Outside view of the Insect Production and Quarantine Laboratories building
More than 30 alien forest insects are prevalent in the province of Ontario alone, including the recently established Asian longhorned beetle, the emerald ash borer and the sirex wood wasp.
These pests cause economic and ecological damage to natural and urban forests and have changed pest management research priorities from native to alien pests.
New insect production and quarantine laboratories recently opened at Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan’s) Great Lakes Forestry Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The labs provide updated facilities for NRCan and partner researchers to develop environmentally friendly pest control strategies to protect forests from invasive pests.
Expanded Facilities Prevent Contamination
A typical research module at the Insect Production and Quarantine Laboratories
The expanded facilities feature an invasive species zone and a domestic species zone, both built to clean room technology standards. Used in hospital isolation and surgical rooms, clean room technology reduces airborne pathogens. Sanitary conditions are important for the establishment and maintenance of year-round insect colonies.
“Microbial contamination can wipe out entire insect colonies in the lab,” says Peter Ebling, manager of NRCan’s Insect Production Services. “Clean-room standards enable us to maintain strict sanitation requirements to ensure the disease-free status of our insect colonies.”
The provision of year-round insect test material will improve researchers’ understanding of the unique biology of various invasive insect species, which will inform the development of pest control strategies.
Features of Clean Room Technology
The Diet Kitchen, where artificial insect diets are prepared
The zones feature a HEPA filtered air supply system that eliminates 99.97 percent of airborne contaminants greater than 0.3 microns in size.
HEPA-filtered air curtains provide clean flowing air across doorways to the quarantine zone, minimizing contaminated air from entering the lab when doors are opened and preventing flying insects from escaping.
Negative air pressure is used to control the direction of air flow, further ensuring that insects do not escape the lab where they could have significant impacts in the natural ecosystem.
The mountain pine beetle, one of the insects researchers are developing to support new research
Photo Credit: Klaus Bolte
Individual lab chambers are fitted with air desiccators to dehumidify. Humidity control is another key clean room technology feature, essential for reducing fungal and bacterial contamination within insect rearing systems.
New Colonies Established
The Insect Production Services team has already started a program to develop laboratory colonies of insects in the new facilities. Asian longhorned beetle, mountain pine beetle and brown spruce longhorn beetle colonies are being initiated to support research specific to these species.
Learn about NRCan’s Insect Production Services.
For information on native and invasive pests in Canada’s forests, visit NRCan’s “Insects and Diseases” Web page.
To read about related articles, see Forest Disturbances
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