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Workshop educates on insect rearing
By John Hawkins
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Specialists met in Starkville recently to study a subject that most people would find rather questionable: how to raise and keep insects alive and well.
"Growing quality insects is crucial to many areas of entomology and integrated pest management," said Frank Davis, Mississippi State University emeritus adjunct professor of entomology and workshop coordinator.
The five-day workshop, titled "Principles and Procedures of Rearing Quality Insects," began Sept. 29 and was sponsored by MSU's Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Biological Control and Mass Rearing Research Unit. Twenty-five specialists attended the event from such countries as Australia, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Canada and the United States.
This year's workshops were dedicated to the retired USDA researcher and former MSU adjunct professor Alan Bartlett, who made many contributions to the area of insect rearing and the effects that domestication has on the genetics of laboratory-reared insect colonies.
This is the sixth workshop MSU has offered to further educate professionals who already work in the fields of insect rearing and research. Universities and colleges around the world offer courses in entomology, but none offer instruction in the science and technology of raising insects, Davis said. This is the gap which the workshop aims to fill.
"Insect rearing deserves and requires a formal education, but many specialists don't have such an opportunity. They receive training from other specialists and experienced experts in the field," Davis said. "This course is the first of its kind anywhere in the world, and people come from many backgrounds, public and private, to take advantage of what we have to offer at the workshop."
The workshop serves as a brief A-to-Z course that covers many aspects of insect rearing. Specialists had the opportunity to hear experts discuss topics such as insect diets, rearing systems and environments, diseases, genetics, quality control and management.
"We have a wide range of professionals who attended the event. Some work in rearing parasites and predators, and others work in growing insects such at butterflies that can be used by children and students as learning tools," Davis said. "The workshop aims to provide information that can be used by everyone."
Those who participated in the course also toured the rearing facilities at the USDA laboratories and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station's new state-of-the-art, insect-rearing lab at the Clay-Lyle Entomology Building.
"Not only do participants come to listen to the speakers we provide and look at our facilities, but they also are given a manual that contains everything covered in the workshop," Davis said. "This includes speeches presented by the specialists who have been brought in, and selected articles which back up the concepts discussed."
In the future, Davis said he hopes the manuals provided in the workshops will be compiled into the first-ever insect-rearing textbook. The book could then be used by colleges and universities to teach insect-rearing courses.
In addition to informative talks and tours, the event provided attendees with a chance to meet colleagues and socialize.
"The overall goal for the workshop is to provide a high-quality program with good, practical information, but we also want those who come to have a chance to enjoy what we have to offer here at MSU and in the Starkville area," Davis said.