We just finished our first year of teaching live, online courses in rearing! The courses consisted of 3-courses, each course lasting for one month, with Course 1 on insect diets, Course 2 on rearing operating systems, and Course 3 focusing on design and control of rearing systems. About 40 students/participants were in the courses, which consisted of eight 2.5 hour lectures, with discussion and plenty of examples of rearing fundamentals. One of the key features of these courses was the LIVE tutorials on applying JMP’s Design of Experiments and statistical process/quality control.

One of the major themes of these courses is the quest to understand the totality of rearing systems in terms of interacting components. Professor Cohen emphasizes that your rearing system is an artificial ecological niche, and just as organisms’ ecology must be understood from the perspective of their NATURAL niches, in rearing systems, we are best served by understanding the artificial niche conditions that we impose on our rearing subjects

The Diet Matrix (from Cohen 2004 and 2015), showing a few of the interactions between diet components and the target insect.

The figure here shows an artificial diet containing soy flour, wheat germ, agar, and other typical diet components. The theme of this picture is the complexity of diet components such as the electropherogram (lower right) showing the effects of cooking soy proteins (lanes 6, 7, and 8) vs. presenting raw soy proteins (lanes 3, 4, and 5). The cooked proteins are denatured, a process which limits the anti-nutritional qualities of soy (removing inhibition of proteases and other “killing’ other enzymes that are potentially damaging to the insects. The lipids (in red) interact with the proteins in a way that makes the lipoprotein complexes more available to the insects’ digestive system. The various proteins interact with the agar (or other gelling agents) to make the texture of the diet more palatable to the insect, and the interactions may help stabilize the various diet components so that the oxidation of lipids and other damaging reactions such as destruction of ascorbic acid is averted or reduced in rate of deterioration. All these (AND MANY MORE) interactions are part of the concept of diet matrix characteristics.

These are a few of the typical topics that we take up in the live, synchronous rearing courses. It’s certainly complex, but it’s what we need to understand to make our rearing systems work the way we want them to work!