R.H. Messing  

Our lab focuses on both applied and theoretical aspects of biological control in the context of an inundation of invasive pest species in Hawaii.

On the practical side, we carry out the nuts and bolts of classical biocontrol projects: including determination of appropriate target organisms, foreign exploration, quarantine testing, field release and evaluation. We've addressed a variety of invasive species such as tephritid fruit flies, aphids, leafhoppers, and most recently a Eulophid gall wasp.

Climbing an Erythrina tree in Mpumalanga, South Africa to collect gall wasp parasitoids

On a more basic level, we try to understand factors that enhance the likelihood of successful biological control. Using detailed studies of parasitoid behavioral ecology, population dynamics, and life history parameters we try to identify aspects of natural enemy/ host interactions that will maximize efficacy against the target pests while having minimal impact against non-target organisms.


Biological control has come under tremendous scrutiny in Hawaii (and elsewhere) due to reputed environmental damage by earlier unregulated introductions of predators and parasitoids. Thus we are held to exacting standards of safety and, increasingly, of predicted efficacy of our introductions. Our pre-release (and, with select case histories, post-release) studies have therefore moved beyond simple host-range testing to include competition, indirect effects, and attempts to predict newly introduced species' overall role in community dynamics.