To Bee or Not to Bee
Most gardeners moan when they see worms and bugs on their vegetables and flowers. Not Gregory Payne, a biologist with a passion for insecticide toxicology and insect biochemistry.
Payne is planting chic peas and corn on campus to attract and feed ear worms, tobacco bugs and certain moth species for a research project that he has conducted on and off for two decades.
Throughout the summer, he’ll travel to farm fields in southern Georgia to collect more worms and bugs for the laboratory.
Funded by the Georgia Cotton Commission and the Monsanto Company, Payne oversees a resistance monitoring program in conjunction with the state’s land grant institution, the University of Georgia.
Known for his historical data, Payne was asked to step in after a UGA project leader and friend passed away.
His continued interest in monitoring insecticide resistance has kept him in contact with colleagues doing similar research and the project has grown from a statewide project to three nationwide surveys.
“It’s mostly a time investment and does not involve a lot of money,” said Payne. “I’ve been fortunate to have maintained friendships with colleagues that can help plug me into these things.”
The grant will fund the hiring of several student research assistants to work in the field and in the laboratory. Students in his entomology classes will also benefit.
Monitoring garden pests for insecticide resistance is only one of two campus projects for Payne. He recently set up beehives adjacent to the garden “just out of curiosity.” He hopes to monitor the insecticide resistance of the mites that plague honeybee colonies. If successful with these hives, he’ll add two more in the fall.
Payne nonchalantly admits to being stung fairly often but remembers distinctly the sting in the corner of his eye and under his fingernail despite wearing beekeeper’s gloves and mask.
He has gotten the Biology Club in Carrollton Middle School involved and plans to eventually get the UWG Biology Club and graduate students selling honey and growing vegetables if successful with the bees and the crops.
“I am not a farmer and I’ve never been a farmer,” said Payne, who has been teaching at West Georgia for 17 years. “It’s been a neat thing for me personally to have these projects. “We are not a land grant institution but our origins are agricultural. To grow cotton and do research with it, well, cotton is part of the Carrollton’s history.”
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