UF/IFAS’ Lance Osborne wins Entomologist of the Year award

Lance Osborne, Ph.D., Professor, IPM Biological Control of Insects & Mites at the Mid-Florida REC-Apopka. Studying plants, greenhouse. UF/IFAS Photo: Marisol Amador.

UF/IFAS Entomology Professor Lance Osborn

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida entomology professor Lance Osborne chalks up at least some of his success to his understanding and supportive wife of 43 years, Pat.

“Nothing would happen without her – she even lets me keep bugs in the refrigerator at home,” said Osborne, who also serves as the associate director of UF’s Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka.

This month, Osborne was named Entomologist of the Year at the 98th annual meeting of the Florida Entomological Society held in Fort Myers.  In addition, the Florida Nursery, Growers, and Landscape Association, Action Chapter honored him this week with the Gene A. Batson Award for outstanding service and leadership, the chapter’s highest honor. 

“There is no greater honor than to be recognized by my entomology colleagues,” said Osborne, who works under the umbrella of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.  “But nothing I do occurs in a vacuum.  All of the things I am credited with couldn’t have been done without the help of those that have given me this honor, the people in my lab, the other IFAS scientists, extension agents and growers I’ve worked with.”

Heather McAuslane, professor and interim chair of the UF Department of Entomology and Nematology, said Osborne pioneered the idea of the “predator-in-first” use of beneficial bugs to keep harmful insects and mites at bay in greenhouses.

“Predator-in-first greatly reduces the need for applications of insecticides, reducing costs and increasing worker safety,” McAuslane said. “In addition to his contributions to biological control of pest insects, Lance has also been at the forefront of research to develop methods to detect, identify and manage the multitude of invasive pests that reach Florida shores each year.”

In the past few years, Osborne and UF/IFAS collaborators have helped the ornamental and horticultural industries deal with the introduction of a new biotype of the notorious sweetpotato whitefly, chilli thrips, and rugose spiraling whitefly, all of which can cause millions of dollars in damage to plants.

Osborne began his career in 1981 at the University of Florida.  He holds national and international patents on a biological control of whiteflies, mites and other destructive pests. This control prevents development of pesticide resistance and the potential hazards that result from the over-utilization of traditional pesticides.

“I have been given an amazing opportunity by IFAS to get paid to play with bugs and help people at the same time,” Osborne said. “What a great job!”

In addition to Osborne, several other researchers with the UF Department of Entomology and Nematology also won awards from the Florida Entomological Society:

  • Roxanne Connelly – Annual Achievement Award for Extension
  • Phillip Kaufman, Faith Oi, Emma Weeks, Amanda Eiden, Lucas Carnohan, Lois Wood, Michael Dark, Sandra Allan and Robert Miller – Achievement Award For Team Research;
  • And Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman – Special Award for Service to Florida Entomologists and the FES Website.

Osborne said he is now hoping to influence future generations of entomologists.

“My 8-year-old grandson keeps getting in trouble at school by paying too much attention to bugs,” Osborne said.  “I need to let Noah know that, someday, he could make a good living paying attention to them.  For now he needs to humor the teachers and his mom.”

By Kimberly Moore Wilmoth, 352-294-3302, k.moore.wilmoth@ufl.edu

Source:  Lance Osborn, 407-410-6963, lsosborn@ufl.edu

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