Pest Management Research Grants Awarded 2022

Back to Funded Pest Management Research Grants (2013 - present)

Project Summaries

Effects of Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs) on Argentine Ants and the Development of Effective IGR Baiting Systems for Sugar-Feeding Pest Ants
Sponsor: University of California - Riverside
Principal Investigator: Dr. Dong-Hwan Choe
Funding Total: $269,178

Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) is a significant pest in urban and agricultural settings in California. In response to an increased demand to find safer methods to control pest ants, recent projects have focused on improving the efficacy of liquid, carbohydrate-based bait containing reduced-risk active ingredients.

Based on other effective bait products targeting several ant species including red imported fire ant, insect growth regulators known as juvenile hormone analogues (JHAs) have demonstrated potential to be used for Argentine ant management. However, there is limited knowledge regarding the specific effects JHAs have on sugar-feeding ants. Additionally, the incompatibility of JHAs with liquid bait has significantly limited the availability of effective and affordable delivery methods using JHAs that specifically target sugar-feeding ants. This project seeks to (1) understand the effects of selected JHAs (such as (S)-methoprene and pyriproxyfen) on Argentine ants, and (2) develop an effective way to deliver JHAs to Argentine ant colonies as a new method of pest management.

This project contributes to DPR’s mission to protect human health and the environment, and support’s California’s transition to safer, more sustainable pest management, by potentially providing a new integrated pest management (IPM) strategy that has minimal non-target impacts and could significantly reduce reliance on high-risk pesticides for ant management in urban and agricultural environments. Furthermore, the use of JHAs against Argentine ants has the potential to provide long-term prevention and significantly improve control of these pests in urban and agricultural settings.

Media Contact: Dr. Dong-Hwan Choe, Principal Investigator, 951-827-5717,

Development of an In-Wood Baiting System for Western Drywood Termites
Sponsor: University of California - Riverside
Principal Investigator: Dr. Dong-Hwan Choe
Funding Total: $274,655

Structural fumigation using sulfuryl fluoride is one of the most common control options for western drywood termites (Incisitermes minor) in California. However, sulfuryl fluoride is a toxic air contaminant, is classified as an acute inhalation toxicity category I pesticide, and is an extremely potent greenhouse gas. Often, whole-structure fumigation is unnecessary as drywood termite infestations are localized, yet targeted treatment options, such as baiting, are not widely available or economically feasible. This is because drywood termites do not forage like subterranean termites, but instead live in a complex wooden gallery system surrounded by a practically limitless food supply. This project seeks to answer two important questions in determining if baiting will be a feasible control method for drywood termites:

  1. Will drywood termites feed on bait materials if they are introduced into infested wood?
  2. Will lethal quantities of a toxicant incorporated in the bait effectively spread to other termites in the colony?

This project will investigate and develop a novel ‘in-wood’ baiting system for drywood termites using a class of insect growth regulators called chitin biosynthesis inhibitors (CSIs), which have been used successfully against subterranean termite colonies. The project will also test different bait matrices and the incorporation of volatile attractants and feeding stimulants into baits to maximize bait feeding and the transfer of CSIs within the colony.

This research contributes to DPR’s mission to protect human health and the environment, and support’s California’s transition to safer, more sustainable pest management, by seeking a feasible and targeted alternative to whole-structure fumigation that has minimal negative impact and could significantly reduce the reliance on sulfuryl fluoride.

Media Contact: Dr. Dong-Hwan Choe, Principal Investigator, 951-827-5717,

Novel Precision Technologies to Reduce Insecticide Use Targeting Aphids and Thrips in Lettuce
Sponsor: University of California – Davis
Principal Investigator: Dr. Ian Grettenberger
Funding Total: $328,058

Recent innovations in precision farming have shown the potential to reduce the use of pesticides using novel technologies and computerized systems while still maintaining comparable or improved levels of pest control. This project aims to optimize two novel precision farming technologies to advance integrative pest management (IPM) for aphid species (foxglove, green peach, and lettuce aphid) and western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis) in lettuce.

This project will conduct field trials in lettuce to determine if:

  1. Precision insecticide applications using a precision sprayer to target individual lettuce plants can reduce pesticide use and improve the duration of aphid control compared to conventional whole-field broadcast applications, and
  2. Drone-released beneficial arthropods can improve biocontrol in organic lettuce production systems using whole-field, insectary planting, and field border releases.

A key component of this project is extending results to relevant stakeholders, including growers, pest control advisors, and other members of the lettuce industry. Automated precision sprayers have the potential to drastically reduce the amount of pesticide applied per acre without sacrificing control efficacy. Optimizing the technology of beneficial arthropod drone releases will encourage growers to incorporate beneficial arthropod releases into their IPM programs and expand those programs to insectary and field border plantings.

These efforts will contribute to DPR’s mission to protect human health and the environment, and support’s California’s transition to safer, more sustainable pest management by validating precise, minimum-use pesticide applications and expanding options for integrating beneficial organisms into lettuce IPM.

Media Contact: Dr. Ian Grettenberger, Principal Investigator, 530-752-0473,

Developing an IPM Approach for Management of Tadpole Shrimp in Rice
Sponsor: University of California – Davis
Principal Investigator: Dr. Ian Grettenberger
Funding Total: $277,835

The tadpole shrimp (Triops longicaudatus) is a crustacean pest of seedling rice that feeds on germinating rice plants, directly reducing yield. In conventional systems, management of tadpole shrimp relies on pyrethroid insecticides, which are often applied before fields are flooded or shortly thereafter. Recently, pyrethroids have been found at levels of concern in the Sacramento River watershed, and the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has identified pyrethroids as a priority concern.

Current monitoring guidelines recommend inspecting fields for the presence of tadpole shrimp from seeding until plants emerge through the water (about three to four weeks after seeding) at which point the plants become significantly resistant to damage caused by tadpole shrimp. However, finding tadpole shrimp before they begin damaging rice seedlings can be difficult as they are very small. Interestingly, in the Japanese rice system, where rice is transplanted, tadpole shrimp are considered biological control agents of rice weeds. However, in California, their capacity to reduce weed establishment in rice has not been explored.

Therefore, this research seeks to characterize the environmental factors affecting tadpole shrimp’s potential for damage to rice seedings and develop an integrated pest management (IPM) program that leverages their ability to control rice weeds. Introducing a natural predator (such as mosquito fish) to suppress the tadpole shrimp populations at the point just after they have effectively controlled the rice weed populations, which coincides with the timing of rice seeding, could provide an effective biological control system for both weeds and tadpole shrimp during the times in which their respective damage may occur to rice. An IPM program leveraging biological control could incentivize growers and Pest Control Advisers (PCAs) to carefully monitor and only treat for tadpole shrimp if needed during rice seeding, thereby reducing the use of pyrethroids to control tadpole shrimp and preventing any further pesticide resistance that could develop.

Thus, the goals of this project contribute to DPR’s mission to protect human health and the environment, and support’s California’s transition to safer, more sustainable pest management, by improving field monitoring of tadpole shrimp, providing targeted recommendations on damage potential, promoting alternative management strategies such as biological control, and reducing the use of insecticides.

Media Contact: Dr. Ian Grettenberger, Principal Investigator, 530-752-0473,

Receptor Interference: A Novel IPM Technology for Managing Key Insect Pests of Vegetables in California
Sponsor: United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service
Principal Investigator: Dr. Daniel Hasegawa
Funding Total: $335,878

California leads the United States in production of lettuce and several important brassica crops, including broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, with a combined value of over $2 billion annually. Western flower thrips (WFT) and diamondback moth (DBM) are two of the most economically important pests of lettuce and brassica crops in Monterey County. Challenges associated with management of these insects include increasing dependency on high-risk chemistries and concerns of resistance development to existing pesticides. A novel and emerging strategy that could alleviate these challenges involves disrupting the natural biological function of insect G Protein-Coupled Receptors (GPCRs), which are proteins that play important roles in reproduction, osmoregulation, growth, and development of these pest species. GPCRs can be disrupted and result in the death of the insect. This fundamental mechanism of the technology is referred to as Receptor interference (Receptor-i).

The goal of this project is to develop Receptor-i technology for the management of WFT and DBM. Project objectives are broken down into three phases:

  1. Discovery: Identification and expression of GPCRs that are specific to WFT and DBM,
  2. Synthesis: Screen, design, and synthesize bioactive peptides that selectively bind to and disrupt WFT and DBM GPCRs, and
  3. Efficacy: Evaluate the efficacy of bioactive peptides on WFT and DBM survival.

Outcomes of the project will be communicated to research peers and stakeholders through presentations to grower and extension organizations.

This study contributes to DPR’s mission to protect human health and the environment, and support’s California’s transition to safer, more sustainable pest management, by developing novel integrated pest management (IPM) approaches that are biologically based and have strong implications for reducing risks associated with the use of high-risk chemistries.

Media Contact: Dr. Daniel Hasegawa, Principal Investigator, 831-755-2826,

Fatal Attraction: Area-wide Control of South American Palm Weevil Using Attract-and-Kill Technology
Sponsor: University of California - Riverside
Principal Investigator: Dr. Mark Hoddle
Funding Total: $1,060,130

South American palm weevil (SAPW) is a destructive invasive pest of palms in California. This weevil established in San Diego County in 2014 and is currently restricted to urban areas where it has killed more than 20,000 palms. Control options for this pest in urban areas are exclusively reliant on foliar sprays of contact insecticides to palm crowns and applications of systemic neonicotinoid insecticides to either the soil (as drenches or pressure injections) or the trunk (injections).

In addition to ornamental palms, the edible date palm is also a known host for SAPW. As SAPW continues to expand its range, this pest will present a significant economic risk to the California date industry in the Coachella Valley. Edible dates, valued at $144 million per year, are grown on 13,000 acres and the industry conservatively employs about 4,000 people in an area of California where job opportunities are limited. Unfortunately, the insecticide treatments used in urban environments are not registered for commercial dates, and growers have very limited defensive options.

A potential alternative control approach to these conventional insecticide regimens for SAPW is to use a method called attract-and-kill. This approach uses the weevil’s innate behavior against itself. Weevils can be attracted to small, inert wax dollops that are infused with a pheromone specific to a particular weevil species and a minute amount of a contact insecticide – here, 3% cypermethrin. As the pheromone attracts the weevils to dollops, the weevils will subsequently interact with the dollops and get a lethal dose of insecticide. However, this method has not been specifically tested for SAPW. Therefore, the goal of this project is to show that attract-and-kill can significantly reduce damaging populations of SAPW in heavily infested areas of San Diego County.

This research will identify the optimal recommendation of dollop numbers per unit area for SAPW control and demonstrate the effectiveness of attract and kill through reduced palm death in attract-and-kill treatment areas when compared to non-treated areas.

This project contributes to DPR’s mission to protect human health and the environment, and support’s California’s transition to safer, more sustainable pest management, by significantly reducing reliance on current insecticide application regimens for control of SAPW in urban areas. Furthermore, this technology would be readily available to date growers, providing them with a vital defensive tool that does not rely on applying insecticides to a harvestable crop consumed by humans.

Media Contact: Dr. Mark Hoddle, Principal Investigator, 951-827-4714,

Using Entrapping Surfaces to Augment Non-chemical IPM Approaches to Bed Bug Control
Sponsor: University of California - Irvine
Principal Investigator: Dr. Catherine Loudon
Funding Total: $486,264

Bed bug infestations are a widespread problem in urban environments. While many control strategies are available as part of best management practices for bed bug (e.g., chemical insecticides, heat), pest professionals have identified bed bugs as the most difficult urban pest to control. This problem is exacerbated by bed bugs evolving resistance to chemical insecticides. Because of this evolving resistance, chemical insecticides are either ineffective or must be applied in increasing amounts to achieve the same effect.

The purpose of this project is to evaluate and optimize deployment of a new pesticide-free entrapping material. This material has the potential to be part of an overall integrated pest management (IPM) strategy for both bed bug detection and control. Several bed bug monitors are commercially available but have highly variable effectiveness in detecting bed bugs, especially for low infestation levels.

Preliminary comparisons of this material to commonly used sticky traps in the laboratory have demonstrated that this new material outperforms sticky traps in entrapment of walking bed bugs, primarily because bed bugs demonstrate an avoidance of sticky surfaces and will step back after an initial contact. The new entrapping material is not sticky and does not generate the same aversion response.

This project entails optimizing the entrapping material’s qualities for commercialization. Therefore, part of this project includes generation of microfabricated prototypes that would be easier to incorporate into manufacturing processes. This project contributes to DPR’s mission to protect human health and the environment, and support’s California’s transition to safer, more sustainable pest management, by developing a chemical-free material that can enable prevention, detection, and, in cases where insecticides are deemed necessary, can support more effective evaluation of bed bug control efforts.

Media Contact: Dr. Catherine Loudon, Principal Investigator, 949-824-0371,

Decision Support Systems to Reduce Fungicide Applications in Pistachio Orchards
Sponsor: University of California – Davis
Principal Investigator: Dr. Themis Michailides
Funding Total: $241,292

The goal of this project is to validate two decision support systems (DSS) that will reduce the use of high-risk fungicides, such as fluxapyroxad and pyraclostrobin, and enhance integrated pest management (IPM) strategies in California pistachio crops. Preliminary research has demonstrated the ability of two models to reduce the number of applications needed to control Botryosphaeria panicle and shoot blight and Alternaria late blight, the two most important diseases in pistachio. This project will establish field trials in pistachio orchards to demonstrate, at a commercial scale, that the proposed DSS can be used to time fungicide sprays only when needed. This will subsequently reduce the number of fungicide sprays relative to growers’ current calendar-based programs. Simpler methods to obtain weather data will be explored to provide user-friendly tools for growers.

The DSS will contribute to DPR’s mission to protect human health and the environment, and support’s California’s transition to safer, more sustainable pest management, by enhancing (IPM) practices that lead growers to reduce the amount of fungicides used during the season to manage these pistachio diseases. With the completion of this project, information essential to validate the models and guarantee their reliability will be generated. The project’s outcomes will be extended to stakeholders to promote the implementation of DSS in California pistachios.

Media Contact: Dr. Themis Michailides, Principal Investigator, 559-646-6546,

Biting Mites in California’s Homes and Other Structures – Assessing the Problem and Building Capacity for Institutional Outreach and Intervention
Sponsor: University of California Agricultural
Principal Investigator: Dr. Andrew Sutherland
Funding Total: $165,721

This project will develop and distribute fundamental biological information about several species of biting mites that are known to feed on human blood within homes and other structures in California. These pests cause significant dermatitis and often result in indoor applications of pesticides, some of which are of known regulatory or health concern. Biting mites are especially common in association with structural infestations of their preferred primary hosts - rodents or birds - and tend to increase in frequency when these primary hosts have been removed or eliminated.

There are no established monitoring protocols used to detect biting mites, though they are often suspected in cases of unexplained dermatitis or even expected following rodent or bird abatement programs. Furthermore, biting mite specimens that may be collected during pest inspections are rarely identified to species due to a lack of identification resources and trained personnel within vector control agencies, cooperative extension offices, and pest control companies.

Through cooperation with vector control field agents, pest control field representatives, research entomologists, and others, this project will evaluate several monitoring tactics for detecting biting mites, build and curate a statewide collection of biting mite specimens, use this collection to develop user-friendly identification and management resources, and share these resources with stakeholders throughout the state.

This project will contribute to DPR’s mission to protect human health and the environment, and support’s California’s transition to safer, more sustainable pest management, by developing the capacity for identification and monitoring of biting mites that should ultimately result in earlier detections, fewer misidentifications, and decreases in unnecessary pesticide applications.

Media Contact: Dr. Andrew Sutherland, Principal Investigator, 510-670-5624,

For content questions, contact:
Jordan Weibel
1001 I Street, P.O. Box 4015
Sacramento, CA 95812-4015