Workshop and Seminar Information

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Rearing History

The history of rearing insects for research purposes at Mississippi State University has been one of 40 years of cooperative efforts among University and USDA entomologists. Rearing of insects on artificial diets began in what was then the Department of Entomology and local USDA research facilities during the 1960s. Dr. Jim Brazzel, former department head, initiated the first insect rearing laboratory for the Department of Entomology, which was known as the “Worm Shed”. Cotton bollworms and tobacco budworms were the insects of choice.

Rearing of the infamous cotton boll weevil on artificial diets was initiated in the early 60s under the direction of Dr. R.T. Gast in the newly constructed USDA/ARS building known as the Boll Weevil Research Laboratoryadjacent to the Clay Lyle Entomology Building. He pioneered a highly successful rearing program for the boll weevil. In the late 60s he died as a result of a tragic accident, which occurred in his rearing laboratory. In 1971 insect rearing went big time on campus with the construction of the R.T. Gast Rearing Facility. The funds for this building designed for large scale mass rearing of the boll weevil (10+ million adults per week) were provided by the Mississippi Legislature. USDA (ARS and APHIS) researchers and mass rearing personnel have occupied the facility since its opening. Another Federal program that was initiated during this time was the rearing of the southwestern corn borer by the ARS Corn Insect Research Unit located also in the Boll Weevil Research Laboratory. Dr. Frank M. Davis was the entomologist in charge of developing the rearing systems for the southwestern corn borer and later other lepidopterans such as the fall armyworm, corn earworm and the tobacco budworm for developing plants resistant to these pests. Over the years, these Federal programs evolved highly efficient, fully automated to semi- automated components of the systems used for mass rearing the boll weevil and several Lepidoptera species. Some of their scientists have been recognized internationally and their technology has been and is presently being widely used world-wide. Their successes are due in part to Dr. Peter Sikorowski, an internationally recognized insectary pathologist, within the Department of Entomology, who worked diligently with these local Federal rearing programs to help minimize the impact of disease organisms & microbial diet contaminants within their insectaries.

The R.T. Gast Laboratory is now occupied by the Biological Control Mass Rearing Research Unit (ARS). Its sole mission is to develop suitable diets and mass rearing systems for a variety of insects including predators, parasites, plant feeding hemipteran and homopteran spp., and lepidopteran spp. Their diets and rearing technologies are then transferred to interested public and private enterprises. Key to the success of this research unit’s mission has been Dr. Allen A. Cohen who is an internationally recognized insect biochemist focusing on the area of developing suitable artificial diets for a wide variety of insects. Allen retired from USDA/ARS on January 3, 2003. He plans to continue his insect diet work in his new home in Arizona. We wish Allen and his wife Jackie the best in their new life adventures. The Gast facility is scheduled to close at the end of 2003 with the personnel of the research unit being transferred to the new Bio-Control building located at Stoneville, MS.

The local USDA/ARS Corn & Cotton Host Plant Resistance Research Units continue to rear the southwestern corn borer, fall armyworm, corn earworm, and tobacco budworm, utilizing one of the most efficient rearing systems ever developed for mid-sized production of lepidopterans.

The Mississippi Agricultural & Forestry Experiment Station recently provided funds for the construction of a new insect rearing facility in the Clay Lyle Entomology Building. The facility, now completed, is a state-of-the-art-rearing laboratory for producing small (hundreds) to medium (thousands) numbers of insects. This facility is being used to rear various insects for research purposes, to conduct rearing research, and to serve as a teaching laboratory for workshops and a projected university course in insect rearing.

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Center of Excellence in Insect Rearing Science & Technology

Entomologists in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Mississippi State University in partnership with some local USDA-ARS scientists have created a Center of Excellence in Insect Rearing Science and Technology. The Center is comprised of scientists who are actively conducting insect rearing research and those that have expertise in areas essential to insect rearing such as genetics, biology, ecology, and insect pathology. The primary goals of the Center are to provide: insect rearing education, research that will advance the science and technology of insect rearing, and leadership to enhance the recognition of insect rearing as a legitimate subdivision of entomology.

Insect Pathology Services and Courses

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