the adults actually eat pollen and nectar. That's why it's sitting there at the flower.
And, well, how is that a natural enemy? Well, it's the larval stage. That's the natural enemy. They have these big long, piercing fangs that they use to inject enzymes into whatever they've pierced. And then that kills and liquefies the prey. And then they kind of drink them like a milkshake. So that's the larval stage.
Here's the eggs. Because they're such voracious predators, the eggs-- this is just what they do-- the female creates the little stalks here and lays the egg at the end of the stalk. So then otherwise, if all the eggs were right on the surface of the leaf, the first one to hatch would turn next door and eat all the other eggs. And so by having this kind of distribution, that's how they can avoid the first hatchling to eat all of the other hatchlings.
OK. So but what is a natural enemy, the title of the book? Organisms that kill, decrease the reproductive potential of, or otherwise reduce the numbers of another organism.
And so this talk is going to be about using natural enemies for biological control. And there's been lots of controversy about what do you actually call biological control. And so this is the definition that we used in the book, that it has to be a living organism, a living organism that suppresses the population of some pest organism.
So we wouldn't call GMO crops that are just using the gene from, maybe, a bacteria. We wouldn't actually call that biological control. We'd call it something like biologically-based control. But the general biological control community around the world pretty much accepts that, so we followed with that.
OK. So there are three main strategies for biological control. So how many here have heard that biological control can be really bad? There's like a bad side to biological control. Good. OK. So I'm going to be talking about that, and I'm going to be talking about that because that's mostly relative to this first entry here, number one, classical biocontrol.
And really, biocontrol has these really diverse strategies. It's not only this bad one, but also the bad one, I think that we're solving some problems with it. OK. Also, another aspect of biocontrol is that it's used in different ways. Remember I just told you there's these different strategies, classical, augmentation, and conservation, and I'll be talking about those. But all of those strategies are used for biocontrol of insects.
Biological control of weeds mostly uses classical biocontrol. And biological control plant pathogens is mostly augmentation. And so by the end of my talk, you'll understand all of that terminology. We'll have a quiz. No, I'm kidding. Too much teaching
So in this talk, it would be way too much for me to try to cover everything, and so I'm only going to talk about biological control of insects.
OK, so classical biological control, that first category, that kind of category that people have heard is a bad idea. So what is it? And I kind of put the definition into kinds of some steps of what gets done. So it's usually been aimed at invasive pests. And you figure out where the new pest came from, where the invasive pest came from.
So with Emerald ash borer, which is just moving into this area and killing ash trees, that came from China. And so you go to the source where it's native, and you find the natural enemies of the pest, and then you bring them to the area that's been invaded. And then the old way to do this, the way this was traditionally done, was after kind of a minimal time in quarantine to make sure that you don't have any contaminants or anything, then you release these natural enemies, and they become permanently established and spread on their own.
And so here are a couple of natural enemies against the Emerald ash borer. And then afterwards, we always say that we should study to see if the natural enemy actually provides control, how well it provides control. These are usually long programs, and frequently this last step isn't done as thoroughly as it should be.
But these natural enemies I just showed you, those funny little insects that are just a couple millimeters long-- they're really small-- what are they? We call them parasitoids. Since it's a book on natural enemies, I figured I have to tell you some of these kinds of natural enemies. It's the group that's used the most for classical biological control.
And this is what they do. There's different parasitoids, and they do this in different ways. But they basically somehow inject an egg. Often this is into an aphid. And then you can see the larva growing inside of this aphid, and it's the parasitoid larva, and then here the host is dead and the new parasitoid is emerging.
And it's like there's that movie Alien. And the alien comes out. Well, they stole that from parasitoid life cycles. So that's what happens with parasitoids. And you think, oh, that's so weird. What a weird life cycle. How could that be common? It's really common. It's actually done-- there's lots of parasitoids. And here's one that's laying an egg into a fly pupa, and this one is used for control of flies on dairy farms in New York state. This one's laying an egg into a caterpillar egg. Here's one laying an egg into a caterpillar.
And this one has really long egg-laying structure we call ovipositor that it digs down into the wood and lays an egg on top of a wood wasp larva inside of the wood. Finding it and laying an egg there, they're very successful. We have them emerging in barrels in our lab every year. So another picture of a parasitoid.
This is the first edition of my book. And this is a kind of parasitoid that they lay lots of eggs into a caterpillar. And then when they're ready to pupate, the eggs actually come out and spin up into this chrysalis kind of structure on the outside cocoon, on the outside where they become pupae and adults. And then they chew their way out and fly off and find more caterpillars to lay eggs in. So pretty wild. So this is the cover of the first edition. So parasitoids.
OK. So back to classical biocontrol and what is that, how does that work. And why did it get such a bad rap? Well, so this starts with the 1939 DDT. And you all know that DDT got used really liberally initially, and in 1962, Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, or that was published. And the US EPA was actually started as a result of that. And the Silent Spring was actually started because of spraying DT against gypsy moth on Long Island. That was her really good examples that she had.
So it's very close to entomology, but a lot of what she was saying what was important about was impacts on bird populations and other populations. But people didn't really appreciate it, I think, the entomology communities. But by the 1980s, I think the importance of biodiversity and entomology was really increasingly recognized. And so we were understanding that there was this big community of insects, and they were important and valuable.
And so in that context, at the same time, the numbers of invasive species were increasing. And you know that. But here's kind of a recent graph that came out. Here's, in 1990, the numbers of invasive species over time. And this is just increasing, and here we are up to 2000. And here's the number of classical biocontrol introductions.
Why so much? Well, when there's a new invasive species, often it's new. You don't know how to deal with it. One of the first ideas what to do is to spray insecticides. You spray insecticides or you do nothing. And the entomology community, basically their other fallback was to do classical biocontrol. That was the natural background of what you would do. And so that's what happened. Look at the number of classical biocontrol introductions. It kind of increased as the invasive species increased.
And there's kind of a drop. This is probably World War I and this is World War II. But up here, you're over 800. It's a lot. And this is what everybody's looking for. They were looking for the silver bullet. Back here, at the start of all this in 1880, there had been some really silver bullet introductions that had super controlled pests really well. And so that's what everybody was looking for with these introductions.
But here, how frequently is it successful? So the white bars are what you want to look at. And you can see that really about in here, it was, like, 10%. It was never really that great. Lots were being introduced. They might establish, but they weren't providing control except sometimes. And they kept looking for the silver bullet, but really they were doing a shotgun approach.
And so as this interest in the biodiversity and the insect community started getting more recognized, the importance of it was recognized, then this started being voiced in the literature, that what were we doing releasing these natural enemies, and they're getting established. And sometimes we were seeing them attacking the natural community.
And so was this a panacea, this classic biocontrol? Was it solving problems, or were we releasing Pandora's box that were going to be making issues?
And so these are some papers. Between '96 and 2000 there were at least 50 papers about this in the literature. People just went crazy discussing this in their literature. Then there were some really heated words about this at scientific meetings. And I remember an actual seminar that was given, a course in mud about that time.
So how risky is biocontrol, parasitoid drift after biocontrol introductions, reexamining Pandora's box? So there was a lot of controversy about this. And was this a bad example, a bad thing to do? And so here's an example that this is a little fly. Doesn't look like much. It's a really little fly. But they lay eggs in caterpillars. And this is a gypsy moth. It was invasive, and that was what they were trying to attack with it.
But parasitoid is a generalist. A lot of parasitoids are really specialized in what they'll develop in. This one is a generalist. But it was released in 1900, 1910, and people weren't worrying then about the biodiversity, the native biodiversity. They were worried about making sure to not lose their crops, and especially orchard crops with Gypsy moth.
And so then what happened? Well, it turns out that it really likes to parasitize native giant silk moths. And so now we think that one of the reasons the native giant silk moth populations are lower is because of the Compsilura that was introduced. But these decisions to introduce this were made in 1900, 1910. So it's a long time ago.
So OK. This was definitely happening sometimes due to these-- we call this non-target effects, sometimes due to really old decisions that happened a long time ago. And then some people did surveys across biocontrol introductions against invasives just in recent years, in 2009. And they found eight species out of more than 2000 that caused population level non-target effects. Everything else, it was just a really low level occasional impact, but not actually driving down the population of the non-target. And so maybe it just wasn't studied enough. And the number eight isn't very real, but this is all that we've actually found where this is having a population level effect.
And so what's happened? Well, there's been a response. And so now the methods have changed, and now they do extensive non-target testing. Worldwide, this actually slows down the process a lot. But only specialist natural enemies are used, not generalist natural enemies, which before, people didn't worry about that.
And then they do risk analyses, and decisions about releases are made by diverse groups. The public and environmental groups and the USDA and the EPA would all have a voice in looking at data, specificity data, in order to make decisions about releases.
So then is there a resulting slump in the use of classical biocontrol? While there's still more and more invasives, you know we're getting more invasives all the time. And you can see that here's 1980 to 1990s and 2000s. It really did has decreased the amount of classical biocontrol going on.
But is there still a reason to do it? And I would say yes. And I think the entomology community thinks yes because in some cases, when you have a really bad pest and there aren't any other options. So I'm going to talk for just a moment about Emerald ash borers. That's moving into our area. It's really a high priority pest. It's introduced from China. And in China, the ash trees that they have are resistant to Emerald ash borer. In the US, that's not true. It kills our ash trees.
And both in forests, you can see we have lots of ashes. Look at the amount of ash that's in New York that's really higher densities than many other places. And here's a urban street. These are all ash trees in 2006 and 2009. It's really good at killing ash trees. If you drive through the midwest and you drive along highways and you see lots of dead trees, and you didn't remember that many dead trees before, those are probably ashes.
So do we need classical biocontrol? And so this analysis was done looking at that there are 98 species of native ash-specific herbivores in North America. That will be extinct if there are no ash trees any more. There's 12 species of ash. One of those that's native appears to be resistant. But the rest will be extinct, for the most part, extinct, just like the chestnuts with chestnut blight.
And so if this isn't enough to explain to you that there is definitely a community associated with ash trees, and the ash trees themselves, we actually use ash trees, the main kind of tree that's used for baseball bats, ash. And so thinking about risk to weight one thing against the other, well, there is specificity testing. And the parasitoids that they're using sometimes will drift over and attack relatives of Emerald ash borer, other closely related Agrilus species. That's the genus. That was just a pretty picture of this family of beetles.
So I would say that the idea is it's more important to preserve the ash communities. And that's what is being done. And so after specificity tests, they're introducing three parasitoid species. And people have actively been working on that in New York State as well as in the midwest. And there's one native parasitoid that's also attacking Emerald ash borer.
So just quickly, I wanted to say something aboutt-- I spent a lot of my career working on gypsy moth and on entomophaga maimaiga, a fungal pathogen that can also really control populations. And here's a smaller caterpillar, and the fungus kills that caterpillar, grows out through the skin, and shoots off spores. And those infect other individuals.
Here, the bigger caterpillars, instead of pupating, they attach themselves to the tree trunks and die there. So in 1869, gypsy moth was introduced to North America. Entomophaga maimaiga, this pathogen, this fungal pathogen, was known from Japan. And in 1989 epizootics caused by this fungus occurred in seven states, and then the fungus spread. We think it was an accidental introduction. But it just shows you that it's not only parasitoids that can actually control populations. I had to say something about this. I've worked on this a lot.
OK. So I hope I've convinced you that that kind of bad biological control, there have been changes. And we're working on it, and hopefully it's safe for the environment. But another really active part of biological control is augmentation biological control. And so that's when control is achieved by natural enemies that are released where and when they're needed, and it's not for permanent control.
And why do we need this? What about pesticides? That's kind of like what we use pesticides for, right? Well, there's the development of resistance. And just even this line here is the number of species of insects that are resistant to different pesticides. It's just increasing with a lot of pesticide use. That means we can't use the same pesticides all the time.
This is a line that shows you how many pesticides are available. So this shows you how much pesticides have been being banned. This was kind of a large number here, and then the EPA started saying, hey, these aren't safe anymore, and banning them, a lot of these, from being used. So there's not as many pesticides to use. But companies make new pesticides all the time, the chemical industry. Well, here is actually the trend in the number of new pesticides that are being developed all the time. And it's just decreasing.
So there is a need. There is a need for something that's not only pesticides, not only chemical pesticides. And so that's augmentation biocontrol. It's also important for things like organic control. And there's a lot of reasons that people prefer this if it works. And this is a graph that shows you the number of predators and parasitoids in vetebrate natural enemies that are commercially available. In order to do augmentation biocontrol, there has to be an industry that's producing the natural enemies.
But look, there is. It's grown and grown. Here's 1960 and 2015. And by 2015, there's 400 different species that are available for biological control. So it's really a growing field, and people are using it a lot. John Sanderson right here, who works in this field specifically, you can ask him about it afterwards for more specifics.
And so this is just a couple of the big companies that actually send natural enemies all around the world. These are both in Europe. But then I wanted to show you this. This is a little company that they rear some of their own natural enemies, and then they also are a distributor for other natural enemies that they get from other companies.
And this company is in Locke, New York. How many people know about IPM Labs? Yeah. Yeah. So it's actually part of what we're talking about, this augmentation biocontrol, making these available. And I know that Carol provides a lot of parasitoids for the dairy industry for fly control, like I was saying before.
And how can augmentation be so successful? Well, they've worked on quality control to make sure that the natural enemy's delivered. Remember, they're alive, usually. They have to be healthy and active, and you have to have a good way to release them. So they've also worked a lot on training growers so that the living natural enemies are released in the right way. So they persist in the crop, and they get to where they need to be in the crop.
This are used a lot in greenhouses, sometimes orchards. But there's also biopesticides, what we call biopesticides. And this term, in biological control, it's usually meant about microbes. There are other things that we call biopesticides, things that are like botanical pesticides. But I'm going to be talking about these that are biocontrol agents, living organisms.
But do you like this term for using for a biological control agent? Who likes the term? Nobody. Well, we use this in the book to some extent because it's used in the literature quite a bit. And why would it be used in the literature? Why would it be used? Yeah?
ANN HAJEK: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And I think the idea is that growers might accept it more, that OK, well, this is something they could substitute for pesticides. So the microbes that are being used are virus and nematodes and fungus and bacteria. And there's hundreds of products worldwide that are based on these that are often for niche markets. They're for very specific situations, but sometimes they can be highly successful.
And of course, this has been the super most successful of any biological control agent in any kind of use is bacillus thuringiensis. And it's a bacteria, and they attack caterpillars and different flies and different beetles. And actually, there's lots of other strange, also, now that they've found. But those are the main ones, the ones that are commercialized.
And so this is one cell. And this is how it works is all of them have a toxin crystal. And the crystals are different, and they have different specificities for what they'll kill. And this is actually, this toxin crystal, the genes that create the toxin that get introduced into plants, and that makes them resistant against caterpillar pests. That's GMO corn, GMO soybeans. Well, no, not soybeans, but corn.
So this toxin crystal. And this has been used extensively. Now it's used a lot in this GMO context, which we wouldn't call biological control, strictly. But still, organics, and then things like the mosquito. It's used for mosquito control. So bacillus thuringiensis, those are just sprays. They're available as the actual bacterial cells, and not genetically modified plants.
OK. So this global biopesticide, if you read kind of the economics market and economics articles, the global biopesticide market is predicted to reach $7.7 billion by 2021, growing at a five-year compound annual growth rate of 14.1%. I'm not an economist, but this is just to show you that the number of biopesticides that are out there is increasing and increasing because there is a need, especially with all the organic crops and IPM and people wanting to use less chemical pesticides. So this market is growing.
OK. Then the third way, I don't have that much to say about this. But this conservation biocontrol, it has nothing to do with releasing anything. It has to do with adapting the environment to increase the activity of the natural enemies that are already there. So this sounds really ecologically friendly, and it is, but getting it to work is the tricky part. So here, preserving natural enemies, that's one of the main strategies. And the main idea there, often, is don't spray pesticides when you're wanting parasitoids to be killing the pest in the field, or in your greenhouse crop.
And so a lot this is based on reducing pesticides. But what I'm going to talk about here is enhancing natural enemy populations. Many people have wanted to get that to work, and lots of people have been studying this. It's been a very active area of research. And this is the whole idea, that if you have diverse communities around your fields, that the natural enemies will be able to increase and persist there, and then they'll move into the crop and will eat your pests.
That sounds really good. And then it'd be a win-win situation by having this diversity around your crop. And so you can see here in a vineyard, and then along other crop fields. And some recent papers have shown that it doesn't really always work. They did a big meta analysis, and it doesn't always work. And they're finding that they have to fine tune it more in order to get it to work.
But I'm telling you-- I'm going to tell you about a story where it does work. And so this is an organic lettuce production in the Salinas Valley in California, big lettuce production area. And this is a study by Eric Brennan. And he worked on using flowers-- that's what he calls it-- using flowers to replace insecticides in lettuce production. I really thought that sounded pretty good.
And so here's a picture of his flowers. And so what's he want to control? Romaine lettuce in Salinas. And they get these little aphids that get down in the middle of the romaine plants. This is organic. You can't spray it. You can't spray it, and even the things that you can spray, how can you get the things that you could spray down into the middle of a romaine head?
And this is a romaine head that's cut in half, and you can see the aphids in there. And no one wants to buy their lettuce and bring it home and have the aphids crawl out. Yeah. And so then he found that a really good natural enemy that was around was this. And this is a hover fly larva, and see it's impaling an aphid there and it's sucking it dry. So that's what they do. And they look kind of ugly, but they're doing their thing.
And if the eggs are laid at the top of the lettuce plant, they will actually climb down inside and find the aphids and eat them all. So that's good. But the trick is you have to get them to the lettuce plants to have the aphids inside. How do you get them there? Well, you have to attract the flies that lay the eggs to the field. And how you do that is the flies eat pollen and nectar, and you plant flowers in the field, the right flowers. And then the flies will lay their eggs in the lettuce plants.
And so this guy Eric Brennan spent a lot of years, and he actually figured out how much Alyssum-- that Alyssum was a really good plant, how to plant it, how much he needed to plant. And he eventually came with a strategy that he figured out how to add Alyssum plants to lettuce fields without loss in lettuce yields. So he kind of planted them at the edges of rows of lettuce. He didn't need any whole rows of Alyssum. And this is going very well.
But there aren't that many other examples in conservation biocontrol where you have such a really great success that's actually being used. But hopefully that will move forward because like I said, there's a lot of interest in this field.
So I'm just going to wrap up by talking about challenges to biological control. I hope I've convinced you that the bad biocontrol has actually kind of changed to doing things a much better way and being used when it needs to be used. And the augmentation is this growing thing, but there's still challenges. There's going to be more invasive species. It's just we were talking about that before, that there's lots of invasive species. It's only going to increase, and the need for sustainability will increase as the human population increases.
We've got climate change to deal with, and how that will impact biological control and pest populations. We're going to have to pay attention to that. I think it would be nice to increase use of biological control in public health. Sometimes some of the very worst chemical pesticides are used for controlling mosquito populations that need to be controlled. They need to be controlled, but hopefully we could do it in a safer way.
And then we need to increase international cooperation with all of this. And then I think finally, it would be nice to make sure that we have more acceptance that this bad rep for biocontrol gets corrected, and that people realize that there's an effort to make it environmentally safe. But it's still pests that have to be controlled and show that biocontrol, when it's used, it's effective.
OK. So thank you.
SPEAKER 2: So I'll come around with the microphone and you can call on your questions.
ANN HAJEK: OK, good.
AUDIENCE: So was I understanding that augmentation means they're already there, they're doing something, and we're just putting more of them in, introducing ladybugs into my garden?
ANN HAJEK: No, that's a good point. So lots of times now-- well, the old view of augmentation, you could use something exotic and release it. And it might be something that you'd-- so it would be the same problem with this, is that environmentally safe? But now, a big emphasis is on finding natural enemies in that area, in that country, and mass producing those and making those available. So we won't be introducing new things.
AUDIENCE: So the difference from classical is classical you would go back to China to see what was there, and bring that over. This one would look around and say, there's somebody here who might do this.
ANN HAJEK: Well, or this one is whatever the industry is mass producing that would be available. Yeah.
AUDIENCE: But you're not introducing something invading from elsewhere. You're using something that's already in the neighborhood in some way.
ANN HAJEK: Right. That's what they're working on now. Also, with classical, the idea is that once you introduce it, you introduce some limited number. Maybe you only do one introduction. And then it's permanently established, and you don't introduce it again. So it would have to persist somehow in the environment.
With augmentation, for your garden, you could buy them every year from the company that's mass producing them and release them. Then we wouldn't think that they would persist.
AUDIENCE: So you wouldn't expect them to persist.
ANN HAJEK: Right. You would not.
AUDIENCE: Thank you. You mentioned Gambusia fish right in the beginning. I guess they've been around a long time to control mosquitoes. How popular are they now, and how successful?
ANN HAJEK: Oh, that's a great question. People are not suggesting that you use them anymore because they're generalists. And there's a huge push to not release generalists. And so they're generalists, and they will out-compete the other native species, the fish that are present.
On the other hand, you always have to-- so you have to decide. It's a risk analysis just like I was talking about. And so you have to decide is it more important to protect the natives if-- anyway. But it's not suggested to use them anymore. But I still think it's nice for Sochi to make a statue.
AUDIENCE: So going back to the fly larva in the aphids, so you made the salient point that consumers don't want to go home and cut open their lettuce and find a bunch of aphids inside. How do you get the fly larva to leave so that consumers don't take lettuce home, cut it open, and find those there?
ANN HAJEK: They don't take that long to develop. And I think that by the time they harvest the crop, they're gone. Those are gone.
AUDIENCE: OK. So they kind of do their business and then move on quickly.
ANN HAJEK: Right. Right. Yeah. But that's a good point. You don't want the flies emerging in your house, either.
AUDIENCE: So and the spotted lantern fly is the new scary invasive that's coming in Pennsylvania, now heading up to New York. So what are the prospects for biological control of that one?
ANN HAJEK: Spotted lantern fly. Does everybody know about spotted lantern fly? Yeah. It's really big. It feeds on plants like a leaf hopper, and it especially likes tree of heaven, which is like a weed tree. So it's good that it likes a weed tree, an introduced weed tree. On the other hand, it will eat a lot of other things. And it's been known to kill entire newly planted vineyards. So it's definitely a problem.
My lab's been working on-- we made 10 trips down to Pennsylvania this year because it's just in Pennsylvania down by Philadelphia. But now they found it in New York State a couple of places, but in low populations. And we've found two different fungal pathogens causing a lot of mortality in spotted lantern flies. So we're really excited about looking at fungal pathogens.
Other than that, it belongs to a group of what we call plant hoppers. They really hop. The little ones, you touch them, they go, shoo. They're really strong hoppers. And there's no related insects in the northeast. So there's little chance that there's going to be natural enemies that are used to eating something and attacking something in that family because there's nothing else in that family that's in this area.
So it's really a tropical insect, but appears to be surviving very, very well in the northeast, which is too bad. So there's a lot of interest in getting to work on this thing. It's still in a localized area, but it's increasing. The population's increasing and spreading.
AUDIENCE: So just a comment and a question. So cactoblastis cactorum has a statue in Australia, the cactus moth similar to the fish. And then my question is that between the publication of the first edition and the second edition, how did natural enemies and the use of natural enemies for biological control change, especially thinking about how genetic engineering has changed and are probably being used more frequently for pest management.
ANN HAJEK: Well, so when it was first published-- well, OK, so one big difference, we added a lot of new stories, new illustrations. One really big difference between the first and the second editions is the whole story about this non-target impacts. There was more information, and that had developed more, that we knew more about how bad is this non-targeted? Is there a chance that we should be using classical biocontrol? Or maybe it should just not be used at all.
So that developed, and we spent a lot more time talking about that. And then augmentation, we talked about how that's just been growing like mad. And so we talked about how and why that field has really increased. And then-- am I answering your question? Then conservation--
ANN HAJEK: Well, we decided not to actually cover GMO. So we didn't actually talk about that at all. We talked about bacillus thuringiensis as something that you spray. And it's used that way against mosquitoes, and we actually have one of our stories is about using an application, a formulation that's used in the Rhine Valley for controlling mosquitoes.
AUDIENCE: Are there certain kinds of organisms that seem to be more specific than generalists? So are funguses more specific, or are they equally likely to be generalists?
ANN HAJEK: There's different kinds of fungi, and the answer to that is, it depends on the kind of fungus. But then many predators are more generalists. Not all, but parasitoids, it seems like it's more of a general rule of parasitoids to be specialists. But that's all sussed out when we do non-target testing see how environmentally safe things are. But there are trends. Any more questions?
AUDIENCE: I have a friend who has been for years part of the Ladybug Project here on campus. I'm sure you're aware of that.
ANN HAJEK: The Lost Ladybug Project.
AUDIENCE: Lost Ladybug, yeah. So it's interesting to think about that we have there a species that is going extinct, or could go extinct, that serves a niche in our crops and in our ecosystems, that it could be a win-win if people can take that seriously and use our natural insects and things that are failing, and use them to-- I'm not explaining it well. But--
ANN HAJEK: Does everybody know about the Lost Ladybug Project? Have you heard of the Lost Ladybug Project, that there's a species of ladybug that is [INAUDIBLE]. It was the state insect.
AUDIENCE: How many times?
ANN HAJEK: Nine. Nine.
ANN HAJEK: And once an invasive ladybug got introduced, it was actually introduced for biological control. And it's a generalist. And we all think now that it was a very bad idea for it to have been introduced because it's such a generalist and it's so competitive, and it's out-competing that native species. And one of them that's being out-competed is this novemnotata.
I think that the worry about this project was that it was absolutely extinct, and I think they're finding that it's not absolutely extinct, but it's been driven to low densities. So now I think that they're working on trying to grow them and release them again, and trying to see if there's some way to bolster the native populations. And so I think that's great. You're right. I mean, I think that that would be really valuable. Hopefully they have to find, though, a way to get around the invader ladybug, the Harmonia.
AUDIENCE: I think you mentioned that you had several fungal pathogens that might be effective on the spotted lantern fly. How do you come up with-- you have a drawer full of potential fungal pathogens? How do you come up with fungal pathogens to test?
ANN HAJEK: So we're doing two different things. We've made 10 trips. This is in Berks County, Pennsylvania. We've made 10 trips there this season, and we've isolated fungi that we've found killing spotted lantern flies. So they naturally occur in the field. They're part of nature in Berks County, Pennsylvania. So that's part of what we're doing.
The other part of what we're doing, there's a quarantine on campus. We've been working in there, and we've used a couple of different EPA-registered fungi that are known for being kind of generalists and for attacking hoppers, plant hoppers. And so we're just seeing whether those would be useful. Don't know yet. So they will definitely kill the spotted lantern flies. So that's good. But how to apply them, all that is very early stage.
AUDIENCE: I was just going to mention RSF Collection at the USDA. What's going on with that. But I mean, are you collaborating with anyone?
ANN HAJEK: They helped with doing the isolation of the harder fungus, so yeah.
AUDIENCE: As far as where you could select fungi from. You might explain what that collection is.
ANN HAJEK: Yes. So there's a fungal culture collection. It's a giant container full of liquid nitrogen that they've stashed different fungal isolates of fungi that kill insects from around the world. And I think they have, like, 14,000 isolates now. So it's an enormous resource. And it's just up Tower Road. And I've worked really closely with these folks for years. They're a USDA agricultural research service. And so there's a great, huge resource of different fungal isolates to test there, to examine.
But in order to use something, actually, for control and get it out there so that the organic vineyard people don't have all of their grapevines killed by spotted lantern flies, these things have to be registered with the EPA. And in order to register a new fungal pathogen with EPA, that can take $1 million for all of the testing and lawyers, and also something like four to five years. So it makes sense to test the ones that are already EPA registered first before going to the Culture Collection because you better have a lot of resources to use that.
AUDIENCE: So I was just wondering, I know you mentioned that there is a bacteria that produces crystal toxins or something. So I'm just wondering if there are any other examples of genetic engineering of things like bacteria or fungi to specifically address the pathogen. But I don't know if the EPA would allow that. But is there examples of things like that, or even genetic engineering, like a natural insect, in order to be able to metabolize, I guess, other pests that they normally wouldn't eat, something like that?
ANN HAJEK: People I've worked on that to some extent with different pathogens, seeing if they can insert something that causes virulence, and one kind of pathogen into another in order to make it so it kills the host more quickly. And so there has been some playing around. Nothing is a product, but there has definitely been some investigation along those lines.
SPEAKER 2: [INAUDIBLE]
AUDIENCE: I just had a general question of what is the process your lab takes in assessing the risk of introducing species?
ANN HAJEK: So it is often done by universities. But it's also done a lot by USDA. And so I've never-- well, maybe a long time ago when I was in grad school. But then people weren't looking at the risks. So my lab doesn't do this. But I know what the procedure from colleagues that work in the USDA.
And it's a long process of coming up with what species should be tested in order to do this non-target testing. Close relatives a little further away. Further away still on being related to the actual pest in order to see how generalist is the natural enemy.
And then that has to all be approved. The list of things to test has to be approved by this whole board that I told you, of all the people that would decide whether the non-target testing results showed that it was safe to be released.
ANN HAJEK: Thank you, Ann, for a really nice talk, and thank you all for coming.
ANN HAJEK: Thank you.
SPEAKER 1: This has been a production of Cornell University Library.
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For a Chats in the Stacks book talk at Mann Library in November 2018, Ann E. Hajek, professor in the Department of Entomology at Cornell University, presented her new book, Natural Enemies: An Introduction to Biological Control Cambridge University Press, 2nd edition Sept. 2018 co-authored with Jørgen Eilenberg of the University of Copanhagen, Denmark.
Hajek discussed the wide diversity of organisms used in the control of pests, weeds and plant pathogens, and the strategies referred to as 'biological control.' These controls include the use of exotic natural enemies, the application of predators, parasitoids, and microorganisms as biopesticides, and the manipulation of the environment to enhance natural enemy populations. She also reviews recent changes that have made biological control safe for the environment, and how these methods can aid sustainability efforts.