My research focuses on the biological control and integrated management of insect pests. Understanding the ecological and biological relationships between insects and their natural enemies (pathogens, parasitoids and predators) and the interactions between these natural enemies is fundamental to effective biological control and is central to my research. Strategies which manipulate natural enemies to enhance their impact on pest populations are under development, examples include
- Integration of biological stressors and fungal entomopathogens for improved control of insect pests
- Reduced insecticide inputs combined with the provision of adult food sources to enhance endemic parasitoid performance
- Utilizing inducible plant defences to manipulate pests and improve the effectiveness of natural enemies.
Externally funded research projects concentrate on the development of sustainable pest management strategies for insect pests in developing countries. In Indonesia the structure and function of the natural enemy complexes attacking the diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) and the cabbage cluster caterpillar (Crocidolomia pavonana) are being determined. In Samoa the biology and ecology of the egg parasitoid Trichogramma chilonis is being investigated and the possibility of its release as a biological control agent of C. pavonana in Fiji, Tonga and Solomon Islands explored. Research in Fiji is focused on quantifying field resistance of the diamondback moth to commonly used insecticides. An insecticide resistance management strategy has been developed and will be implemented in collaboration with UN-FAO.