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Mississippi State gets buzz for its insects

STARKVILLE — Mississippi State University has one of the largest populations of insects in the world, and the university couldn’t be prouder.

In 1999, professor emeritus Frank Davis and a handful of his colleagues in the MSU entomology department recognized a lack of mass insect-rearing facilities at universities. They approached Vance Watson, then Vice President of Agriculture, with a proposal.

The university awarded the entomology department $200,000 to create an insect-rearing center.

“The investment has seen a huge return,” Davis said.

In 2000, MSU held its first international insect-rearing workshop. Now the workshop fills slots a year in advance, and the entomology department has published “Principles and Procedures for Rearing High Quality Insects,” the only comprehensive textbook available on the subject, according to Davis.

With the rise of organic farming, insects that feed on destructive plant bugs have increasingly become the focus of public attention, and notable charities such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have funded sterile insect release programs to fight insect-borne diseases, including malaria and yellow fever.

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