Sara Hermann awarded pre-doctoral fellowship by National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Hermann received one of 50 NIFA fellowships intended to prepare the next generation of scientists.
Biological control of pests traditionally relies on predators eating their prey. However, insect pests have a range of behaviors indicating they fear their predators, which could be manipulated to aid pest management. For example, insects may stop moving or drop from a plant when they sense predators. They may feed in parts of a plant where a predator such as a spider is less likely to be encountered.
There is a lack of research aimed at utilizing predator cues, which could create new alternative pest management tools for farmers. Doctoral student Sara Hermann has been awarded $94,900 by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture for a two-year project to examine how an important crop pest of various fruit and vegetables, the green peach aphid (Myzus persicae), might detect and respond to risk of predation by the multi-colored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis).
Hermann and her mentor MSU distinguished professor Doug Landis will aim to manipulate the aphids using the cues they sense to identify risk of lady beetle predation. Hermann’s proposed research will advance the growing field of understanding insect responses to predation risk that could lead to new alternative means of pest management. For example, it may be possible to put a chemical cue mimicking the predator in a field to lessen pest feeding, a crop management tool that doesn’t currently exist.