FABI was proud to host it’s monthly International Seminar on 29 April. This event drew more than 200 participants from across the globe, all keen to hear US Forest Services’ Dr Andrew “Sandy” Liebhold speak on the “Macroecology of insect invasions”. April’s seminar was co-hosted by the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Invasion Biology (CIB) at Stellenbosch University, and Prof. David Richardson, Director of the CIB was present to welcome guests.

In the seminar, emphasised the fact that biological invasions are driven by increased human mobility through travel and trade, especially of live plants and cut flowers. This increase in mobility, as a result of globalization, bypasses geographical boundaries that have separated species for millennia. He made the point that plant invasions have been studied for longer and are better represented in the literature than insect invastions.  And that this is in spite of the fact that there are many more insect invasions than plant invasions. Yet, insect invasions have a massive impact on agriculture, forestry, human health and conservation of native ecosystems.

Sandy’s presentation included the results of a macroecological analysis of historical insect invasions spanning 300 years and 10 world regions, which he has compiled together with numerous collaborators from around the world. These data are now being used to compare frequencies of invasions among different insect orders and among different insect families. He highlighted the fact that certain groups, such as the Hemiptera, Formicidae and the Staphylinidae are generally over-represented in non-native insect assemblages, while other taxa are under-represented. These patterns generally reflect characteristics of these insects that cause them to enter important invasion pathways and include biological characteristics that facilitate invasions. Importantly, these results ultimately allow us to better understand the socio-economic drivers of insect invasions and can be of use when conducting invasive pest risk analysis.

The seminar concluded with many questions from those present in person and many participants from a wide range of countries. Prof Mike Wingfield, who hosted the seminar on behalf of FABI, made the point that the interest in Sandy’s topic meant that many questions could not be accommodated in the discussion. Prof. Bernard Slippers, Director of FABI, thanked Sandy for presenting a superb seminar and he also thanked Dr Markus Wilken and Dr Neriman Yilmaz for organising the event. The seminar was recorded to allow those not able to attend to view it at a later date.