Peter Silk - Organic Chemistry, Insect Chemical Ecology

Peter Silk

Name: Peter Silk
Field of Expertise: Organic Chemistry, Insect Chemical Ecology
Education: Ph.D. in Chemistry, University of London (UK)
Works at: Natural Resources Canada’s Atlantic Forestry Centre in Fredericton, New Brunswick

What he studies

Dr. Silk studies the chemical ecology of indigenous and exotic forest insects in Canada. This involves the isolation, identification and synthesis of pheromones and biologically active compounds of these insects for pest detection, monitoring and mitigation purposes.

What is the importance of his research?

Early detection and control of exotic insects in Canada are important for management options to be effective. Dr. Silk’s research has led to innovative control methods such as the application of non-toxic bio-degradable pheromone flakes for aerial application to forests infested by the brown spruce longhorn beetle. These synthetic pheromones can disrupt the beetle’s communication and reduce mating. Dr. Silk has also contributed to developing a pheromone-baited trap that infects BSLB with a fungus which causes the insect to die sooner and lay fewer eggs. Commercialization of this technology is vital to bringing products to market that can aid in this process.

Interesting fact

Dr. Silk has identified the pheromone for both the brown spruce longhorn beetle and the emerald ash borer and is currently working on an attractant for the sirex woodwasp among many other insects.

Current research projects

In collaboration with entomologists throughout Canada and the USA, Dr. Silk studies the chemical ecology of the brown spruce longhorn beetle, the emerald ash borer, the sirex woodwasp, the spruce budworm, the balsam fir sawfly, the balsam gall midge and other indigenous insects.

Key publications

Silk, P.J., Ryall, K., Mayo, P., Lemay, M., Grant, G., Crook, D., Cossé, A., Fraser, I., Sweeney, J.D., Lyons, D.B., Pitt, D., Scarr, T. and Magee, D. (2011), Evidence for a volatile pheromone in Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) that increases attraction to a host foliar volatile, Environmental Entomology, 40(4) 904-916.

Silk, P.J., Sweeney, J.D., Wu, J., Price, J., Gutowski, J.M. and Kettela, E.G. (2007), Evidence for a male produced pheromone in Tetropium fuscum (F.) and Tetropium cinnamopterum (Kirby) (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae), Naturwissenschaften, 94: 697-701.

Silk, P.J., Sweeney, J.D., Wu, J., Sopow, S., Mayo, P. and Magee, D. (2011), Contact Sex Pheromones Identified for Two Species of Longhorned Beetles (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) Tetropium fuscum and T. cinnamopterum in the Subfamily Spondylidinae, Environmental Entomology, 40: 714-726.

Please note that the preceding links are provided for readers' convenience. Where NRCan does not hold the copyright, there may be a cost for downloading or purchasing the material.