Goals of Insect Team

​The goal of the insect team’s work is to find which farms can benefit from insect-mediated pest control and determine the landscape characteristics that promote this benefit to growers. Several predatory insects help control soybean aphid, which is an important agricultural pest. We are interested in the influence of conservation plantings and large scale landscape connectivity on the movement of predators. Prairies and other natural areas often play the role of a source for predators because they are less prone to some disturbances than other areas of agricultural landscapes. Conservation plantings on farms may act as stepping stones to connect the sources of beneficial predator insects to the crop fields. We are studying these effects at the ‘farmscape’ scale (farm and surrounding fields), and the larger landscape (county-wide) scale. In this project, we evaluated how well prairie and conservation planting areas were connected. Using this connectivity value we predicted the number of predators that were collected in prairies, conservation plantings, and adjacent crop fields and tested this with field data. Based on this study, we will create a map showing the expected benefits of pest control service by native predators. Based on this map, we will also provide several scenario maps showing which conservation planting areas act as more important stepping stones than others and at which locations new conservation plantings need to be established for enhancing the benefit. The goal of these maps will be to indicate to growers those areas that are most likely to benefit from natural pest control through the addition of conservation plantings.