Student Research Spotlight - Elijah Carroll
Elijah Carroll won second place in the oral presentation category, University-Wide Undergraduate Student Winners in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, during the virtual 2021 Auburn Research: Student Symposium.
Hometown: Bridgeport, Illinois, and Opelika, Alabama
Degree and major: Bachelor of Science in Organismal Biology
College: College of Sciences and Mathematics
Department: Research in the College of Agriculture’s Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology
Class year: 2021
Faculty mentor: David Held
Seasonal Visitation of Insects to Honeydew on Crape Myrtle Trees in Urban Landscapes
What are you researching?
Certain sap-sucking insects, including soft scales and aphids, excrete a unique, sugar-rich waste called honeydew as a result of feeding on plant phloem. Honeydew is an important sugar resource for many beneficial insect species, including many bees, wasps and flies. Crape myrtle bark scale and aphids, common sap-sucking pests on crape myrtle trees, produce copious amounts of honeydew. Our research has shown that honeydew production and the presence of beneficial insects is seasonally variable on infested crape myrtle trees throughout the year.
How could the results benefit individuals, agencies or companies?
Insecticides are commonly needed to reduce or eliminate sap-sucking insect pests on crape myrtle trees. However, systemic insecticides used for control may pass through those insects before they die and into honeydew. Tainted honeydew poses a threat to populations of natural enemies (insect species that provide free pest control), pollinators and other beneficial insects that use honeydew as food. Arborists or homeowners who need to control these pests can make applications at times when honeydew production or visitation by beneficial insects, or both, are low.
Tell us why you enjoy research.
I enjoy research because it provides me with the opportunity to be a problem-solver and a narrator. Research often stems from a problem, and the results of the research tell a small piece, a chapter if you will, of a broader story.
What advice would you give to other students considering doing a research project?
My advice is to not be discouraged by failure. In my experience, failures during research have provided crucial opportunities to learn and think critically. Additionally, never hesitate to ask questions and seek advice from faculty mentors and graduate students.
Tell us about any hobbies or activities you enjoy.
In my free time I like to go hiking, photograph fauna and flora and play guitar. Currently, I am in the process of identifying photographed insects and plants found in Chewacla State Park, Tuskegee National Forest and other surrounding areas. I am in the process of uploading these photos into a national database to be accessed and utilized by the public.