Modeling clay isn’t limited to art classrooms and sculpting studios. University of Georgia researchers developed a tool to track beneficial insects in turfgrass systems using clay models. Tracking these good predators can help develop eco-friendly pest management techniques for both home lawns and commercial sod growers.
In a recently published article in Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, UGA scientists determined that beneficial predator insects will interact with and leave distinct markings on clay models that resemble their prey, in this case the larvae of turfgrass pests. This study was led by entomology doctoral candidate Fawad Khan under the guidance of Assistant Professor Shimat Joseph in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences on the UGA Griffin campus.
“We want to know who the predators are and what kind of impressions these predators will create on these clay models. Before we do anything in the field, we need to have a sense of what that looks like,” said Joseph, a turfgrass entomologist.
Though the clay model approach has been used in other disciplines to observe predator activity, Joseph and Khan found no previous use of the method in turfgrass research. This study developed clay models as a tool to aid in future research.
“It’s kind of brain hack of the predator. We want to see how much the real predator interacts with the model based only on the visual cues,” said Khan, a Fulbright scholar who came to UGA to study eco-friendly pest management options, specifically beneficial insects.