Note to Editors: Please see the related January 31 release distributed by Dell Rae Moellenberg, with the headline COLORADO STATE EXPERTS HIT ON A SAFE, CHEAP TERMITE TRAP AND ZAP, which features more in-depth information regarding Bjostad’s current research.
A professor of entomology in the Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management at Colorado State University has been named recipient of the Colorado State University Research Foundation’s 2003 Technology Transfer Award, formerly titled the Researcher of the Year Award.
Louis B. Bjostad received the award Thursday evening at the Foundation’s 17th Technology Transfer Awards Banquet and recognition dinner. The award is presented annually to a scientist who has developed technology at Colorado State and had it successfully commercialized through patents and license agreements. The honor further recognizes individuals who display exemplary dedication to research and a determination to strive for excellence. Bjostad’s work has led to patents and patents pending in the United States, Europe, Argentina and Australia.
"Widely regarded as one of the university’s most outstanding teachers and researchers, Dr. Bjostad encompasses a combination of brilliance, curiosity about the natural world, and concern," said Thomas Holtzer, professor and department head of the Department of
Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management. "He is one of the most gifted intellects I have ever encountered, and he loves applying knowledge and creativity to solving real-world problems."
Bjostad’s research focuses on chemical ecology, including both basic and applied investigations of the role of chemical signals in the relationships among insects and plants. His work is leading to both reductions in the amount of insecticides needed to control pest insects and to the development of natural, environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional chemical pesticides.
Bjostad and his research team have focused their efforts over the past few years on developing non-toxic means of eliminating termites and corn rootworms. Their research is enhancing the effectiveness of pest control methods without the use of dangerous chemicals as well as potentially saving Americans millions of dollars. Termites are responsible for more than $1.5 billion worth of damage annually in the United States and the corn rootworm causes $1 billion in crop losses in the country each year.
"What we do is about 50 percent basic science and about 50 percent applied," said Bjostad. "The basic science is that we are investigating the feeding ecology of these insects, which has been largely ignored. The applied part is that we are using that knowledge to develop new control approaches."
Bjostad and his colleagues recently have been identifying compounds that act as termite attractants and feeding stimulants. They found that termites’ natural reliance on carbon dioxide to find food and shelter can be used to get them to eat insecticidal baits and can lead to other strategies for control that greatly reduce or eliminate reliance on insecticides.
Bjostad believes termites are naturally attracted to carbon dioxide for two reasons. First, rotting wood – the termites’ main source of food – releases CO2, a process that likely guides the insects to food. Second, concentrations of the gas inside termite colonies are higher than ambient air, suggesting termites also use CO2 to find their way home.
Bjostad and his colleagues are developing a substance that slowly releases CO2 underground to lure termites away from houses and other structures where they cause damage. Because it occurs in abundance naturally, CO2 offers an inexpensive, non-toxic alternative to other methods of pest control.
Bjostad’s interest in termites grew out of his work on the insect larvae known as western corn rootworm. Bjostad and his team found that CO2 is the only compound emitted by corn roots that attracts the larvae, suggesting that the gas could be used to protect corn plants by luring larvae away from the roots. The team developed pellets containing natural ingredients that slowly release the gas. The pellets, buried at corn planting time, drove rootworm larvae off course and significantly reduced damage to the corn roots.
"We thought we’d see if the same approach would work with termites. We had no idea what to try as an attractant, but we did know that corn rootworm larvae were attracted to CO2, so it was easy to try that with termites," said Bjostad. "We set it up and the termites responded beautifully."
Bjostad’s recent discoveries with termites and rootworms point to the possibility that many soil-borne insects also rely on CO2 to locate food and shelter. If proven correct, the gas could be used to steer many other agricultural and household pests away from places they do harm.
Bjostad began at Colorado State in 1984. He earned his doctoral degree in entomology from the University of California-Riverside in 1978, and his bachelor’s in biology from Virginia’s William and Mary College in 1973. He is the recipient of numerous honor and awards, including a recent USDA Certificate of Appreciation for Homeland Security Pest Detection Survey and two Meritorious Teaching Awards from the National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture.
Bjostad’s research has been funded by the USDA, the National Science Foundation, the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station, the Department of Defense and others. He has authored or co-authored more than 50 journal articles and given professional presentations throughout the United States and overseas.