Insects dominate almost all ecosystems on our planet. One of the factors that has contributed to their astonishing success has been their small size. It was therefore significant that this year saw the NBAIR discovering Kikiki huna, an egg parasitoid, the smallest insect on earth capable of flying. This rare insect is not known from most parts of the world. It is just one of the treasures unearthed by the NBAIR during the last year. Taxonomists of the Bureau regularly survey different agroecosystems including North East, Andamans and Western Ghats for their unique insect fauna and many taxa not known in India have been discovered and documented. The main taxa being studied are under Platygastroidea, Microgastrinae, Trichogrammatidae, Tephritidae, Thysanoptera, Formicidae, Mymaridae, Aphelinindae, Pteromalidae, Encyrtidae, Sphecidae, Aphididae, Coccoidea, Cerambycidae, Brumestidae and Coccinellidae. These are added to the museum at NBAIR which is the designated repository by the government. The barcoding of Indian insects in the repository and from collections made from across the country is also in progress. A vast collection of entomopathogenic nematodes or EPNs occurring in India have been made. Characterization of Oscheius sp. which attacks the pupae of dipterans is a significant achievement. The mite repository too is being built up with additions from various parts of the country. A laboratory to document insects of veterinary and fisheries has been added, thanks to the encouragement of Dr. Trilochan Mohapatra, our honourable Director General. In recognition of its excellence in insect systematics the Bureau has from this year been entrusted with coordinating the Network Project on Insect Biosystematics and its high quality publication saw it topping the list of publication productivity index among all ICAR institutes.
Invasive species pose a constant threat to agriculture. Invasives that have already entered our country like the papaya mealybug and the eucalyptus gall wasp, which have been successfully managed are under constant surveillance to initiate timely action when required to avoid future outbreaks. Also surveillance for new invasive pests gaining entry into the country in continuously done and also information on the threats posed by the intercepted insects to Indian Agriculture is regularly updated. Entomopathogens (bacteria, fungi and viruses, parasitoids, predators, EPNs) are being collected, studied and documented for use in plant protection. The numerous websites hosted by the Bureau on various insect taxa are being constantly updated and expanded and freely available. This is the only place in Asia where >118 live insects are being maintained.
Chandish R. Ballal