Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Insect infestation models may shed light on insect and disease outbreaks

01.11.2002


Models of Larch budmoth outbreaks in the European Alps may eventually show scientists how to model a variety of disease and insect eruptions that rely on a combination of enemy, host and spatial movement to decimate populations, according to a team of ecologists.



"We use theoretical models to help understand the spatial component in these outbreaks and to predict how spatial spread occurs," says Dr. Ottar N. Bjornstad, assistant professor of entomology and biology at Penn State. "With local outbreaks we expect a complex spread of pest species through the landscape, here, the species spreads in waves."

The Larch budmoth feeds on larch trees, a common evergreen variety, consuming the needles and defoliating the branches. In the European Alps, the infestation moves as predictable waves from west to east completely defoliating forests beginning in the French and Italian Alps and moving across the continent through Switzerland and into Austria.


Bjornstad; M. Peltonen and A.M. Liebhold of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and W. Baltensweiler, retired from the Swiss Institute of Technology, Zurich, report in today’s (Nov. 1) Science that "forty years of detailed surveys of defoliation caused by the Larch budmoth testify to conspicuous waves in the space-time dynamics of this system.

Creating models that predict this wave spread required consideration of the pest, its parasites, and the geographic distribution of the Larch. The historic pattern of Larch outbreaks is outbreaks that occur about every nine years and last for three to four years. The researchers confirmed that the spread of the outbreaks occurred in traveling waves and that space-time models accurately predict the geographic spread and timing of the outbreaks.

The Larch budmoth never dies out in any area of the Alps even though it totally defoliates an area. A small number of insects remain, feeding off resources left behind. While the larch trees recover, the budmoth population is kept in check by parasitic wasps that lay their eggs in the budmoth larvae. When the larva pupates, rather than a moth appearing, the adult form of the wasp emerges. Eventually, as resources improve, the budmoth population increases to reach pest levels and, because the larvae totally defoliate an area, the outbreak moves on and travels in waves through the Alps moving 125 to 186 miles per year.

"We managed to make a theoretical spatial and temporal model of the interaction between the pests, in this case the Larch budmoth, the enemy parasitic wasp and the food supply," says Bjornstad. "Generating simple geographic models allows us to predict the spatial nature of the outbreak."

The Penn State researcher notes that only with the use of fast, large cluster computers that can address spatially complex equations could this work be done. The models may be locally simple, but as the area covered increases, the dynamics become extremely complex. Unfortunately, a template does not exist to model the behavior of insects like this or human diseases that also spread in similar ways.

"We are currently working to generalize the model framework to other pest systems," says Bjornstad. "With human diseases, for example, modeling the movement of people is different and more complex than modeling the movement of moths."

While a general model will probably not be possible, a class of models researchers could use to predict insect outbreaks as well as disease epidemics such as smallpox, and measles in humans or foot-and-mouth disease in domestic animals, is slowly emerging. In each case researchers must develop a deep understanding of the specific local interactions between the pest and its resource.

"The emerging picture is that if you understand the local interactions and use a class of models that embed these on maps, you can make really good predictions," says Bjornstad.

In essence, the researchers are developing a methodology for creating models that are applicable to infectious diseases in humans, animals and plants as well as insect outbreaks. Bjornstad is currently finalizing other research on human pathogens using very similar methodology.

"The key to understanding the spatial network of disease spread for humans is more difficult," Bjornstad says. "Human movement patterns are more complex so the models have to be tweaked in each system to accommodate these differences. However, the overall methodology can model spatial outbreaks whether insect or human."

Andrea Messer | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psu.edu/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Five-point plan to integrate recreational fishers into fisheries and nature conservation policy
20.03.2019 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht Rain is important for how carbon dioxide affects grasslands
06.03.2019 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The taming of the light screw

DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.

The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Solving the efficiency of Gram-negative bacteria

22.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Bacteria bide their time when antibiotics attack

22.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Open source software helps researchers extract key insights from huge sensor datasets

22.03.2019 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>