Delegates at the 2017 International Conference on Urban Pests in the UK were treated to talks by some of the leading names in pest management from here in Australia. 

Held every three years, the International Conference on Urban Pests (ICUP) was held this July in Birmingham, UK. The event attracted some 250 pest management academics and service professionals from across the globe, with a strong contingent of 14 delegates from Australia including Steve Broadbent (Ensystex), Peter May (Xavca) and Dr David Lilly (University of Sydney) pictured above.

A warming planet

Insects, and how to combat the threat they pose in a warming global environment, dominated the programme. Partho Dhang, an independent consultant from the Philippines, discussed how the predicted two-degree rise in global temperature could cause radical changes for insects. As cold-blooded organisms, their body temperature reflects the immediate environment; with the predicted rise in temperature they could experience one to five additional life cycles per season. Likewise, rodent populations would also thrive.

On a country level, delegates learned how the UK is detecting and dealing with invasive mosquito species and on a micro level, learned how manipulating local environmental conditions can also impact pests, such as how artificial light from a new shopping centre is boosting massive flights of aquatic insects in Japan.

Global comparison

However, the one pest that is clearly attracting the most academic interest – and, by implication, the most research money – is bed bugs.

Dr David Lilly from the University of Sydney updated delegates on his bed bug resistance work, with Stephen Doggett, senior hospital scientist from Westmead Hospital, Sydney, also representing the Australian pest industry.

Research from Dr Dini Miller of Virginia Tech, USA, concluded that the impact of ‘clutter levels’ on heat treatments for bed bug control was minimal. The tactics used during the treatment – such as heating the room quickly and then shocking the bugs by moving furniture, tipping up the bed, etc. along with the use of sensors to identify cold spots – were much more important.

The discussion workshops showed that there is simply no uniform pattern regarding bed bug behaviour around the world. Take the question of infestation levels: in many European countries, specifically Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, bed bug infestations are rising. In others, such as the UK, the feeling was that levels had reached a plateau. In much of Asia, bed bug infestations were said to be widespread. Only Australia was thought to have got on top of the problem.

Rodents and other vertebrate pests were discussed, with Dr John Simmons from Acheta Consulting, UK, presenting findings that clearly demonstrated how mice are deliberately avoiding trapping devices placed for monitoring purposes in food factories, casting considerable doubt on their usefulness. His work indicated that the use of electronic monitoring systems that use rodent movement and body heat to trigger an alert can offer a more reliable alternative.

Australian products take centre stage

The presentation of two Australian products – Ensystex’s Magnathor Magnetic and Bio-Gene Technology’s Flavocide – raised considerable international interest.

Steve Broadbent, regional director of Ensystex, detailed the development work of Magnathor Magnetic. The focus of the presentation being on the unique combination of a toxicant incorporated with a ferromagnetic granular compound and a food attractant, within a dry flowable product, for the control of cockroaches, ants and termites.

Dr Peter Miller, senior scientific officer from the University of Technology (UTS), Sydney, described his work with flavesone. The synthetic compound from the beta-triketone chemical group is being developed by Australian company Bio-Gene Technology under the product name Flavocide. Initial testing suggests a unique mode of action with the potential to address resistance in insects. Laboratory trials to date have been on mosquitoes, flies and cat fleas.

The next ICUP will be held in Spain mid-year 2020.

Printed with permission of Frances McKim, Pest magazine, UK.

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