Knowledge on insect behaviour helps prevent agricultural and forest damage

Professor Ian Hardy improves food safety and maintenance security by searching for solutions to pest control problems.

What are your research topics?

My research is a mixture of fundamental animal — usually insect — behaviour studies and the applications of these to agricultural pest control.

Where and how does your research topic have an impact?

The animal behaviour side of my research is for ‘pure’ interest — people are endlessly interested in how animals (including humans) do things like reproduce and compete for resources.

The more applied side of my work is important because it develops sustainable approaches for achieving food security for an increasing world population during a period of social and climate changes.

What is particularly inspiring in your field right now?

I have been exploring hitherto unknown aspects of reproduction by social parasitic wasps. These wasps, living in groups, turn out to have a mixture of cooperation and conflicts of interest. Much of it seems to be manifest by dominant females allowing subordinates to reproduce but to produce mainly daughters and few sons.

These wasps are also important in the control of invasive forest pests in various countries, so understanding their reproductive biology helps to solve pest control problems. I have also been working with an expert panel on a report on the state of applications of insecticides in mainly European agriculture: this may be the most societally and ecologically important contribution I ever make. 


Ian Hardy is the Professor of Agricultural Entomology at the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry.

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