The major areas of my research interest are applied insect ecology, evolution, insect behavior, and integrated pest management. I am also interested in more theoretical investigations of factors responsible for growth and diversity of insect populations.
Presently, humans posses a vast arsenal of different pest control techniques, ranging from synthetic insecticides to natural enemies, and from transgenic plants to quarantine regulations. What is lacking, however, is a good understanding of the ecological consequences of their implementation for both target and non-target organisms. When a particular action is taken, whether it is an insecticide application, planting of a transgenic cultivar, or release of a biological control agent, it is imperative that we can forecast the sequence(s) of events it might trigger.
Most ecological systems are very complex, and their good understanding is extremely difficult. However, sustainable development of the human civilization is hardly possible without such an understanding. As a scientist, I hope that my research will contribute to building a knowledge-based foundation for predicting effects of human intervention in insect communities.
Exact projects under way in our laboratory vary from year to year depending on stakeholder needs, availability of funding, and graduate student interests. However, they usually fall within the following broad areas:
Biotic and Abiotic Factors Affecting Insect Abundance
Reducing heavy chemical dependency typical of commercial agriculture is impossible without a good understanding of alternative factors affecting the densities of insect populations. This includes their direct and indirect interactions with weather, soils, host plants, competitors, natural enemies, cultural practices, and insecticides. We use both experimental approach and ecoinformatics to investigate mechanisms that regulate abundance and diversity of insect herbivores. We also look at the applications of modern technologies, such as precision agriculture, to fine-tuning these mechanisms to our advantage. Most of our research can probably fall under this general umbrella topic.
- Booth, E., A. Alyokhin, and S. Pinatti. 2017. Adult cannibalism in an oligophagous herbivore, the Colorado potato beetle. Insect Science 24: 295-302. [E-mail to request a reprint]
- Alyokhin, A., F. A. Drummond, G. Sewell, and R. H. Storch. 2011. Differential effects of weather and natural enemies on coexisting aphid populations. Environmental Entomology 40: 570-580. [Full Text]
- Finlayson, C. J., A. V. Alyokhin, and E. W. Porter. 2009. Interactions of native and non-native lady beetle species (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) with aphid-tending ants in laboratory arenas. Environmental Entomology 38: 846-855. [Full Text]
- Alyokhin, A. and R. Atlihan. 2005. Reduced fitness of the Colorado potato beetle (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) on potato plants grown in manure-amended soil.Environmental Entomology 34: 963-968. [Full Text]
- Alyokhin, A. V., P. Yang, and R. H. Messing. 2004. Oviposition of the invasive two-spotted leafhopper on an endemic tree: Effects of an alien weed, foliar pubescence, and habitat humidity. 7pp. Journal of Insect Science, 4:13, Available online: insectscience.org/4.13. [Full Text]
Recycling organic wastes using black soldier fly larvae
We work on developing black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens, as a bioconversion agent for agricultural wastes. Larvae of this species convert a variety of decaying materials to harvestable biomass that can be formulated as animal feed. We investigate larval ecology with the goal of improving efficiency and safety of their rearing on medium and large scales.
- Erbland, P. A. Alyokhin, L. B. Perkins, and M. Peterson. 2020. Dose-dependent retention of omega-3 fatty acids by black soldier fly larvae (Diptera: Stratiomyidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 113: 1221-1226.[E-mail to request a reprint]
- Bernard, E., J. Villazana, A. Alyokhin, and J. Rose. 2020. Colonization of finfish substrate inhabited by black soldier fly larvae by blow flies, bacteria, and fungi. Journal of Insects as Food and Feed 6: 291-304. [E-mail to request a reprint]
- Villazana, J. and A. Alyokhin. 2019. Tolerance of immature black soldier flies (Diptera: Stratiomyidae) to cold temperatures above and below freezing point. Journal of Economic Entomology 112: 2632-2637. [E-mail to request a reprint]
- Alyokhin, A., A. Buzza, and J. Beaulieu. 2019. Effects of food substrates and moxidectin on development of black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens. Journal of Applied Entomology 143: 137-143. [E-mail to request a reprint]
Ecological impacts of non-native species
Movement and establishment of various species beyond their natural distribution ranges is one of the defining ecological processes of the 20th and 21st centuries. Some of these species do not seem to have much of an effect. Others become major economic and environmental pests. Still others are beneficial, at least as far as some people are concerned. We document the impacts of such species and investigate the underlying mechanisms behind these impacts.
- Insinga, J.K., A. Alyokhin, J. Hao, T. Ge, N. F. Marangoni, A. Baron. 2021. Dickeya dianthicola is not vectored by two common insect pests of potato. PhytoFrontiers 1: 160-172. [Full Text]
- Leppanen, C., A. Alyokhin, and S. Gross. 2012. Competition for aphid prey between different lady beetle species in a laboratory arena. Psyche: A Journal of Entomology 2012: Article ID 890327, 9 pp. [Full Text]
- Finlayson, C. J., K. M. Landry, and A. V. Alyokhin. 2008. Abundance of native and non-native lady beetles (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in different habitats in Maine. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 101: 1078-1087. [Full Text]
- Alyokhin, A. and G. Sewell. 2004. Changes in a lady beetle community following the establishment of three alien species. Biological Invasions 6: 463-471. [Full Text]
Contemporary Microevolution in Agricultural Ecosystems
We mostly use the Colorado potato beetle adaptation to insecticides as a model system. This species is infamous for its remarkable ability to develop resistance to virtually every chemical that has ever been used against it. In some cases, a new insecticide failed after one year or even during the first year of use. We are investigating behavioral ecology and population genetics of this insect in an attempt to come up with management approaches allowing to extend the useful life of commercially used insecticides.
- Alyokhin, A. and Y. H. Chen. 2017. Adaptation to toxic hosts as a factor in the evolution of insecticide resistance. Current Opinion in Insect Science 21: 33-38. [E-mail to request a reprint]
- Alyokhin, A. 2011. Scant evidence supports EPA's pyramided Bt corn refuge size of 5%. Nature Biotechnology 29: 577â€“578. [E-mail to request a reprint]
- Baker, M. B., A. Alyokhin, A. H. Porter, D. N. Ferro, S. R. Dastur, and N. Galal. 2007. Persistence and inheritance of costs of resistance to imidacloprid in Colorado potato beetle. Journal of Economic Entomology 100: 1871-1879. [Full Text]
Insecticide Development and Testing
Insecticides remain to be a foundation of insect pest management in commercial agriculture. Their safe and efficient use is impossible without a good understanding of ecological ramifications of toxin release in the environment. In cooperation with chemical companies, we conduct an extensive (up to 100 treatments per year) insecticide screening program on potatoes. We are mostly interested in insecticide impacts on target and non-target organisms, as well as on the spread of insect-vectored disease among potato plants.
To see everyday field operations of our insecticide program, please check out the video below:
- Popov, S. Ya. and A. Alyokhin. 2019. Gender-specific acaricidal properties and sexual transmission of spirotetramat in two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychidae: Acariformes). Journal of Economic Entomology 112: 2186-2192. [E-mail to request a reprint]
- Patterson, M. and A. Alyokhin. 2014. Survival and development of Colorado potato beetles on potatoes treated with phosphite. Crop Protection 61: 38-42. [E-mail to request a reprint]
- Alyokhin, A., J. Makatiani, and K. Takasu. 2010. Insecticide odour interference with food-searching behaviour of Microplitis croceipes (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) in a laboratory arena. Biocontrol Science and Technology 20: 317-329. [E-mail to request a reprint]
- Alyokhin, A., R. Guillemette, and R. Choban. 2009. Stimulatory and suppressive effects of novaluron on the Colorado potato beetle reproduction. Journal of Economic Entomology 102: 2078-2083. [Full Text]
Transmission of Plant Diseases by Insects
Successful protection of cultivated plants from pathogens is impossible without a good understanding of their epidemiology. We investigate the contribution of insect vectors to spreading disease within and between potato fields, as vector management is often the most efficient approach to preventing disease outbreaks. Our main emphasis is on Potato virus Y and aphids, but we also look at the transmission (or lack thereof) of blackleg by insect pests.
Here is a video on Potato virus Y that we produced together with the Cooperative Extension:
Here is another video describing some Potato virus Y research in our laboratory:
- Galimberti, A., A. Alyokhin, H. Qu, and J. Rose. 2020. Simulation modelling of Potato virus Y spread in relation to initial inoculum and vector activity. Journal of Integrative Agriculture 19: 376-388. [Full text]
- Galimberti, A. and A. Alyokhin. 2018. Lethal and sublethal effects of mineral oil on potato pests. Journal of Economic Entomology 111: 1261-1267. [E-mail to request a reprint]
- Booth, E. and A. Alyokhin. 2016. Colorado potato beetle response to potato plants infected with Potato Virus Y and Potato Leafroll Virus. American Journal of Potato Research 93: 213-223. [E-mail to request a reprint]