The major areas of my research interest are applied insect ecology, evolution, insect behavior, and integrated pest management. I am also interested in more theoretical investigations of factors responsible for growth and diversity of insect populations.
Presently, humans posses a vast arsenal of different pest control techniques, ranging from synthetic insecticides to natural enemies, and from transgenic plants to quarantine regulations. What is lacking, however, is a good understanding of the ecological consequences of their implementation for both target and non-target organisms. When a particular action is taken, whether it is an insecticide application, planting of a transgenic cultivar, or release of a biological control agent, it is imperative that we can forecast the sequence(s) of events it might trigger.
Limited-scale toxicological and host-range assays, still commonly used for decision-making, often do not reflect actual developments in the field. Therefore, a more sophisticated approach, which takes into account an intricate web of cause-and-effect events within a given ecosystem, is required to achieve a long-term success both in pest control, as well as in conservation of beneficial organisms.
Most ecological systems are very complex, and their good understanding is extremely difficult. However, sustainable development of the human civilization is hardly possible without such an understanding. As a scientist, I hope that my research will contribute to building a knowledge-based foundation for predicting effects of human intervention in insect communities.
To get an idea of the type of research conducted in our laboratory, please look through our publications. Electronic or paper reprints are available upon request.
Exact projects under way in our laboratory vary from year to year depending on stakeholder needs, availability of funding, and graduate student interests. However, they usually fall within the following broad areas:
- Contemporary microevolution in agricultural ecosystems. We mostly use the Colorado potato beetle adaptation to insecticides as a model system. This species is infamous for its remarkable ability to develop resistance to virtually every chemical that has ever been used against it. In some cases, a new insecticide failed after one year or even during the first year of use. Impressive potential to withstand a variety of poisons is probably caused by the coevolution of the beetle and its host plants in the family Solanaceae, which have high concentrations of phytotoxins in their foliage. It is also aided by the high fecundity of this species, with a single mutant potentially producing several hundred offspring in just one generation. We are investigating behavioral ecology and population genetics of this insect in an attempt to come up with management approaches allowing to extend the useful life of commercially used insecticides.
Recently, we also got involved in more theoretic work reviewing existing resistance management requirements for insect-protected genetically modified plants.
- Chen, J., A. Alyokhin, D. Mota-Sanchez, M. Baker and M. Whalon. 2014. Variation in fitness among geographically isolated Colorado potato beetle (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) populations. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 107: 128-135. [E-mail to request a reprint]
- Alyokhin, A. 2011. Scant evidence supports EPA's pyramided Bt corn refuge size of 5%. Nature Biotechnology 29: 577–578. [E-mail to request a reprint]
- Alyokhin, A., M. Baker, D. Mota-Sanchez, G. Dively, and E. Grafius. 2008. Colorado potato beetle resistance to insecticides. American Journal of Potato Research 85: 395–413. (Invited review article). [Full Text]
- Alyokhin, A., G. Dively, M. Patterson, C. Castaldo, D. Rogers, M. Mahoney, and J. Wollam. 2007. Resistance and cross-resistance to imidacloprid and thiamethoxam in the Colorado potato beetle. Pest Management Science 63: 32-41. [E-mail to request a reprint]
- Baker, M. B., A. Alyokhin, A. H. Porter, D. N. Ferro, S. R. Dastur, and N. Galal. 2007. Persistence and inheritance of costs of resistance to imidacloprid in Colorado potato beetle. Journal of Economic Entomology 100: 1871-1879. [Full Text]
- Biotic and abiotic factors affecting insect abundance. Reducing heavy chemical dependency typical of commercial agriculture is impossible without a good understanding of alternative factors affecting the densities of insect populations. This includes their direct and indirect interactions with weather, soils, host plants, competitors, natural enemies, cultural practices, and insecticides. We use both experimental approach and time series analyses to investigate mechanisms that regulate abundance and diversity of insect herbivores.
- Alyokhin, A. 2011. Non-natives: put biodiversity at risk. Nature 475: 36. [E-mail to request a reprint]
- Alyokhin, A., F. A. Drummond, G. Sewell, and R. H. Storch. 2011. Differential effects of weather and natural enemies on coexisting aphid populations. Environmental Entomology 40: 570-580. [E-mail to request a reprint]
- Finlayson, C. J., A. V. Alyokhin, and E. W. Porter. 2009. Interactions of native and non-native lady beetle species (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) with aphid-tending ants in laboratory arenas. Environmental Entomology 38: 846-855. [Full Text]
- Alyokhin, A. and G. Sewell. Changes in a lady beetle community following the establishment of three alien species. Biological Invasions 6: 463-471. [Full Text]
- Alyokhin, A. and R. Atlihan. 2005. Reduced fitness of the Colorado potato beetle (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) on potato plants grown in manure-amended soil. Environmental Entomology 34: 963-968. [Full Text]
- Alyokhin, A., F. A. Drummond, and G. Sewell. 2005. Density-dependent regulation in populations of potato-colonizing aphids. Population Ecology 47: 257-266. [Full Text]
- Alyokhin, A. V., P. Yang, and R. H. Messing. 2004. Oviposition of the invasive two-spotted leafhopper on an endemic tree: Effects of an alien weed, foliar pubescence, and habitat humidity. 7pp. Journal of Insect Science, 4:13, Available online: insectscience.org/4.13. [Full Text]
- Insecticide testing program. Insecticides remain to be a foundation of insect pest management in commercial agriculture. Their safe and efficient use is impossible without a good understanding of ecological ramifications of toxin release in the environment. In cooperation with chemical companies, we conduct an extensive (up to 100 treatments per year) insecticide screening program on potatoes. We are mostly interested in insecticide impacts on target and non-target organisms, as well as on the spread of insect-vectored disease among potato plants.
- Alyokhin, A., J. Makatiani, and K. Takasu. 2010. Insecticide odour interference with food-searching behaviour of Microplitis croceipes (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) in a laboratory arena. Biocontrol Science and Technology 20: 317-329. [E-mail to request a reprint]
- Alyokhin, A., R. Guillemette, and R. Choban. 2009. Stimulatory and suppressive effects of novaluron on the Colorado potato beetle reproduction. Journal of Economic Entomology 102: 2078-2083. [E-mail to request a reprint]