On May 16, 2010, urban entomologists from around the country gathered in Portland, Ore., at the DoubleTree Hotel for the 12th National Conference on Urban Entomology (NCUE). Representation from academia, industry, government (state and national) and private consultants were present. The following three days were packed with presentations covering a wide variety of topics relating to urban entomology. More than 200 individuals attended the meeting, and a total of 102 papers were presented covering a wide variety of urban entomology topics. The overall number of presentations was up this year from the last meeting, which was held in 2008 in Tulsa, OK.
The first meeting of the NCUE was held in College Park, MD, and organized by Dr. Eugene Wood, professor of entomology at the University of Maryland. Since that time the conference has been held every other year with the goal of promoting the transfer of entomological knowledge between all those involved in urban pest management and celebrating the study of arthropod pests in our ever-changing urban environment. The early vision for this conference was to hold a forum where academics, consultants, ag-chemical representatives and students could transfer information in a relaxed format. To this day the conference focuses on practical presentations that pest management professionals can use to broaden their knowledge base of urban pest biology and behavior and learn of the newest university research projects, management strategies and performance attributes of the latest chemistries being developed for use against urban pests.
The presentations were organized into submitted paper sections as well as organized symposia on a variety of topics. What follows is a first-person review.
MOLECULAR BIOLOGY. Dr. Mike Scharf of the University of Florida and Dr. Grzegorz Buczkowski of Purdue University organized a symposia titled "Molecular Techniques and Urban Entomology — the Why and the How." Molecular biology is certainly not a new science, but its application in urban entomology now has a stronger foothold than ever. To many that grew up performing pest control with a flashlight, a B&G sprayer and bulb duster, the why and how of this exciting branch of science is quite a stretch for us, but these symposia consisted of six very well put together presentations that demonstrated the practical or relevant aspects of molecular biology in our field.
The two main areas where it is being used are first in systematics, whereby scientists are attempting to discern one population of insects from another, most notably with termite populations. What makes up a colony of individuals? When a claim of "total colony control" is offered, yet more termites show up in a treated area, what does this mean? By using what are referred to as "molecular markers," what can we learn about how a termite population develops, travels, feeds and reproduces? The second area is studying DNA sequencing (making lots of like DNA from a very small sample of it). This tool is used to screen tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of compounds to determine if they have any potential insecticidal properties, and may one day be used to make the next generation of highly specific and low/non-toxicity to non-target compounds.
Additionally, specific genes now are being studied that regulate cell death or mutation that might one day be used to create genetically altered populations of insects that could aid in the control of pest populations. Although it is impossible to say when this technology will be available in a bottle or jug to spray on termites or cockroaches, much of this research is way up stream (as the saying goes), but it is certainly a beginning point for what will sure to be new control methodologies that we never dreamed possible in the future.
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