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posted: 6/16/2014 8:34 AM

Learn about controlling insects at next STEM Cafe

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Submitted by NIU

Could something as simple as aspirin be the key to controlling the insect population? Jon Miller from Northern Illinois University's Department of Biological Sciences will share his research into insect cellular immunity and discuss how low concentrations of anti-inflammatory medicine may lead to safer, greener pest control practices at the next STEM Cafe.

"Infecticide: Using Cellular Immunity to Control Insect Pest Populations" will begin at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 18, at Eduardo's Mexican Restaurant, 214 E. Lincoln Hwy. in DeKalb.

Join the monthly STEM Cafés. They are fun, casual gatherings where adults can eat, drink, and chat with STEM professionals about the latest scientific research. These events are free and open to the public. Food and drinks are available for purchase from the host restaurant.

Miller serves as acting director of NIU's Center for Secondary Science and Mathematics Education and as director of the Teacher Licensure Program for biology. He is also a research scientist in cell biology with more than 20 years of experience in teaching biology, chemistry and human anatomy and physiology at the high school and university levels.

Miller has long been fascinated with insects and was interested in ways to control pest populations without negative effects to humans and other important insects such as honeybees.

"Insects are a part of the ecosystem and play an important role," Miller says. "We don't want to completely eradicate insect pests in agricultural settings. Instead, we should try to keep their populations below economic thresholds so the farmer can earn a living and the environment is not negatively impacted."

Miller says that if researchers spray fields with low doses of anti-inflammatories rather than using pesticides, they can disrupt the insect immune system. This causes insects in the sprayed area to lose their natural immunity to common microorganisms and bacteria found in the environment.

Unlike pesticides, which are also poisonous to humans, immune disrupters will have little to no effect on human health.

"It just so happens that the immune disrupters are NSAID pharmaceuticals such as Advil, Aleve, aspirin and common drugs we take for a headache or fever. They are anti-inflammatory drugs," Miller says. "Many of the disrupter agents are also treatments for arthritis."

Miller plans to discuss insects, immunology and applications of his research. After his talk, he will participate in a question-and-answer session with the audience.

For information, contact Judith Dymond at (815) 753-4751 or, or

On July 15, it will be "Beer Biology" at 6:30 p.m. at Two Brothers Roundhouse, 205 N. Broadway St. in Aurora. On Aug. 12, join in stargazing at Kuipers Family Farm in Maple Park.