Congratulations to Dr Elisa Pal on successfully completing all requirements for her PhD and being capped at the University of Pretoria’s Spring Graduation Ceremony on 5 September. Elisa presented her Prestige Seminar “Ecology and management of Bathycoelia distincta (two-spotted stink bug) in Macadamia orchards in South Africa” on 1 October and afterwards celebrated the completion of her PhD with a glass of French Champagne along with her supervisors Dr Gerda Fourie, Prof. Bernard Slippers, Prof. Brett Hurley and Prof. Jeremy Allison of Natural Resources Canada (who joined the prestige seminar virtually from Canada). The external examiners were Prof. Stefan Foord, University of Venda, and Dr Apurba K. Barman, University of Georgia, USA while Prof. Christian Pirk was the internal examiner. This is also a significant achievement for Dr Gerda Fourie as Elisa is the first PhD candidate to graduate from the Macadamia Protection Programme. Dr Gerda Fourie praised Elisa for the significant contribution she has made to FABI and was also the FABIan of the Year in 2022, and also received a Mentorship Award recognising her hard work and dedication to the Institute.

In her study, Elisa investigated different aspects of this unknown Pentatomidae via an interdisciplinary approach in order to improve the integrated pest management program in macadamia. She showed that the expansion of the macadamia industry led to an absence of genetic differentiation of this pest in South Africa and a decrease of susceptibility towards insecticide pyrethroids. As alternative control, the alarm pheromone of B. distincta was characterized, and pheromone-baited traps were tested in the field. The work presented her thesis represents a significant advance in our understanding of this pest associated with macadamia orchards in South Africa and provides information vital for the development of future management tools and the understanding of fundamental mechanisms in Pentatomidae.