You are here: Home > User account >


Brian Garms is a PhD Student studying at the Australian National University. He is interested in entomology, agricultural systems, biological control/IPM, and invasion biology. Brian’s PhD project is studying native insects to better understand how introduced insects might be expected to perform, either as biocontrol agents or as potential pests.

Two systems Brain is currently studying involve native herbivorous insects feeding on introduced weeds. This represents a novel interaction and understanding whether the native insects have evolved in any way to take advantage of a new resource is of great interest.

While testing for evidence of host race formation or other types of rapid evolution, the preference and performance of various insect populations on differing hosts must be determined, and this information is of value in its own right. This may indicate there is indeed a real difference between these plants and might suggest a direction to work in a biological control program. It is also of interest to determine whether the native insects themselves could be useful biological control agents.

Looking at what damage native insects do to introduced weeds provides a useful framework for considering an exotic biocontrol agent as well. If native insects on a weed do a certain amount of damage, then any biocontrol agent of a similar feeding niche would likely need to exceed that damage to be effective.

Brian’s third and final system involves South African Citrus Thrips, a recently introduced insect that has the potential to be a serious pest of citrus and mango. For the last six years it has only been found on a particular weed in Australia, but in its native South Africa it feeds on a number of economically important crops. While the populations of the insect present in Australia have been shown to feed on these and other plants in a lab setting, it is unclear what risk this insect poses to Australian agriculture. However, other closely related thrips species in Australia already cause damage to some of these crops, and thus provide the chance to put the potential threat of this insect into context. By broadly using the same conceptual and experimental tools as outlined above, Brian plans to compare the host performance of local species of known pest status to an introduced species with an unknown status.