Kenneth V. Yeargan, ESA Fellow (2007)

Dr. Kenneth V. Yeargan, a professor of entomology at the University of Kentucky, Lexington (UKY), was elected as Fellow in 2007.  His research has emphasized the ecology and behavior of carnivorous arthropods, biological control, and IPM.  He is an internationally recognized authority on bolas spiders, predators that attract their prey by duping them into responding to a pheromone mimic.

Yeargan was born in central Alabama in 1947, where he lived his first 22 years.  His early interest in the natural world was sparked by the diverse flora and fauna on his parents’ farm.  He attended Auburn University, receiving his B.S. in zoology in 1969.  Later that year he entered the doctoral program at the University of California, Davis, and earned his Ph.D. in 1974.  The following month he accepted a position as assistant professor in the Department of Entomology at UKY and attained the rank of full professor in 1984.

Yeargan’s early research at UKY focused on IPM, including studies of economic injury levels, sampling methodology for pests, and similar problems.  Throughout his research career, however, a prevalent theme has been the ecology and behavior of predatory arthropods and parasitoids.  Yeargan and his students have studied numerous predatory groups, but especially true bugs, lady beetles, harvestmen, and spiders.  His work with parasitoids has included studies of Scelionidae, Mymaridae, Ichneumonidae, and Braconidae.  He discovered remarkable behavioral tactics used by parasitoids to overcome the escape response of their host caterpillars that drop on silken threads when disturbed.  He and his students discovered a novel method of enhancing larval lady beetle densities in crops by growing companion plants that the adult lady beetles strongly prefer as sites for laying their eggs, and that provide protection of those eggs from predation.  Yeargan was the first to determine the complete life history for a bolas spider species.  While it had been known since 1903 that large immature and adult female bolas spiders capture moths as prey, Yeargan discovered that the small immature and diminutive adult male bolas spiders attract and capture psychodid flies.

Yeargan has received several awards for research, mentoring graduate students, and teaching, including the ESA’s Distinguished Achievement in Teaching Award.  Many of his students have gone on to successful careers in academia, industry, and government agencies; four of his students have been elected President of his/her respective ESA Branch.  He has served on the formal advisory committees for more than 100 graduate students and served as the Entomology Director of Graduate Studies at UKY for 7.5 years (2002-2009).  He also served the ESA as Secretary, Chair-Elect, and Chair of Section C (Ecology and Behavior) and served on the Program Committee for the ESA Annual Meeting five times, including chairing that committee in 1987.  That year he produced the first subject index for an ESA Annual Meeting program.

Yeargan is married to Michelle (Barbeau) Yeargan and has a son, Bret.  His hobbies include gardening, hiking, photography, wine, food, and thoroughbred horse racing.

(updated January, 2013)