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Appreciating insects and other arthropods: a lifetime of riches

 

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It is about time I got busy and stared blogging again on this site. Since I am out of practice, I will do what I know best: a photo essay about why I love insects and other arthropods, and how studying them has improved my life!

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Ever since I was a young kid, I have loved getting out and seeing the animals nearby. When I was very young, my mom would send me in the backyard with a spoon and a yogurt container, so I could dig up, catch and watch the bugs I found. 

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In school, virtually all of my research reports and essays would be about insects, spiders, snakes and other animals. My love of insects became my pathway to learning.

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In university, I continued to indulge my love of insects and other animals, by taking any and all zoological courses offered. 

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Even when not studying, almost all the free time I get is spent outdoors, still looking for and watching insects, spiders and other animals. I really enjoy doing photography of what I find. 

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Taking photos of insects is a great way to explore their beauty, and to try to communicate that to others. In the pursuit of a good photograph, I learn a lot about the habits of local insects. 

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Now, I make a living studying animal behaviour. At the moment I am working with Catherine Scott studying spider behaviour at a local beach in Victoria BC. 

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We are studying black widows, one of the most beautiful and intriguing spiders. Of course I bring my camera along, to document the cool things we are learning about their behaviour!

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Studying insects and spiders is not only my job, it is what I most love to do. There is just so much to learn and explore. I think that getting out and experiencing the natural world this way is one of the most rewarding things someone of any age can do!

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Organizations like the Entomological Society of Canada, as well as the Entomological Society of Ontario, and the Toronto Entomologist’s Association form a community of people I can talk to and share my discoveries with. I highly recommend getting together with other insect lovers! Trading ideas and anecdotes and learning more together are some ways we can improve knowledge of insects and other arthropods.  

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OK! I have said my piece. I would welcome any other ESC members, or other entomologists out there to do likewise! What have you been doing this summer? What are some of the cool things you have seen? Share them with us here at the ESC blog!

 

 

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Emerald Ash Borer – marking 10 years of research

Emerald Ash Borer. Credit Debbie Miller, USDA Forest Service. Bugwood.org

Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis). Credit: Debbie Miller USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org.

To mark the publication of the Emerald Ash Borer special issue from The Canadian Entomologist, guest editors Chris MacQuarrie and Krista Ryall from Natural Resources Canada have co-authored this blog post about the issue.

In 2002, residents of Detroit, Michigan noticed something was killing their ash trees. Ash trees in North America are susceptible to some diseases that can result in decline and mortality, so a forest disease specialist was dispatched to investigate why these trees were dying. It was soon determined that the culprit was not a disease, but an insect: a shiny, metallic-green, buprestid beetle not previously known from Michigan, or anywhere else in North America. Authorities in Michigan notified their Canadian counterparts who soon discovered numerous ash trees dying in Windsor, Ontario from damage caused by the same beetle. Eventually, with the help of a European systematist the insect was determined to be the previously described (and previously rare) Agrilus planipennis. Today, this insect is better known by its common name:  the emerald ash borer.

To commemorate the discovery of emerald ash borer in North America, we organized a symposium and workshop at the 2013 Entomological Society of Canada’s and Ontario’s Joint Meeting in Guelph, Ontario. The timing and location of this workshop seemed appropriate because 2013 marked 10 years of research on the emerald ash borer and Guelph is located only a few 100 kilometres from where emerald ash borer was first found, and is now well within the insect’s Canadian range. Our goal with this symposium was to review the state of knowledge on emerald ash borer after ten years of research, and look ahead to the questions that researchers will be asking as the infestation continues to grow and spread. We were fortunate that many of the researchers who have contributed so much of what we know about emerald ash borer were able to participate.

We were quite pleased with how well the symposium turned out. However, information presented in a symposium is ephemeral and fades away as soon as the last talk is over. To prevent this, we imposed upon our presenters to also prepare written versions of their presentations. It took some time, but now these papers are all complete, and have been put together to form a special issue of The Canadian Entomologist dedicated to the emerald ash borer.

Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer.  Image credit: Chris MacQuarrie

Ten years is a long time in research. We estimated that over 300 papers on emerald ash borer had been produced over that period, with more being produced every month. It is our hope that this special issue can serve as an entry point into this literature for researchers new to the field. We also hope that this issue can be valuable to more established researchers as well, to use as a resource and a touchstone in their own work. This special issue can also serve as a reminder of how much effort is required (in both research and by people) to understand a new pest. What we have learned about emerald ash borer over the past ten years (well, 13 years now) is immense. There is still much to learn though.”

The Emerald Ash Borer special issue is the free sample issue of The Canadian Entomologist for 2015.

Access the special issue for free until 1st January 2016 here.

Main image credit: Debbie Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

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African fig fly shows up in Canada: first occurrences of another fruit-infesting fly and potential pest.

By Justin Renkema, Post-Doc, University of Guelph

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It was an early morning after a long drive from Guelph to a small fruit farm in Chatham-Kent where my undergraduate student, Caitlyn, and I were conducting a small-plot spray trial to test the effect s of repellents against Drosophila suzukii (Spotted Wing Drosophila), a recent invasive and serious fruit pest.  I knew the raspberry patch was heavily infested with D. suzukii so before getting to work, to amuse ourselves at the start of the day, I started gently shaking canes, and we watched the swarms of fruit flies disperse and hover over the fresh fruit.  However, as I went to grab a branch low to the ground, I noticed something different about one of the fruit flies sitting on a leaf.  It had characteristic white “racing stripes” along its thorax, unlike any other fruit fly I had seen.  This was it!  This was very likely Zaprionus indianus or African fig fly, another invasive and potential fruit pest that we knew was moving northwards from the southeastern USA.  Caitlyn grabbed a vial and we successfully had, on 10 September 2013, what we thought was the first capture of this fly in Ontario and Canada.

Zaprionis indianus photographed by Dr. Stephen Marshall in Africa. (Photo C Stephen A. Marshall, used with permission)

Zaprionis indianus photographed by Dr. Stephen Marshall in Africa. (Photo © Stephen A. Marshall, used with permission)

 Indeed the fly was Z. indianus, as determined by Meredith Miller, a M.Sc. student at the University of Guelph working on taxonomy of Drosophila spp. in Ontario.  Through contact with Hannah Fraser at Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs, we learned that their Ontario-wide monitoring program for D. suzukii had also picked up some African fig flies in apple-cider vinegar traps, and a few at an earlier date than our find in Chatham-Kent.  Colleagues in Quebec (Jean-Phillipe Légaré and others at MAPAQ) had also found what they believed were Z. indianus.  Once all the material was collected and examined by Meredith, we submitted a scientific note documenting our Z. indianus discovery in Canada that was published by the Journal of the Entomological Society of Ontario.

Zaprionus indianus is native to the Afrotropical region.  It was found in Brazil in 1998 where it was given its common name because it became a significant pest of figs.  In 2005, Z. indianus was discovered in Florida and has since been found successively further north and west in the USA (see a map of its distribution here).  It is likely that the North American infestation did not come from the Brazilian population.  Zaprionus indianus is the only member of Zaprionus present in Canada, and therefore the reddish-brown head and thorax and particularly the silvery stripes that extend from the antennae to the tip of scutellum can be used as distinguishing features.

Zaprionis indianus dorsum showing characteristic white stripes

Unlike D. suzukii (thankfully!), female Z. indianus do not possess heavily sclerotized and serrated ovipositors and are not currently seen as a serious threat to temperate fruit crops.  They have been reared from a number of tropical, tree-ripened fruits in Florida and there is concern in vineyards in the eastern USA, where sometimes they outnumber D. suzukii in traps. It is possible that Z. indianus can use fruit that has been oviposited in by D. suzukii, thus increasing damage and possibly complicating control measures.  In Canada, particularly Ontario and Quebec, winter temperatures may preclude establishment of African fig fly, and yearly re-infestation from the south would be necessary for it to show up in future years.  At all but one site, we found just 1-4 flies during late summer and early fall per site, so it will be interesting to see what happens to numbers this coming growing season.  In tropical and sub-tropical locations much larger populations have been detected the year following first detection.

For the past 1.5 years I have been working as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Guelph with Rebecca Hallett on D. suzukii.  We are developing a push-pull management strategy using volatile plant compounds to repel and attract this pest.  With the occurrence of Z. indianus and possible reoccurrence  in larger numbers in the future, we may have a unique opportunity to study how two recent invaders using similar resources interact, and also, perhaps, a more significant challenge ahead of us  in developing management strategies.  If you are interested in this topic or have current or future experiences with Z. indianus, I and co-authors on the scientific note would appreciate hearing from you.  You can contact me at renkemaj@uoguelph.ca.

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Renkema J.M., Miller M., Fraser H., Légaré J.P. & Hallett R.H. (2013). First records of Zaprionus indianus Gupta (Diptera: Drosophilidae) from commercial fruit fields in Ontario and Quebec, Canada, Journal of the Entomological Society of Ontario, 144 125-130. OPEN ACCESS [PDF]

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More than a meeting – Workshops at JAM 2013

This year’s Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Societies of Canada and Ontario is shaping up to be the event of the century, or perhaps more correctly, a Sesquicentennial Event, as the ESC & the ESO are celebrating their 150th birthday! While all the usual JAM events will be taking place (like Plenary Sessions with exciting invited speakers, student presentations & posters, a whole suite of special symposia, and plenty of social events to unwind in the evenings), this year will also see the expansion of training workshops for not only meeting attendees, but also the public!

This year, the ESC and the ESO will be holding 3 workshops which we invite entomologists and insect-lovers alike to register for, and which will be held before, after and during the ESC-ESO JAM 2013 in Guelph, from October 19 to 24, 2013.

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UP CLOSE: Insect Photography with Alex Wild – Oct. 19, 2013 – University of Guelph Arboretum Centre ($65 registration fee)

Come spend the day learning how to improve your insect macrophotography skills with Alex Wild. This full day workshop (9:30a-4:30p, lunch provided) will help you take better photos of insects, both in the lab and in the field. For more information, and to learn how to register, please visit the workshop website here. Space is limited, so register today!

Alex Wild Guelph Photography Workshop Poster—————–

CFIA Regulated Plant Pests Identification Workshop – Oct. 22, 2013 – University of Guelph, Graham Hall Rm 3309 (Free Registration!)

Come learn about the 69 plant pests whose movement is legally regulated by CFIA. First, a brief introduction to what such regulation means for people who move insects and goods. Then, most of the workshop will be a hands-on session with microscopes (20), specialists (3), and specimens of species of: mites (2), beetles (18), flies (4), Hemiptera (5), Hymenoptera (2), moths (29), and snails (9). This is meant to get participants the information that they most need: we will help you get
to know the regulated pests that are most relevant to your work. Please register with hume.douglas@inspection.gc.ca to secure your space. More information is available on the ESC-ESO JAM website, but space & microscopes are limited so register early.

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Emerald Ash Borer Workshop – Oct. 24, 2013 – University of Guelph Arboretum Centre (Free Registration!)

This workshop is intended for all those interested in the management of emerald ash borer.

The morning session will review current tools and techniques for the management EAB, including a presentation on the risk assessment process in Canada. Other speakers will provide case-studies of their response to EAB in municipalities in Southern Ontario, and on the management of wood from infested trees.

The afternoon session will be round-table discussions among all participants. These discussions will include: what future research is needed to manage emerald ash borer, what questions about the beetle are still unanswered, and what are the challenges to implementing current management techniques. The goal of the afternoon session is for you to provide feedback to the research community on where effort needs to be directed as the emerald ash borer enters its second decade in Canada. There is no charge to attend this workshop, but space is limited. For more information, and to register, please see the workshop flyer on the ESC-ESO JAM Website (PDF).

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Grant Writing: Success in Preparation – October 20, 2013 – University of Guelph Rozanski Hall

This workshop is still in development (check back soon for details), but will be held Sunday, Oct. 20 from 9:30a-11a, before the Opening Ceremonies and Plenary Session. Designed for entomologists at all stages of their careers, from students to post-docs, and early career researchers to tenured professors, we hope this workshop will help get you all set for your next grant writing session. Free & open to all meeting registrants!

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Lunch Workshops

We’ll also be hosting several other workshops over the course of the meeting for registered attendees, including workshops on bringing social media into your lab, teaching in entomology, and how to prepare a CV or Resume. These workshops are for meeting attendees only, and will be held daily over lunch break (your lunch is provided with meeting registration this year).

If you haven’t registered for the ESC-ESO JAM yet, there’s still time to do so online (expires October 6). We hope to see you in a few weeks time at the 2013 ESC-ESO JAM in Guelph!

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ESO Bug Day 2013

By Jeff Skevington, AAFC & President of the Entomological Society of Ontario

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Today was the first ESO Bug Day. Thanks to Sophie Cardinal for organizing it all and to our many members and other volunteers who came out to help. I think it was an unparalleled success. We had hundreds of participants (my guess is slightly over 1000, but it was hard to track numbers). All of the volunteer leaders came with fabulous stuff – everything from Giant Swallowtails and Tomato Hornworm larvae to huge scarab larvae to hissing cockroaches and a whip scorpion. Andy Bennett did a brilliant job with the cockroach races with his home made Duplo race track. We had a tank of aquatic insects, ran at least 15 public hikes, had a biological control display, face painting, a butterfly exhibit, a craft table. The building was bursting at the seems to thankfully the rain held off and we were able to do a lot of it outdoors.

All in all, it was fabulous exposure for the ESO and the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club (who provided many volunteers as well as their clubhouse and gardens).

Thanks again to all who helped and to the ESC for their help with funding. I hope that we can do it again next year – maybe in more than one city now that we have tried it out!

Caterpillar overlook Craft time

Andy Bennett oversees a cockroach race

Andy Bennett oversees a cockroach race

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CBC Radio Ottawa stopped by and took in Bug Day as well. Listen to the segment titled “Bug Day fun at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden” here (scroll down the page a bit to find it).
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ESC/ESO 150th Anniversary Joint Annual Meeting

By Gary Umphrey, University of Guelph & President of ESC-ESO 2013 JAM Organizing Committee

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Greetings Fellow Entomological Enthusiast:

I wish to draw your attention to the following photo, which is of the participants at the Entomological Society of Ontario’s 50th Anniversary meeting, held in Guelph Aug 27-29, 1913. Yes, this meeting was held 100 years ago this past week. And if you peruse the distinguished individuals in the photo you may recognize William Morton Wheeler, the iconic ant man and Ed Wilson’s predecessor in myrmecology at Harvard, sitting on the far left in the front row. Indeed Wheeler was scheduled to present a public lecture, succinctly titled “Ants”, at 8:00 pm on August 28, 1913. Wheeler was only one of the distinguished entomologists at the meeting, and I invite you to check out the second file which will attach names to the people you may not recognize.

ESO 50th Anniversary, 1913

ESO 50th Anniversary, 1913 - names

I am not sure how (or if) you celebrated the anniversary of Wheeler’s talk (a Bitburger in my Ants! cup worked for me), but in any case I might suggest that a good way for you to do so would be to register for the special 150th Anniversary entomological extravaganza, the Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of Canada and Entomological Society of Ontario in Guelph, Oct 20-23, 2013. The deadline for early registration at a deep discount is fast approaching — indeed it is TODAY! The conference website is at:

http://www.uoguelph.ca/debu/esc-eso2013/esc-eso.html

This will be a very full program this year, and it has been necessary to extend it to include Wednesday afternoon. To ensure that you won’t have to miss out on any presentations you might want to attend, we are including lunches with your registration fee for the Monday to Wednesday concurrent sessions at the Delta Hotel. Registration also includes the opening reception and banquet.

An unadvertised attraction of this meeting: you will have opportunities to have your photo taken with Jeremy McNeil, the King of Entomological T-Shirts! You will probably want to be wearing an entomology t-shirt yourself. If you don’t bring a favorite shirt (or even if you do) we will have a limited supply of commemorative 150th JAM t-shirts. If you find the official logo too edgy, are troubled by the raging controversies that have surrounded this logo, or simply don’t like biting flies, we will have t-shirts with an alternative logo as well.

The deadline for submitting a presentation (talk or poster) is September 15. Note that abstracts are not required, we only want your title. Space on the program for talks is limited, so don’t delay if you want to present.

The Delta Hotel is our official conference hotel, and we have a block of rooms available at a special price that includes parking (regularly $12/day). While there are certainly other hotels in Guelph, and some at lower prices, the Delta is a very nice hotel and there is real convenience in staying at the conference hotel, especially if we get some nasty weather. The reserved block is quite limited, and so if you wish to stay in the Delta I would suggest making your reservation as soon as possible.

To our entomological colleagues in the U.S.A., YOUR PRESIDENT WILL BE HERE! Yes, Dr. Rob Wiedenmann, President of the Entomological Society of America, will be speaking on Sunday in the opening session, and we would be delighted if you could attend as well (subject to meeting capacity, we certainly can’t handle the numbers that attend an E.S.A. meeting). Here’s a chance to burnish your international reputation and meet your President at the same time, simply by making a jaunt to Canada to attend our meeting!

I would encourage you to join us in the celebrations of the ESC/ESO Sesquicentennial Anniversary JAM and join William Morton Wheeler and his colleagues in the rich historical legacy of special anniversary entomological meetings in Canada.

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Happy 150th Birthday ESO & ESC!

Today is the day, April 16, 1863, in Toronto, Ontario, when it all began….when we became open to “all students and lovers of entomology”….when the colourful histories of the Entomological Societies of Ontario and Canada became “inextricably entwined” (Timms 2010, ESC Bulletin, 42(2):77-83). Despite some early, shared pain in our respective emergences as separate, adult societies, we cannot be anything but jointly proud on this date of our inauguration 150 years ago. We thankfully today can both lay claim to being one of the oldest scientific societies in North America and can happily share our heritage without a bun fight, as of yore.

So happy birthday to us, and please join us in celebration in Guelph at the Joint Annual Meeting of the ESC and ESO, October 20-23, 2013.

HappyBirthdayESOC

 

 

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Upcoming Meeting – Entomological Society of Ontario AGM

Greetings fellow entomologists,

The 149th annual meeting of the Entomological Society of Ontario is fast approaching!

The venue: Bonnenfant Outdoor Education Centre, West Carleton, Ottawa, Canada.

The dates: September 28-30th, 2012.

Registration is now open at the official meeting website.

Submit your Posters and Oral Presentations before September 17th to be assured of getting onto the program.

Students: enter the President’s Prize competition and win cash!

Don’t be disappointed – register early as we are limited to 100 participants.

See you in September!

Bruce Gill
ESO President
Chair ESO 2012

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3rd Annual ESO BugEye Photo Contest

Got a great insect photo? Submit it to the 3rd Annual BugEye Photo Contest presented by the Entomological Society of Ontario!

Acorn Weevil by Crystal Ernst

2011 Winning Photo, Open Category: Acorn Weevil by Crystal Ernst

Prizes for:
– Best photo (open category): $50
– Best photo by an Ontario resident: $50
– Best photo of an Ontario insect: $50
– Best photo by a kid under 13: $50

Open to everyone, no entry fee!
(Ontario resident includes anyone who currently makes their primary residence in Ontario, international students welcome!).

Submission deadline: Sept. 6th, 2012

Submit photos to: esophotos@gmail.com

Winners announced: September 30th, 2012

Copyright for the photo remains with the photographer, use must be granted for ESO promotional material. Winning photos will be displayed on the ESO website, and all entries will be displayed at the 149th Annual General Meeting of the ESO.

Interested in meeting other entomologists and learning more about Ontario insects? Join ESO! It’s free for students and amateurs, and only $30 for others. Get more information at http://www.entsocont.ca.

Rules:
1. Photos must be of insects or closely-related arthropods (e.g. mites, spiders).
2. Submissions must be as digital files
3. Photographic enhancement is allowed as long as it is something that could be achieved in a real darkroom (i.e. adjustment of contrast, color enhancement, cropping, etc.). However very obvious enhancements will be negatively scored.
4. You may submit up to 3 unique images per category.
5. Submit photos as 7.5 x 10 inches in size at 300 dpi (2250 x 3000 pixels), in .jpg format, with filename as title_lastname_firstinitial.jpg (e.g. dragonfly_smith_j.jpg).
6. Photos may be landscape or portrait in orientation.
7. Print photos must be scanned and submitted as digital files.

Please include a short description of your photo:
1. Where they were taken
2. Why you like them
3. What insect is pictured
4. What category is being entered
5. Your complete address

Judging criteria:
1. Image composition
2. Visual impact
3. Subject interest
4. Sharpness of subject
5. Difficulty of image acquisition
6. Depth of field within image