The influence of science, engineering, and technology on society and the
natural world also can be incorporated into biological control as one
of many technologies used to manage invasive species.
Understanding the dispersal capabilities of a biological control
agent is useful for determining release and monitoring methods, as
well as estimating the impact of that agent on its target. To increase
the relevance of the classroom findings to predicting how the insects
will disperse in the wild, additional experiments can be conducted
that simulate environmental stimuli or involve aspects of the insect’s
biology. Some factors influencing insect dispersal include distance
between habitats or food sources (Haddad, 1999), wind (McClure,
1990; Asplen et al., 2016), temperature (Lachenicht et al., 2010), life
span (David et al., 2015), sex (Asplen et al., 2016), population density
(Herzing, 1995), and competition (Baines et al., 2014). While this
experiment was originally designed to answer part of a larger question
regarding the dispersal of a biological control agent in the landscape, it
can be presented alone, with the methodology intact, to middle school
students as a great introduction to entomology and scientific research.
This experiment allows students to experience entomological research
in the classroom, can easily be modified for different class times and
levels, and is low cost. Students are able to practice using the scientific
method to make observations and develop hypotheses to explain
insect behavior while collecting their own, unique data using living
organisms. Students can also use their observations to suggest modifications to the described protocol or additional experiments that
could be conducted. The use of live insects makes this experiment
fun and exciting for students and opens up the opportunity for discussion of research methodology, the ecological importance of insects,
and animal behavior, among others.
We thank Jeremiah Foley at the USDA-ARS Invasive Plant Research
Laboratory for the initial experimental design, and Hope and James
DePelisi at Broward County Crime Commission for inviting us to
present at the CSI:STEM Summer Camp. We also thank Eileen
Pokorny, Brittany Knowles, and Ryann Valmonte at the USDA-ARS Invasive Plant Research Laboratory for rearing the planthoppers
(Megamelus scutellaris) used.
Asplen, M.K., Chacón, J.M. & Heimpel, G.E. (2016). Sex-specific dispersal by
a parasitoid wasp in the field. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata,
Baines, C.B., McCauley, S.J. & Rowe, L. (2014). The interactive effects of
competition and predation risk on dispersal in an insect. Biology
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David, G., Giffard, B., van Halder, I., Piou, D. & Jactel, H. (2015). Energy
allocation during the maturation of adults in a long-lived insect:
implications for dispersal and reproduction. Bulletin of Entomological
Research, 105, 629–636.
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movements: a landscape experiment with butterflies. Ecological
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Herzing, A.L. (1995). Effects of population density on long-distance dispersal
in the goldenrod beetle Trirhabda virgata. Ecology, 76, 2044–2054.
Lachenicht, M.W., Clusella-Trullas, S., Boardman, L., Le Roux, C. &
Terblanche, J.S. (2010). Effects of acclimation temperature on thermal
tolerance, locomotion performance and respiratory metabolism in
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ASHLEY B. C. GOODE ( email@example.com) and DALE HALBRITTER
( firstname.lastname@example.org) are Postdoctoral Research Entomologists at
the USDA-ARS Invasive Plant Research Laboratory, 3225 College Ave.,
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33314.