Why Dr. Gretchen Pettis is the Bees Knees
by Hannah Rouillard
BioSafe Systems is truly fortunate to have recruited so much talent amidst a global health crisis. Dr. Gretchen Pettis calls herself a born naturalist who grew up ‘free range’, exploring wooded and watery environments throughout her youth. Later, with nudging from helpful professors, and the opportunity to travel the world studying flying, crawling, wiggly insects—she leaped into entomology.
Gretchen earned her Ph.D. in Entomology from the University of Georgia and has held many positions in the southern states as an ambassador and advocate for the little guys. She’s studied and worked in Turkey, Germany, British Columbia, and all over the United States. Gretchen brought our team extensive experience and knowledge of agricultural production and pest management; in her first month, she was already teaching me new things.
In July, the marketing team took a lesson from her on the impact a teeny-weeny wasp called Trichogramma can have on crop protection. This is one of over 200 species of wasps, but this minute wasp is a parasitoid and is employed throughout the world for biological control of lepidopteran pests; meaning it’s one of the good guys that attacks the opposition. The Trichogramma wasp measures only 1/50th of an inch, though she be but little, she is fierce!
Studying the minuscule, multipedal mites can reveal vital knowledge. We can learn from their behaviors, their production, how they use resources, how they defend themselves and how particular bugs can benefit our own human existence. Gretchen represents her subjects well, “Essentially, they constitute millions of little pest management employees that work tirelessly for a grower’s benefit. One reason I appreciate BioSafe Systems’ commitment to sustainable chemistries is that our products effectively manage pests while preserving beneficial arthropods.”
Gretchen joined BioSafe Systems ready and willing to contribute, directing her efforts to, “bring together my Entomology and business skills to work with BioSafe Systems and research and promote the use of products I can believe in,”. She can develop pest management programs that dispel detrimental insects in various stages of their development and simultaneously utilize the positive attributes of naturally occurring beneficial pollinators. Dr. Pettis aims to put the knowledge gleaned after years of research into the hands of sales staff to bolster their confidence in recommending innovative and practical programs for growers and producers.
Gretchen knows what can be gained from creatures I usually avoid; she’s pro-spider and pro-wasp. She dropped some knowledge about her favorite garden do-gooder, the green lacewing. Even in the larva stage the lacewings devour destructive aphids, thrips, and whiteflies aggressively, but are completely harmless to humans. I found out you can buy green lacewings for personal use in containers the same size as a spice shaker. Gretchen shared that some even throw their victim’s carcass on their backs and walk around like miniature headhunters, “That’s just wicked!” she added. But of all the wild things she’s witnessed, the Carolina Metallic Tiger Beetle (Tetracha Carolina) is the top shelf species of her heart. She explained, “Just imagine a fast-running, metallic, mini rainbow that can catch and eat caterpillars twice its size! What’s not to like?” It makes me smile to imagine a young, ‘free range’ kid with a paper cup crawling after a six-legged, skittering, shimmering beetle, and the inevitable squeal of joy upon its capture followed by wide eyes and, “MOM! LOOK WHAT I GOT!”
Here’s to Dr. Gretchen Pettis, and all we can learn from an intelligent, enthusiastic entomologist. We’re grateful to have you working as a liaison, mediating safety and cooperation between people and pollinators, and vying for creative and inventive solutions in agribusiness.
Gretchen says, “I’ve found that people involved in agriculture are universally a great group to work with.” Let’s reinforce those findings, people.