Within the Laboratory at Harper Adams University, there are three Weiss Technik Fitotron plant growth rooms capable of maintaining conditions of 5 to 35°C, 60 to 90% relative humidity and light intensities of up to 280 umol/m2/s providing state of the art facilities in which to maintain insect cultures and complete entomology research.
Each room is programmable enabling constant or cycling conditions to be maintained. This allows insects to be cultured throughout the year and research to be completed at any time simulating conditions found throughout the year or projected climatic changes. Without this facility research would be seasonal in nature and restricted to being completed at ambient conditions.
Insect cultures maintained include 12 key aphid pest species of cereals, oilseed rape, potatoes, sugar beet, peas and beans as well as horticultural crops. In addition to crops pests cultures of natural enemies and other beneficial insects are maintained.
The laboratory is well equipped with compound and binocular microscopes, fridge, freezer, oven, fume cupboard and equipment used to rear insects e.g. insect proof cages and clip cages. Microscope cameras are available as is a high speed digital camera capable of filming at up to 3000 frames per second, enabling insect flight to be recorded.
This facility is one of the few laboratories equipped to study insect behaviour and physiology. Equipment used in this work includes Noldus Observer image tracking software, a range of bespoke insect olfactometers (Y-tube and Petterson 4-arm) and an insect flight tunnel. Additionally, there are six portable air entrainment kits with which to study plant responses to insect herbivory.
This resource underpins the research undertaken in the laboratory and supports, undergraduate, postgraduate and short courses such as BASIS teaching, during which the insects are used to test identification skills of future agronomists.