Learn about UT’s entomology program


September 15, 2020



The University of Tennessee’s Urban Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Lab focuses on applied research of pests found in and around structures. Current funded research involves developing effective and efficient building-wide bed bug detection techniques that will be implemented by multi-family housing managers. Bed bug management in low-income high-rises for the elderly and disabled is extremely demanding because of tenant activities, multi-unit construction and lack of funds.

In recent years, infestation rates were nearly unbelievable — averaging 33 percent in four of these local buildings. Highly unreliable resident reporting masks extensive infestations, leaving managers with a false sense of management success.

Our research is addressing a critical need to simultaneously identify all bed bug-infested apartments in a building to find unreported infestations, and to ultimately limit spread. Not only do we develop the techniques, but through the Extension component of this project, we also demonstrate them in Tennessee low-income housing, thus effecting and documenting needed change. Previous bed bug-related projects include determining relatedness of the bed bugs found within these structures, and the effectiveness of vacuuming as a sole management practice.

Currently, we also are evaluating ant, termite and other urban pest management strategies, which gives our students experience in conducting field trials in collaboration with industry as well as finding needed solutions to pest management problems. And through collaboration with Dr. Becky Trout Fryxell, we use molecular tools to resolve questions of pest origin and relatedness.

DR. VAIL is Professor, Urban IPM Lab, University of Tennessee Entomology and Plant Pathology. Contact her at kvail@utk.edu.

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