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Italian entomologist gains valuable experience

Posted 31 July 2013

I’m extremely pleased with what I have achieved at Harper Adams and would like to thank everyone for the support and making me feel welcome.

Maurizio rearing ladybirds

An Italian postgraduate student has fuelled his passion for insects by spending three months researching ladybirds at Harper Adams University.

Maurizio Benelli, from Rome, is studying Plant Protection at the University of Bologna. Previous to this, he gained a degree in Agricultural Sciences and Technologies at Tuscia University in Viterbo.

He arrived at Harper Adams in Shropshire in May and was given the task of conducting field and laboratory experiments on the Asian ladybird Harmonia axyridis – an invasive species across Europe.

The 25-year-old, said: “During my time at Harper Adams, I tested the hypothesis that the invasiveness of this particular species of ladybird may be due to its higher resistance to pesticides, when compared to native species such as the two-spot ladybird Adalia bipunctata.

“This work will contribute to existing studies that have shown that despite never being imported, the Asian ladybird population is rapidly spreading.”

Although not being from a traditional farming background, Maurizio developed a passion for nature and agriculture throughout school. During his time at university, he began to gain an interest in insects, focusing his final research project on the importance of ladybirds to agriculture.

It is thanks to a scholarship that he was able to spend three months in England working with Professor Simon Leather and the entomology team at Harper Adams.

Making the most of his time on campus, Maurizio has helped at open days and school visits, demonstrating the importance of insects to children. He has also completed an English training course and spent time travelling around the United Kingdom.

Maurizio, added: “I’m extremely pleased with what I have achieved at Harper Adams and would like to thank everyone for the support and making me feel welcome.

“I have met incredible people from all over the world and can say that I now feel even more open-minded.”

Maurizio is now returning to Italy to complete his degree, after which he intends to apply for a PhD and continue his work with insects.

He added: “It seems like everything I have been doing has led me to work in entomology and I’m so proud of my choice.

“Harper Adams has definitely given me even more motivation. My mission is to become part of the next generation of researchers, demonstrating that insects aren’t to be feared, they are amazing animals on our planet.”

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