Home owners may sleep better because student overcame her fear of insects

(Blacksburg, VA, June 21, 1999) -- "I'm living proof that people can get over their fear of insects," says Colleen Cannon of Chanhasasen, Minn.

The Flushing, N.Y. native was in art school when she took a book out of the library that had nice illustrations--of insects. In addition to studying the pictures, she read the text. "I learned how interesting insects are." That summer, she took an entomology course that had her in the field collecting bugs.

Cannon went on to earn a bachelor's degree in biology from Queens College and become a graduate student in the entomology department at Virginia Tech.

After doing her master's degree research on the wintering behavior of carpenter ants, Cannon decided to bring the insects into a Virginia Tech lab to study for her doctoral degree research on the insects' foraging behavior. Her desire to maintain a colony of carpenter ants in the lab has resulted in an effective bait for control of carpenter ants.

"To maintain colonies in the lab, we had to develop a diet we could feed them," says Virginia Tech professor of entomology Rick Fell.

"We had something that was working well when a visitor from the Clorox Company commented on the ants' enthusiasm. I told him that we were working on developing a bait and they asked to become partners in the effort."

That was 1990.

"We were interested in doing this research because baits are safe," says Fell. "They use small amounts of toxins and get directly to the target insect. Baits are the growing insect-control technology, but to be effective, you have to understand the insect. It takes basic research on feed, foraging, and physiology."

Cannon looked at the roles of various compounds in the diet, such as proteins and sugar. "We found that proteins are important all year," says Fell.

For six more years, Fell and a team of students studied other aspects of the lives and times of carpenter ants to determine their favorite food, how th

Contact: Rick Fell
Virginia Tech

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