Insect-Microbe Interactions

Insects interact with a multitude of microorganisms, which range from being pathogenic to beneficial. We study fundamental and applied aspects of these interactions to contribute to the sustainable development of plant protection, pollination services and insect production.

We aim to elucidate the ecological roles of entomopathogenic fungi as plant and insect symbionts, and to develop these fungi for biological control of pests. We study pathogens and parasites of honey bees, and we contribute to maintenance of health of insects in production systems.

 

 

 

 

Research theme: Plant-Microbe-Insect Interactions

Several entomopathogenic fungi can associate with plants. We study the ecological effects of fungi colonizing the rhizosphere and plant tissues as endophytes in different crop plants. We are interested in demonstrating effects on herbivores feeding on fungal inoculated plants and elucidating the mechanisms behind.

We evaluate inoculation methods and variability among fungal species and genotypes to associate with plant tissues. Specifically, we wish to understand how and if the responses of the fungal inoculated plants can enhance the plant’s own defence against herbivores and phytopathogens. We want to assess how the inoculations are compatible with other biological agents in a multi-trophic context. We are also interested in studying effects of other biocontrol fungi than entomopathogens to elucidate the broader food-web implications of plant-colonizing fungi in context dependent scenarios.

Theme leader: Nicolai Vitt Meyling

 

Research theme: Microbial Pest Control

Entomopathogenic fungi are a resource for environmentally friendly and sustainable pest control as alternatives to chemical insecticides. Several fungi are already commercially available for plant protection. However, before the full potential of entomopathogens for biological control can be reached, a range of fundamental and applied questions must be addressed. We focus our research on how the fungi can be applied and integrated in plant production systems, and how the fungi may interact with management practices and other biocontrol agents. Our studies have relevance for both augmentative and conservation biological control strategies.

Our studies involve mainly hypocrealean fungi from the genera Metarhizium and Beauveria, as well as genera from Entomophthoromycota. We collaborate with universities as well as research institutes, private companies and stakeholders, including farmers and advisors.

Theme leader: Nicolai Vitt Meyling

 

Research theme: Honey Bees and Bee Health

The honeybee Apis mellifera is the most important pollinator worldwide and among the few domesticated insects. Honeybees live in confined spaces where they form societies made up of thousands of closely interacting nest mates. Faced with an increased risk of disease transmission, they have developed group-level strategies to maintain healthy colonies in addition to individual defences.

We study and evaluate the impact of hygienic behaviour (the removal of infected individuals), altruistic self-removal, or avoidance behaviour, as well as other interaction-based behaviours that prevent the spread of infections throughout the colony. We have worked with fungal diseases like chalkbrood (Ascosphaera) and stonebrood (Aspergillus) and the gut pathogen Nosema. We also study the risk of fungal biological control agents towards honeybees, bumblebees and stingless bees. We are interested in studying diseases of solitary bees, as well as the diversity of fungal pathogens and spillover of pathogens from managed bees to populations of wild bees.

In addition, we study other components of bee health such as properties of secondary plant compounds in pollen and nectar, and we evaluate the potential of these compounds for self-medication against diseases in various bee groups. Part of our research focuses on honeybee hive products, such as the use of drone brood for human food or the use of honey for medicinal purposes.

Theme leader: Annette Bruun Jensen

 

Research theme: Health of Insects as Food and Feed

Insects are an excellent food source for humans and a nutritional feed in animal husbandry. The combination of a high feed conversion rate, high content of proteins and micronutrients, and low carbon emissions means that insects are both nutritious and environmentally sustainable.

There is increased interest in insects as food and feed. As a result, a large number of private companies focus on mass-production of insects worldwide. However, significant gaps remain, including how to maintain healthy rearing populations and prevent insect pathogens and other microorganisms in insect husbandry.

Our specific research focuses on aspects of insect rearing including effects of diets and other factors relevant to maintain insect health and avoid pathogen outbreaks. We collaborate within academia and with private companies both nationally and internationally, and we are part of both national and international networks.

Theme leader: Annette Bruun Jensen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • EXCALIBUR: Exploiting the multifunctional Potential of belowground biodiversity in horticultural farming
  • INSECTDOCTORS: Educating insect pathologists to prevent infectious diseases in mass-reared insects
  • SUSINCHAIN: Sustainable Insect Chain
  • INURBAN: Production of edible insects by use of urbane organic sidestreams
  • HEALTHYNSECT: Insect farming for health and livelihoods
  • INBIOM: Innovation network for Bioresources
  • Medicinsk honning
  • Vidensdeling om honningbiers biologi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Group members

Name Title Phone E-mail
Annette Bruun Jensen Associate Professor +4535332662 E-mail
Antoine Lecocq Assistant Professor +4535332488 E-mail
Edouard Bessette PhD Student   E-mail
Jennifer Kate Upfold PhD Student   E-mail
Morgane Ourry Postdoc   E-mail
Nicolai Vitt Meyling Associate Professor +4535332666 E-mail
Pascal Herren PhD Student +45+447862735760 E-mail

Research group leader

Nicolai Vitt Meyling
Associate Professor
nvm@plen.ku.dk
+45 35 33 26 66