Our rearing program is an outgrowth of nearly 40 years of research by Allen C. Cohen. Allen’s past research on rearing and insect feeding systems biology began at the University of California, Riverside in the mid-1970s (with studies on desert cockroaches and blister beetles), continued at the University of Arizona and the USDA, Agricultural Research Service with predator rearing and mass-rearing of Lygus bugs and various Lepidoptera species in Tucson, Arizona and on cotton insects in Phoenix, Arizona. Allen finished his ARS career at Mississippi State University with the Biological Control and Mass-Rearing Research Unit (in the early 2000s), and he spent about 6 years running a small research/consulting business on insect diets and rearing systems. In 2010, Allen became a Research Professor in the Department of Entomology at North Carolina State University, where he has worked with dozens of insect species, developing diets, working out mass-rearing technology, and doing basic work on insect feeding biology.
The rearing program currently consists of two projects supported by and in cooperation with the USDA, APHIS for rearing emerald ash borers and spotted lanternflies.
We also do research on problems that are based on model systems (such as tobacco hornworms, drosophilid flies, and other organisms that allow us to test emerging hypotheses and emerging questions). An example of this kind of inquiry is in regard to the long-standing use of various yeast products in insect rearing. In answer to questions about kinds of yeast products that are best-suited for rearing target or model system insects (such as hornworms = Manduca sexta) we routinely test rearing system (often diet) components and rearing system processes. The video below shows one of our tests with different yeast products and other components and processes involved with the tobacco hornworm diet described by Yamamoto (1969) and modified by Bell and Joachim (1976). We use as an important part of our research video and other microscopic and biochemical documentation and inquiry to help us set standards of evaluating and testing our hypotheses. For example, when we observe tobacco hornworms feeding on the Yamamoto diet, we see darkening of the diet where feeding takes place. This raises the issue about the nature and role of phenol oxidase in hornworm saliva. We try to place this observation of diet-darkening into the context of the natural feeding biology of this insect vs. possible questions of diet deterioration related to components of the diet or the processes in making the diet. See the accompanying video.
These are neonate (newly hatched) hornworms feeding on the Yamamoto (1969) diet.
Note that in this video the hornworm’s mouthparts apply a liquid to the diet.