Rothamsted Research

where knowledge grows

Using entomological radars, tethered-flight systems and large-scale field sampling programs, our group studies the movement ecology and population dynamics of insects over large scales.

Our group studies the movement ecology and population dynamics of insects, primarily species of agricultural significance in the UK. We use a variety of techniques including entomological radars, tethered-flight systems, large-scale field sampling programs and long-term population data to increase our understanding of the spatio-temporal dynamics of a broad range of taxa including crop pests, their natural enemies and bioindicators that inhabit agricultural landscapes. We work closely with the Rothamsted Insect Survey within the Agro-Ecology Department , and contribute to the 'Movement and Spatial Ecology' workpackage of the Delivering Sustainable Systems ISP.

Research Theme 1: Migration

A major theme of our work is to understand the role that movement over all scales plays in the spatial structuring of insect populations, and how we can use this information to predict these patterns.

Our work using entomological radars have recently led to major advances in our understanding of how long-range migrants such as the Silver Y moth Autographa gamma are able to successfully move between breeding locations separated by hundreds of kilometres in just a few days. Work underway by Hayley (PhD student) will shed light on traits required by these migrants.

Research Theme 2: Spatial & Community Ecology

Rothamsted Insect Survey and ECN data have been used extensively by the group to understand spatial structuring of aphid, carabid and moth populations. Recently, James showed how pathogen mediated oscillations can be damped by a change in host plant quality. Dave's work on carabid beetles highlighted that three-quarters of carabid species studied declined, half of which were estimated to be undergoing population reductions of >30%.

Research Theme 3: Integrated Pest Management

Our work applies an understanding of how pests and their natural enemies move around the agricultural landscape to improve pest management strategies.

Sam Cook has recently identified the major colour receptors of the pollen beetle and is applying this to optimize monitoring trap design and crop improvement. Jason Baverstock has shown that field margins support predators, parasitoids and pathogens of crops pests, with different margin types supporting different guilds of natural enemies.

Sam Cook, Jason Baverstock & Martin Torrance are assessing how field margins can be improved to provide resources for key groups of natural enemies of the major pests of the arable rotation. Sam Cook & Matt Skellern are assessing how better oilseed rape crop and margin management can improve biocontrol in the agro-ecosystem