When Philipp Heise needs new burying beetles for his research, he simply goes into the forest, buries several yoghurt cups and leaves a small piece of carrion on them. The smell of decay attracts burying beetles who want to preserve the meat as provisions for their young. As soon as a beetle begins to embalm the carrion with its saliva, it falls into the cup and ultimately lands in the laboratory of the Fraunhofer project group Bioresources in Gießen, Germany.
Here the burying beetle, a member of the genus Nicrophorus, is in the best of company with other insects. All are gifted with unusual abilities and are therefore predestined as the subjects of research in the field of Insect Biotechnology, an innovative research area founded by Professor Dr. Andreas Vilcinskas. Vilcinskas is Professor of Applied Entomology at Giessen University and head of the Fraunhofer Bioresources project group, part of the LOEWE Center for Insect Biotechnology and Bioresources. Vilcinskas leads the Center, which he established with the help of the German state of Hesse's research support program LOEWE.
"The close connection to the university lets us leverage the academic network and develop products at Fraunhofer that we can then bring to market together with industry," Vilcinskas points out. Currently the approximately 85 employees working in the project group are still distributed across five different sites. In two years they'll be able to move into the new research building currently under construction in Gießen.