Grasshopper Rearing in Support of Methods Development for Rangeland Research

Project: Research project

Description

As the USDA and ranchers move to more environmentally friendly methods of grasshopper control, significant amounts of research have gone into developing biological pesticides to manage grasshopper outbreaks, including by the Phoenix Labs Rangeland Grasshopper and Mormon Cricket Management Team (RGMCMT). While biopesticides are viable methods for management, they are not widely used, in part, because they are generally less effective than traditional pesticides. The decreased effectiveness is due to insects natural ability to fight infections through behavioral fever, encapsulation, and melanization. For example, biopesticide application is typically recommended when field temperatures are low, to preclude grasshoppers from implementing behavioral fever. In addition to considering temperature ranges, increasingly, research is showing that the balance of macronutrients is important for immune function in insects and that this should be considered in how biopesticides are used for control. One potential way to fully harness the power of biopesticides is to use grasshoppers nutritional physiology against them. For example, grasshoppers feeding on certain diets can have a weakened immune system, as shown with the Australian plague locust, Chortoicetes terminifera, eating high protein diets. However, as of yet, it is unknown how diet impacts immune function in the major US rangeland pest, M. sanguinipes, and there is a limited understanding of how nutritional status affects grasshopper immune responses to Beauvaria bassiana or Nosema locustae.

ASUs Cease Lab has been identified as an excellent source from which to draw personnel support to address these questions due to its focus on grasshopper research, its close proximity to the RGMCMT, its existing ties to the RGMCMT in the form of this current Cooperative Agreement, and its many promising student candidates. For the FY19 summer season, PhD student Deanna Zembrzuski, and undergraduate student, Dustin Grief, have proposed a study looking at the nutritional choices of Melanoplus sanguinipes infected with various biopesticide pathogens (Beauvaria bassiana, Metarhizium DWR 2009, and Nosema locustae) with and without thermoregulation, to determine if biopesticides affect nutrition of grasshoppers. Both students have a strong interest in grasshopper pathogens and immune responses and have expertise conducting grasshopper nutrition experiments. Deannas responsibilities will include designing and setting up experiments, running experiments, recording and analyzing data, cleaning up experiments, and writing up results of the experiments. Dustins responsibilities will include helping set up and run experiments, recording data, and cleaning up and organizing experiment supplies.

Description

Description
Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe, AZ has a Grasshopper Rearing Facility (GRF), founded and overseen by Cease Lab: Dr. Arianne Cease, School of Sustainability. For the purposes of laboratory experiments, this facility currently maintains colonies of four species of grasshoppers (Orthoptera: Acrididae), one from the U.S. and the other three from various parts of the world (acquired and kept with USDA permission). These colonies are maintained year-round by qualified staff from ASUs Department of Animal Care Technologies. To maintain colony health, wild-caught specimens are occasionally incorporated after following strict quarantine protocols.
Deliverables
ASUs GRF will provide space and continued, year-round maintenance for the rearing of a healthy colony of the migratory grasshopper, Melanoplus sanguinipes (Fabricius, 1798) (native to wide swaths of the U.S.) of sufficient size for the purposes of laboratory experiments outside of the summer field season in the CPHST Phoenix Lab by the Rangeland Grasshopper-Mormon Cricket Management Team (RGMCMT). The colony will initially be comprised of seed specimens from Dr. Stefan Jaronskis (ARS) colony in the USDA lab in Sidney, MT, with more specimens added periodically from samples taken from the rangelands of the 17 western states during RGMCMTs summer field season, which usually runs from June through August.

Description

Every summer field season (usually early June to early August), the Phoenix Labs Rangeland Grasshopper and Mormon Cricket Management Team (RGMCMT) typically journeys to a new location within the 17 states to conduct program-scale field experiments containing sufficient populations of grasshoppers. The field season is critical to the continued success of the USDAs Rangeland Grasshopper and Mormon Cricket Suppression Program and consists of two main components. The primary component involves setting up multiple experimental plots that are 40-160 acres in size and treating them with insecticides using an airplane. The secondary component involves setting up additional, smaller-scale experiments and studies, such as testing application methods, investigating biopesticides, and assessing the status of non-target arthropods. All of these tasks are arduous given their scale and field conditions (e.g., hot and dusty), and often tax the limits of the typical three-person team that is the RGMCMT. Days are long and usually include at least two hours of overtime/comp time. Time off is a rare event due to the continuous nature of required tasks, like assessing grasshopper densities in plots via manual counts, which is why weekends become work days, earning further overtime/comp time. Throughout the history of the RGMCMT, additional employees have been called upon via the use of Cooperative Agreements, TDYs, and Limited Authorities in order to, most importantly, lighten the work load while also providing invaluable field experience, particularly in an ecosystem that is dynamic and unique.

ASUs Cease Lab has been identified as an excellent source from which to draw personnel support for the summer field season due to its focus on grasshopper research, its close proximity to the RGMCMT, its existing ties to the RGMCMT in the form of this current Cooperative Agreement, and its many promising student candidates. In particular, an early Ph.D. student has been identified as the specific Cease Lab member desired to join the RGMCMT for its FY18 summer field season for five reasons: 1) her work ethic and desire to learn new skills, 2) her interest in gaining more field experience, 3) her interest in a USDA career, 4) her knowledge of grasshoppers, and 5) her interest in developing a project both useful to the mission of the USDAs Rangeland Grasshopper and Mormon Cricket Suppression Program and her dissertation. Concerning the latter, several project ideas have been suggested jointly and are currently being developed for implementation during FY18.
StatusActive
Effective start/end date9/1/178/31/19

Funding

  • US Department of Agriculture (USDA): $97,351.00

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grasshoppers
rangelands
rearing
Anabrus simplex
biopesticides
methodology
USDA
Melanoplus sanguinipes
students
summer
Nosema locustae
Chortoicetes terminifera
human resources
cooperatives
cleaning
fever