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Student Research Spotlight - Hillary Morin

Posted: April 28, 2017

his is the 6th of thirteen short news articles written by students, during the professional development class, about each other's research.

Who Would Eat a Stink Bug?
By: Brandon Gominho

What do you think of when you hear the word “predator”? I’m sure the first thought in your mind is the speed of a cheetah, the power of a lion, or the teeth of a shark. However, not all predators are scary; in fact, some predators can protect us from the real threat.

The real threat to our way of life is Halyomorpha halys, also known as the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB). The BMSB is a pest that feeds on key crops from corn and soybeans to apples and peaches. The current method to control BMSB is to spray insecticides, but what about the helpful natural enemies caught in the crossfire?

Hillary Morin, a researcher at Penn State, expresses her concern for the predators when she says “we don’t know much about how the insecticides we are using are affecting the natural enemies”. That is why Hillary is trying to figure out how we can use natural enemies and current practices together to reduce predator deaths and reduce damage caused by BMSB.

According to Morin, BMSB is an invasive species originally from Asia, but was introduced in the US in the late 90’s. Because BMSB was introduced to a new environment, it was separated from its natural enemies, allowing BMSB population to grow and spread without any fear of predation. The natural enemies of the BMSB not only include the predators that eat the adults, such as predatory insects and spiders, but also the parasitoids that kill the BMSB eggs.

Trying to assess the natural enemy community of BMSB is a daunting task, but Hillary designed a set of experiments to properly assess the natural enemy community.

To understand which BMSB egg parasitoids are present in the natural enemy community, Hillary will survey the parasitoids that emerge from fresh and frozen BMSB egg masses and from naturally collected native egg masses.

To understand how insecticides are affecting the natural enemy population, Hillary will run a few experiments. She will treat predators and parasitoids with insecticides and look at if they react differently than untreated enemies. She also will try to find out if untreated predators will feed on sprayed BMSB eggs, nymphs, and adults.  

These experiments will broaden our understanding of BMSB’s natural enemy community, and how to protect and support it by allowing farmers to properly coordinate the application of insecticides to minimize unnecessary casualties.

Predators should not be feared or forgotten; they should be protected. “Working with, instead of against, the predators and parasitoids of the stink bug will allow us, and natural enemies, to all enjoy our meals.”