Our research group on “Sustainable Insect Management” works on the management of pest and beneficial insects, including biocontrol agents and pollinators, of importance to us all. Examples: (i) Food security - pollinators: It has been estimated that one-third of our total diet is dependent directly or indirectly on insect-pollinated crops. The value of the increased yield and quality to agriculture achieved through honey bee pollination alone is calculated in hundreds of billions (euro).
Honey bee workers forage for nectar and pollen to feed their colonies, and in the process they pollinate crops and supply us with honey and other products. Recently this mutually beneficial partnership is in jeopardy, while also the populations of wild pollinators are on the decline. Insects are also a key component of food security and livelihoods in Arctic regions, currently suffering from warming climate more than any other part of the world. (ii) Food security - invasive pests: major threats to Northern regions from invasive pests such as the spotted wing Drosophila, Asian longhorn beetle, but also climate change induced new threats from native species such as the great pine web-spinning sawfly Acantholyda posticalis. (iii) Emerging technologies: RNAi technology opens the opportunity for pest management not working over vast agricultural areas, and not working via the agricultural crop (as GM crop), but by working with the insect itself. This enables intelligent, highly targeted, safe and sustainable pest management, based on combining insect molecular biology with in-depth knowledge of insect behavior and ecology.