Director's Desk

It is my privilege to be a Director of this prestigious Insect Bureau, entrusted with the responsibility of managing one of the world's richest germplasm collections of insects and related arthropod resources for their sustainable utilization in Agriculture.

ICAR-National Bureau of Agricultural Insect Resources Museum has been designated by the Ministry of Environment & Forests as the “National Repository” under the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 on 12th September 2012 for agriculturally important insects, mites & spiders. The National Insect Museum now holds around 0.22 million insect specimens which include 378 types. Since 2017, the Bureau has described 127 new species in important insect groups such as Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, Diptera, Hemiptera, and Thysanoptera and 44 insect species were reported for the first time from the country, this includes one species of a highly destructive invasive cassava mealybug, Phenacoccus manihoti and three invasive species of whiteflies viz., Aleurodicus rugioperculatus and Aleurotrachelus atratus infesting coconut and Aleurothrixus floccosus infesting guava. In addition to this, more than 250 new regional distributional records of different insect species within the country have been documented. Five checklists and seven monographs have been published and seven websites providing information on filed and laboratory-level identification of insect pests and natural enemies have been hosted. The Bureau regularly does identification services for different insect groups for students and scientists from different academic institutes, universities, and farmers.

The Bureau maintains (ex-situ conservation) 136 live insects (107 parasitoids, 15 predators, 13 pest insects and one detritivore). These insects are being mass multiplied and supplied to different stakeholders throughout the year. It is one of the largest live insect repository in Asia. The Bureau is also known for rich repository of entomopathogenic organisms such as Bacillus thuringiensis (304), Pseudomonas spp. (28). Trichoderma spp (24), Paecilomyces lilacinus (6), Beauveria bassiana (64), Metarhizium anisopliae (33), entomopathogenic nematodes (124), baculoviruses (8) and others including culturable gut bacteria (135). Field studies and large scale multi-location evaluation under AICRP Biological Control of Pests and Diseases showed promising nature of many of these isolates for the management of insect pests and diseases. NBAIR also conserves (in situ) 33 different species of bees (Apis and non Apis groups) round the year using pollen/nectar rich plants in pollinator garden located at NBAIR farm campus, Yelahanka. Five species of Megachilid bees are being conserved by providing habitats (trap nests). Indian and stingless bees colonies are maintained at farm campus and techniques for separation and multiplication of stingless bees developed.

Expansion of geographical and host distribution for recent invasive whiteflies along with associated natural enemies has been documented. Augmentation and conservation strategies have been advocated to all the stakeholders for management of invasive whiteflies through demonstration, awareness and training programmes. The major component of Spodoptera frugiperda pheromone (Z)-9-tetradecenyl acetate was synthesized which will reduce the cost of pheromone application technology as till now this has to be procured from abroad only. Products were developed for slow-release pheromone formulations.

Being a nodal agency in the country for insect germplasm, this Bureau has played a vital role in importation and release of many beneficial biocontrol agents for use against insect pests and weeds that generated significant economic benefits. The success of classical biological control of pappaya mealybug, Paracoccus marginatus by three imported parasitoids Acerophagus papayae, Pseudleptomastix mexicana and Anagyrus loecki (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae), is gauged by saving billions of rupees in terms of large scale yield increase, and reduction in pesticide usage. Similarly, the Bureau has undertaken many such introductions. The recent one being the encyrtid parasitoid, Anagyrus lopezi from IITA, Republic of Benin for the classical biological control of the recently invaded cassava mealybug, Phenacoccus manihoti.

Molecular characterization and DNA barcoding of more than 3000 agriculturally important insects, allied arthropods and their microbial resources were accomplished. The Bureau has sequenced (de novo) whole genomes of Leucinodes orbonalis, Amrasca bigutulla bigutulla and Polyphagotarsonemus latus and economically important genes were functionally validated. Furthermore, whole genome of six Bacillus thuringiensis isolates and mitochondria of six EPNs have been sequenced. Together with stage and tissue specific transcriptome profiling, critically deciphered the role of various genes and gene families involved in host fitness attributes, host and mate finding and virulence of entomopathogens. Studies on the genetic diversity revealed the presence of various haplotypes of rice and corn strains of Spodoptera frugiperda and many genetic groups of Bemisia tabaci. This Bureau is also attempting to design novel strategies of insect pest management especially for L. orbonalis, B. tabaci, S. frugiperda and A. biguttulla biguttula by employing RNAi silencing technology.

NBAIR has developed 38 technologies comprising macrobials (natural enemies), microbial pesticides, pheromones, insect rearing techniques and insects as food, feed and disposal of organic wastes. Of the 38 technologies developed, 28 technologies have been licensed to over 100 firms with a revenue generation over 15 million rupees for up scaling and making them available to the clients to produce safe food. In safeguarding the intellectual rights of the institute, 23 technologies have been filed for patent of which five patents have been granted. In addition, one Trademark has been granted and two copyrights have been filed. To showcase the technologies developed, Institute–Industry interface meeting is organized at regular intervals, and they have proved to be a good platform for licensing the technologies to firms.

The Bureau is instrumental in organising and coordinating several training programmes in the field of insect science starting from the basic (taxonomy) to production technology of biocontrol agents (macrobials and microbials) and advances in insect genomics. The Bureau also organises awareness cum training programme on alien invasive insect pests that are being reported from time to time in our country. Such awareness programme helped the end users to be vigil about the pest problem. In the last five years, the Bureau has organised 102 in-house trainings through which 1522 trainees comprising of 836 government officials, 488 farmers, 43 private entrepreneurs and 155 students got benefitted. The demand for organising training programme in field of insect science is increasing, overwhelmed and appreciated at various levels. In order to increase the core competency of the NBAIR scientists, 15 of our scientists were trained nationally and internationally in the reputed labs in the last five years.

The Bureau is handling many external funded projects in addition to in-house projects to address the various research issues relevant to the Bureau mandate. The notable among them are the projects funded under CRP on Genomics, CABin, NASF, AMAAS, DST, DBT & National Bee Board. The Bureau is also entrusted with foreign collaborative projects funded by CABI, FAO and Bioversity International to address the trans-continental issues posed by insects. NBAIR has signed MoU with 23 organizations both within India and abroad for undertaking collaborative research and student guidance.

This Bureau regularly reviews and prioritises the research by conducting review meetings such as IRC, RAC and QRT. Further, the need based research and trainings have been discussed in ICAR VIIIth regional committee meetings and in brain storming sessions / meetings with SAU’s and various line departments.

For large scale validation and promotion of biocontrol agents, biopesticides and non-chemical based technologies AICRP on Biological Control of Crop Pests and Diseases initiated in the year 1977. At present, NBAIR as the AICRP-BC coordinating cell coordinates the biological control work of our country through 11funded, 16 contingency and 07 voluntary centres located in different agro-climatic zones.

The Bureau has identified several future research targets to address the problems faced by farmers. ICAR-NBAIR seeks support and coordination from various stakeholders to achieve sustainable utilization of insect and allied resources for the betterment of mankind and environment.

Dr. S N Sushil