Man stores many different products for a variety of purposes. Stored products include food, wood, clothing and also items in museums stored for posterity. Stored biological materials represent huge food resources which can be attacked by a variety of different types of insects, but mostly beetles and moths. These insects have the potential to cause substantial damage resulting in loss of life (through starvation), financial losses and loss of artefacts of historical and cultural significance. Despite the fact that many of these insects have been with us for centuries it is remarkable how little we know about the ecology of most of these species. A major project is ongoing at the University of Reading to better understand the features of these species that make them so damaging and how this knowledge might be better deployed to manage populations of insect populations of stored products. Most of the research is carried out under laboratory conditions although some species move between the store (or museum) and the field, and studying the behaviour and ecology of these more mobile species poses particular challenges. As well as ecological and behavioural work we are deploying molecular techniques to investigate differentiation of geographical populations at the genetic level. There are a large number of species that could be integrated into the current research project but we are currently focussing on Curculionidae, Tenebrionidae, Bruchidae, Bostrichidae, Silvaniidae, Dermestidae, Tineidae among others. Opportunities for research into this type of applied entomology are extremely limited largely because universities and other research organisations tend not to hold stocks of stored product insects any more. At Reading we hold probably the largest and one of the last remaining collections of stored product insect species in the country in dedicated constant temperature and humidity facilities. Without these resources the research project described above would not be possible.
Please note that there are no studentships being offered for this research area by the University of Reading.