By Paul Manning, B.Sc. student at Nova Scotia Agricultural College
As an undergraduate student, I’ve been working diligently on the final hurrah of my four year career; the undergraduate thesis. I’ve been fortunate to work under the supervision of Dr. Chris Cutler for the past two summers, learning about the ecology and roles of insects within wild blueberry production. Though I’ve worked on a wide variety of projects within the lab, I’ve realized quickly that pollination was the aspect of entomology that I found to be particularly intriguing.

Blossoms of wild blueberry May, 23rd, 2012 (Photo by P. Manning)

One of the projects that caught my eye was as a continuation of a trial that our lab did in the summer of 2011. By sanctioning off areas of wild blueberries with cages that prevented pollinators from accessing the flowers, the team discovered that approximately a third of pollination events may be attributed to nocturnal insect activity, as well as weight of ripe berries being insignificant between nocturnal, and diurnal pollinated treatments.  Though a number of insects were collected using Malaise traps in this study, it was not possible to conclude captured insects were responsible for vectoring the pollen.

Lo and behold, there was a great opportunity for my thesis; to discover the identities of nocturnal pollinators within wild blueberry production. Armed with a sweep net, kill jars, a mercury-vapour lamp, tissue and enough ethyl-acetate to open my own nail salon we began to hit the field. Our sampling periods happened at two different times during the night; an early shift that started as soon as the sun went down, and a shift that started at 12:00 AM. Each sampling session lasted for two hours in length.

We implemented an interesting capture method, which worked extremely effectively. Under the glow of the mercury-vapor lamp, we placed a large 8×4 plywood board against the fence, making an 80° angle with the ground. When the insect landed upon the board, a quick capture could be made by placing the kill-jar against the board, and giving the board a small tap. This caused the insect to fly up into the kill-jar.

Screen illuminated by the mercury-vapour lamp (Photo by P. Manning)

June beetle captured with light trapping (Photo by P. Manning)

As the mercury vapor lamp began to buzz, insects began to make their way out of the dark and against our screen. The diversity was stunningly interesting, quite surprising. Tiny midges, large scarab beetles, hawk moths, and nocturnal icheumonids were included amongst our varied group of visitors.


Sweep samples were also taken in an area of darkness within the field. We used ethyl-acetate fumigated from a ventilated jar, within a larger Tupperware container to effectively kill the insects without struggle. The diversity from these samples was very different; being attributed mostly to beetles and small flies.

Insects were analyzed to find whether or not they carried pollen using methods. By swabbing the eyes, head, and mouthparts with a small cube of fuchsin gel.  By sealing these slides with the aid of a Bunsen burner, blueberry pollen was easily detected through its distinctive tetrad shape using a light microscope.

As the samples have been analyzed, the diversity of insects that may represent the nocturnal pollinators of wild blueberry is staggering. Though the work has been challenging and sometimes very tedious (have you ever attempted removing pollen off the head of a thrips?). I’ve learned a great diversity of things, including: an incredibly simple way to differentiate between icheumonids and brachonids; that there are an incredible number of fly families that vaguely-resemble a typical housefly; and that iced-cappuccinos do contain caffeine (after finally drifting off to sleep at 4:30 AM on a Sunday morning).

A small moth visits the light screen after sampling finishes (Photo by P. Manning)

This project has been a great way to open my eyes to the diversity of insects responsible for ecological functions. When prompted with the cue ‘pollination’ – my mind has been switched over from the typical image of a honey-bee – to a myriad of insect visitors among flowers. This is a vision of pollination which to me is something more; diverse, representative, and inclusive of this invaluable ecological service.


Beattie, A. J. 1971. A technique for the study of insect-borne pollen. Pan-Pacific Entomologist 47:82.
Cutler, C. G., Reeh, K. W., Sproule, J. M., & Ramanaidu, K. (July 01, 2012). Berry unexpected: Nocturnal pollination of lowbush blueberry. Canadian Journal of Plant Science, 92, 4, 707-711.

Honey bee flying with pollen - Photo by Alex Wild

Honey bee flying with pollen – Photo by Alex Wild, used with permission

Honeybee colonies are famous for their orderly divisions of labour.  As worker bees grow up, they transition from housekeepers (cleaning the colony) to nurse bees (feeding young bees), to finally switching to foragers who go out and collect nectar and pollen for the rest of the colony.   To maintain a healthy colony, bees need to decide how many foragers and how many nurse bees are needed, and control of these numbers is accomplished by pheromone levels within the colony.

In honeybee colonies, there are pheromones like the alarm pheromone that cause immediate behavioural responses (called releaser pheromones) and others that trigger physiological changes like hormones do (called primer pheromone).  From previous work, it seemed that ethyl oleate functions as a primer pheromone, produced by foragers, that delays the maturation of nurse bees into foragers.

“Ethyl oleate does not elicit any noticeable behavourial responses in recipient workers,” says Dr. Erika Plettner, who supervised a recent study on the synthesis of ethyl oleate at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.  “Yet it has a profound physiological effect”.

To understand how this chemical is produced in the individual bee and then distributed in the colony, Carlos Castillo and colleagues from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and the Laboratoire Biologie et protection de L’Abeillie in France looked at several ways to identify the source and synthesis of ethyl oleate.  This chemical can be produced by a reaction between oleic acid (a common fatty acid in insects) and ethanol.  While you might not think of honeybees as heavy drinkers, it turns out that yeasts in flower nectar ferment the sugars present into ethanol, and so the forager bees have much higher exposure to ethanol than nurse bees.

To figure out if ethanol and oleic acid can be made into ethyl oleate by honeybees, the researchers incubated different honeybee body parts from forager and nurse bees with these precursors.  They found highest production of ethyl oleate in the head tissues, and that both nurses and foragers could produce ethyl oleate when given ethanol.  In addition, in whole bees, they found that the ethyl oleate migrated from the gut to the exoskeleton of the bees where it would exude into the colony.

Taken together, these results suggest that making ethyl oleate, while it is useful for colony control, might also be a way to deal with the occupational hazard of consuming toxic ethanol.  “Foragers have much higher occupational exposure to ethanol than nurses do,” says Dr. Plettner.  “This is why they make ethyl oleate in nature”.

Ethyl oleate molecule

Ethyl oleate

To track down where exactly the ethyl oleate was synthesized, they coupled oleic acid to a chemical that would produce fluorescence when the oleic acid was combined with ethanol to produce ethyl oleate.  Under the microscope, areas that fluoresced showed where ethyl oleate was being made.  They found that ethyl oleate was made in the esophagus, honey crop and stomach.

The authors were also able to identify the genes responsible for the synthesis of ethyl oleate in the honeybee and the resulting enzymes that catalyze the reaction between oleic acid and ethanol.  These enzymes are then secreted into the gut fluid, where they produce ethyl oleate, which is then transported to the cuticle.

The biosynthesis of ethyl oleate then can be thought of a way of providing updates to the colony about the availability of flower nectar in nature.  “EO might be some kind of ‘resource meter’ that tells the nurses in the colony how many nectar and pollen resources are coming in,” says Dr. Plettner.  “If lots of food is coming in, then it makes sense to inhibit nurse to forager transition, as the nurses would be more needed in the brood chamber than as foragers.  Conversely, if few resources and/or foragers are coming in, then it makes sense to speed up development of nurses so that they can forage and fill the need.”

Castillo, C., Chen, H., Graves, C., Maisonnasse, A., Le Conte, Y. & Plettner, E. (2012). Biosynthesis of ethyl oleate, a primer pheromone, in the honey bee (Apis mellifera L.), Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 42 (6) 416. DOI: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2012.02.002

Corresponding author: Erika Plettner (

Further reading:

Castillo, C., Maisonnasse, A., Conte, Y.L. & Plettner, E. (2012). Seasonal variation in the titers and biosynthesis of the primer pheromone ethyl oleate in honey bees, Journal of Insect Physiology, 58 (8) 1121. DOI: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2012.05.010

Pollenia griseotomentosa Calliphoridae Cluster fly
Pollenia rudis Face

Pollenia rudis

By Adam Jewiss-Gaines,  a research assistant at Brock University.


When people ask me what the heck a calliphorid is (often after I have mentioned the family name and am being gawked at as if I’m crazy), I usually remark “You know those shiny flies you often see flying around in the spring and summer?”  This isn’t technically 100% accurate since the genus Pollenia, one of the most commonly encountered genera of the family, is in fact non-reflective and grey.  Upon closer inspection, a keen eye can also observe varying amounts of wrinkled, yellow hairs on the thorax.  These two qualities distinguish Pollenia from other blow flies throughout North America.  Despite being a little dull when compared to their more eye-catching iridescent relatives, Pollenia are ecologically important insects as they aid in plant pollination and the processing of various biomaterials.

Pollenia often become particularly active during the spring and summer months once the temperature warms up, although they can occasionally be spotted indoors in the wintertime on a warmer day.  With a sudden onslaught of large, grey insects flying around when the snow begins to melt, it comes as no surprise that people tend to get irritated with them and consider them pests.  Oftentimes they are mistaken as houseflies (Family Muscidae) causing Pollenia species to be labeled as potential food contaminators, but this is not the case.  These insects are also particularly well-known for their clustering behaviour on walls, earning them their common name: cluster flies.

Even though Pollenia are extremely common, their general biology is largely unknown with a few exceptional details. It is known that larval Pollenia are parasites on various other organisms, such as maggots and worms. For example, Rognes (1991) noted that Pollenia pediculata, one of the most common species found throughout the continent, is a parasite of the earthworm species Eisenia rosea. Aside from this little tidbit however, specific information regarding the life cycles of Pollenia species is relatively scarce and further studies in this particular field would greatly improve our knowledge of the genus.

Pollenia griseotomentosa Calliphoridae Cluster fly

Pollenia griseotomentosa

Until very recently it has been thought that all Pollenia found in North America were the same species (Pollenia rudis), but after examining various collections throughout the world, Knut Rognes found that six members of the genus occur throughout the region.  Terry Whitworth adapted much of Rognes’ work shortly thereafter into a nice, clean, simple identification key for North America. With accurate images and photography, however, characters could be even easier to distinguish and observe when one is able to compare a photograph to the creature they have under their microscope.

Therefore, to further expand on Terry’s key and clarify important visual characters, I collaborated with him and Dr. Steve Marshall to create a fully-illustrated digital key for distinguishing the six North American Pollenia species from one another.  Now published in the Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification, Cluster Flies of North America couples high-resolution images of important traits with a clean and simple interface to create a handy tool to be used by entomologists and non-entomologists alike. If you are relying on this key for identification, it is recommended to use physical specimens of Pollenia rather than images or photos, since even the best of hand-photographs have difficulty capturing key features. In addition, distribution maps are provided for each species, constructed from locality data of specimens from the University of Guelph Insect Collection and Terry Whitworth’s personal collection of Pollenia.

Creating this key has been a great opportunity, and I hope the entomological community is able to make good use of it. My sincere thanks go out to Steve Marshall, Terry Whitworth, the editors, and my labmates and friends for all of their support.


Jewiss-Gaines, A., Marshall, S.A. & Whitworth, T.L. (2012). Cluster flies (Calliphoridae: Polleniinae: Pollenia) of North America, Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification, 19 DOI: 10.3752/cjai.2012.19

Rognes, K. 1991. Blowflies (Diptera, Calliphoridae) of Fennoscandia and Denmark. Fauna Entomologica Scandinavica Vol. 24.

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:

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

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

Dear Buggy is the the alter-ego of Dr. Chris MacQuarrie, a research entomologist with the Canadian Forest Service. You can ask Buggy questions of your own on Twitter @CMacQuar.



Dear Buggy has lept out of the pages of the ESC Bulletin and landed in the new and exciting wilderness of the ESC blog. My loyal readers shouldn’t worry, I’ll still be writing my column, but between editions of the Bulletin I’ll be posting here.

I’m very excited to be contributing to the ESC blog, but I’ll admit I am a tad nervous. When Crystal and Morgan invited me to contribute I was worried that it would be hard to come up with interesting topics. Thankfully the ideas began to flow after a glass of good scotch and I think I’ve come up with a few ideas that should keep me busy. After that? Well I’m always open to suggestions.

While thinking about this first blog post for ‘Dear Buggy’ I recalled how I felt when I first signed on to write Dear Buggy for the Bulletin. Where was I going to get these ideas!? Fortunately, a lot of the suggestions for my early columns come from the then-editor, Kevin Floate. Kevin had the original idea for Dear Buggy and shared with me his collection of questions and ideas. Later on, the ideas began to flow and inspiration came from others around me. Although, when I’m stuck for an topic I still go back to the original list that Kevin gave me. Good ideas can be hard to come by when you’ve got writer’s block and a deadline is fast approaching

As I planned this blog post I began to muse over the source of all my ideas, in particular “Where do I get my research ideas?”.

For example, when I was a new MSc student many of my research questions were influenced by the ideas of my supervisors. This isn’t all that unusual.  I suspect that when most of us started in research we were given, or at the least influenced, by ideas of others. As we mature scientifically we eventually start to come up with our own ideas. In fact, a good part of becoming a successful, independent researcher is tied to coming up with good ideas (which we might also call hypotheses). So where do these ideas come from? And perhaps more importantly, what do we do with these ideas once we have them?

I find inspiration hits at the oddest times and in the oddest places . I think Jorge Cham at PhD comics captured it best in this series of comics. Like most, I’ve been inspired in the ‘usual’ places: reading papers, attending seminars, talking with colleagues, etc… But inspiration can happen in other places as well. My mind tends to wander on my bike-ride home, when I’m pushing my daughter in her stroller, and quite often when I’m sharing a glass of scotch with my wife (who, lucky for me, is also an entomologist). As it turns out, this ‘mind wandering’ actually helps you have those ‘eureka’ moments, especially if you have been banging your head against the wall for awhile. I wrote recently about figuring out when you are best at writing. I think that advice can be extended to figuring out when and where you are inspired and to make sure you go there often.

But what about capturing ideas? My mind is like the proverbial sieve, but with one annoying quirk. I often can remember that I had an idea, I just can’t remember what it was.

To combat this selective memory I try to capture my ideas in my work journal as soon as possible. I’m a bit old fashioned so my journal is still kept in a notebook. Since my journal is also where I keep track my current projects, I make sure I highlight any new ideas so they are easy to find later on. There are many, many web-tools out there that can do the same job. The trick, though is to find something that works for you and to use it. My wife, for example,  is also an artist and long-ago got in the habit of carrying a sketchbook with her. That sketchbook now contains just as many ideas for research projects as it does ideas for art projects.

Finally, I must make a confession. Most of my ideas are bad. Some are half baked, others were thought of by someone else and rejected 30 years ago, a lot are impractical, infeasible, or near-impossible to execute or fit into the research that I’m doing. These over time get filtered out. Those that survive this process of natural selection, I keep. I then draw from this storehouse when the right moment comes along. Not all of these ideas will pan out of course, but by hanging on to the good ones I always have the right idea at hand when opportunity presents itself.

I’d be curious to hear about where you find your inspiration and how you track your ideas. Leave them in the comments section and I’ll summarize the best ones in a later post.

Cheers and see you next month,


By Crystal Ernst, PhD Candidate (McGill University)

Since I finally submitted my manuscript to a journal (YAY!), I’ve been tying up the little loose ends remaining at the end of the project. You know: organizing the useful data and image files, tossing the files marked “MESSING_AROUND_WITH_DATA_v.29), tidying up my R code, and, perhaps most importantly, curating my specimens.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about the project here (I’m saving that for another post). I will say, though, that the work I just completed includes just over 2,600 beetles from a single location in Nunavut (Kugluktuk, where I spent my entire first field season).

Two major aspects of the physical work (as opposed to the thinking, reading and writing) involved in an ecological/entomological project such as this one are the pinning and the identifications. Some of the tasks are a bit tedious (cutting labels; entering data; gluing over 800 specimens of the same tiny, plain black ground beetle to paper points), and some of them are thrilling (finally getting over the “hump” of the morphological learning curve and feeling good and confident when working with your keys; having experts tell you “Yep, you got those all right”; discovering rare species or new regional species records). In the end, in addition to the published (*knocks on wood*) paper, you have boxes or drawers full of specimens.

The specimens are gold. (Read this post by Dr. Terry Wheeler to understand why.)

Unfortunately, they don’t always get treated as such.

In the two-ish years that I’ve been working in my lab, we’ve had two major “lab clean-up days”. The first managed to get rid of a lot of clutter (old papers, broken apparatus, random crap). The second involved going through the “stuff” that was eating up all the most valuable storage space: specimens. Years and years worth of graduate and undergraduate projects’ specimens, stashed in freezers, boxes, bags and vials of all shapes and sizes.

Some things were in good shape (pinned well, or in clear ethanol). Other things were, well, downright nasty: gooey beetles in sludgy brown ethanol, dried up bits of moth wings in plastic containers, and a little bit of “what in the name of pearl is growing on that agar plate???” in the fridge.

None of these items were kept – their value as useful specimens was nil. So, the physical representation of some student’s work – probably months or years worth of work – was tossed in the trash.

Others, happily, were tucked back into drawers and cupboards, because someone had taken the time to ensure the specimens were well-preserved.

However, even many of these were suffering from a serious issue: bad labels.

Allow me to illustrate the point. This is a bad label:

This is also a bad label:

The first, you’ll note, is written in ballpoint pen (which fades) on a torn piece of notebook paper and contains almost no information. The second, although it looks fancier and perhaps more sciencey, is just as bad: it contains a cryptic code that is useful only to the bearer of the lab notebook in which said code has been written down. Or, perhaps the code is completely intelligible to the researcher who developed it, but the key to it exists only in his or her head.

To everyone else, it is meaningless. Neither of these labels indicate who collected the specimen, where, when, or how. And we all know what happens in labs: upon completion of their degrees, students move on, email addresses change, notebooks are misplaced, data files are not backed up. The labels’ codes can never be broken, and the scientific value of the specimens – *poof*.

While there’s nothing wrong, in theory, with using labels like these temporarily (although there is always a risk that they will be misinterpreted or misunderstood after a little while, even by the person who wrote them), they are absolutely useless as permanent records.

These are good labels:

These labels, properly affixed to a specimen, provide clear and universally understood information. One provides the location, including GPS coordinates, a method of collection, a date, the name of the collector(s). The information that goes on this label can vary a bit (it may include information about the habitat or host plant, for example), but those are the basic requirements. The smaller label is typically affixed on the pin below the first, and contains the specimen’s scientific name and the name of the person who identified it (it is the “det. label”, i.e., “determined by”). These labels, and therefore the specimen with which they are associated, will remain useful for decades, even centuries.

I am totally guilty of both of the offenses I just explained (the gooky vials of nastiness and the bad labels). For my undergraduate honors project, I identified close to 8000 spiders, mites and insects to the Family level – it was hundreds of hours of microscope work. Then I stuffed all those specimens back into vials with cryptic little codes, like V-1-F(!), hand-written on STICKERS(!), which I placed on the LIDS(!) and not even in the vials themselves(!). Oh, and I’ve long since lost the notebook that contained my decoder key(!). THIS IS ALL SO BAD. I have no doubt that those boxes of vials, which I once prized so highly and felt such pride for, have been unceremoniously tossed in the trash by my former advisor.

Well, I’ve learned from my mistakes, and from working with museum and other collection specimens. I now understand that each specimen is deserving of respect – it’s the original data after all – and that means it should be properly preserved, and labelled.


Last week I spent a great deal of time, as I said, tying up my loose ends. The last thing I needed to do was remove my cryptic labels (the second in the series up there is an actual example of one of my own “secret code” labels) and replace them with proper ones, sorting and tidying up the collection in the process. The end result?


Frankly, it’s a thing of beauty. It’s also enormously scientifically valuable. These specimens will be deposited in various nationally-important collections and museums, like the CNC.

As a matter of fact, just last week I was at the CNC, and I saw specimens bearing the name of the last person to do a comprehensive survey of the insects in Kugluktuk, back in 1955. That tiny but so-important label suddenly made me feel connected to the man who, almost 60 years earlier, had stood on the same stretch of tundra as me, holding and perhaps delighting in the very specimen that I held in my own hand.

Giving my specimens the respect they deserve is worth it, not only for the scientific value, but also because perhaps, 60 years from now, another grad student will discover my name on a specimen’s det. label. Perhaps she, too, will feel that same wondrous sense of connection to the the greater scheme of scientific discovery…

Original post at:

The ESC Blog is off to a fantastic start, and we admins couldn’t be more proud of our amazing bloggers.  The response from the Canadian entomology community has been tremendous – which is really no surprise, but still wonderful! Readers have been joining us from all over the world (59 countries!) and we’re so pleased that some of you are engaging with us by leaving comments.

We thought that it would be a good time to introduce ourselves, so you know who’s working away behind the scenes: today you’ll meet Crystal.

Hi!  I’m a PhD candidate in Chris Buddle’s Arthropod Ecology lab at McGill University.  My current research interests include beetle assemblages in Arctic Canada and functional ecology. My earlier research at Carleton University (I did a BSc and MSc under the supervision of Naomi Cappucinno) involved plant-insect relationships  in the context of biological invasions.

In addition to my academic pursuits, I love to teach, take pictures of insects, and spend time outdoors exploring the natural world.

I’m also very interested in science education and outreach, which is why you’re finding me here at ESC Blog.

Online science communication is a big part of who I am and what I do, in addition to my normal grad student research activities. I have been blogging as “TGIQ”  at since 2009.  There, I write posts about insect natural history, insect photography, my own entomological research, and more broadly about my experiences as a graduate student interested in a career in academia. I am also an administrator at the research blog of The Northern Biodiversity Program (NBP), of which I am a student member, and I am a contributing authour at the Grad Life blog, where I write about the graduate student experience at McGill University.

In addition to blogging, I can usually be found posting tidbits of entomo-goodness on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Networked Blogs, Nature Blog Network, and Research Blogging.  I also have a YouTube channel that I use for teaching an undergraduate zoology lab.

Some people have tried to tell me that these activities are a waste of time, professionally. My personal experiences have shown this to be anything but true: I’ve established incredible networks of students, academics and other professionals; I’ve been exposed to fascinating cutting-edge science; and I’ve gained tangible professional benefits (think “publications” and “funding” and “collaborations”).  None of these would have been possible without my online activities.

I also think that science outreach is an activity that all academics should make time for – after all, we are doing science for the general public, not just for our fellow researchers! Our knowledge of and passion for entomology is something that deserves to be shared with others. Blogs are wonderfully accessible outlets; they represent an unparalleled opportunity for folks from different sectors and backgrounds to participate and exchange their knowledge and experiences – something that is not often achieved through traditional venues such as conferences and journals.

I’ll leave you with some quotes from a talk that I attended in March, by researcher and science outreach proponent Nalini Nadkarni. I invite – and strongly encourage – you to join the incredible online science community and consider participating here as an ESC blogger.

(Note: the English version follows)

Guillaume Dury, Étudiant à la maîtrise, Université McGill

Dessous de Chrysiridia rhipheus, photo par Cody Hough sur Wikimedia Commons.

Le 7 avril 2012, l’article du jour sur Wikipédia était Chrysiridia rhipheus.

C’était un grand jour pour moi : j’ai écrit la majorité de l’article. Ce n’est pas pour autant mon article; dire cela irait à l’encontre de l’étiquette de Wikipédia. J’y ai tout de même passé des heures de recherche et j’ai écrit la majorité de l’article.

Tout comme des millions de personnes, j’utilise Wikipédia pour étancher ma soif de connaissances rapides. À juste titre, “«wiki»” est Hawaïen pour rapide. Seulement, il n’y avait pas de wiki-connaissances sur ce papillon de nuit qu’est l’Uranie riphée (Chrysiridia rhipheus).

J’étais toujours curieux; cette soif particulière ne resterait pas inassouvie. Puisque j’allais faire une recherche de littérature, aussi bien écrire un résumé au bénéfice des autres. Voilà comment je suis devenu un éditeur sur Wikipédia.

J’ai créé l’article le 5 août 2006, un peu avant de commencer mon baccalauréat en biologie. En tant que biologiste de formation, j’avais besoin de pratiquer les tâches concernées dans l’écriture de l’article. Le plus important fut de trouver l’information. J’ai pu trouver beaucoup d’information en ligne : dans les articles scientifiques et dans des livres numérisés par Google Books ou Internet Archive. J’ai aussi appris que, parfois, des références ne sont tout simplement pas disponibles en ligne. C’est alors que j’ai utilisé les prêts entre bibliothèques pour la première fois. Peu a peu, une référence à la fois, j’ai rempli les différentes sections de l’article.

La partie sur la taxonomie et la description de l’espèce fut beaucoup plus intéressante à écrire que je l’aurais cru. L’Uranie rhiphée, ou le “«papillon coucher de soleil malgache»” (de l’anglais “Madagascan sunset moth”) a toute une histoire derrière ses noms. Il est décrit pour la première fois, en 1773, sous le nom de Papilio rhipheus. C’est-à-dire qu’il avait été placé parmi les papillons de jour et non de nuit. Capitaine May de Hammersmith avait donné le spécimen à l’entomologiste britannique Dru Drury. Ce spécimen avait été “«réparé»” avec une tête de papillon de jour et ses antennes en massue. (NB : ne pas coller la mauvaise tête sur votre spécimen cassé!) En 1831, René Primevère Lesson l’avait décrit sous le nom Urania ripheus var. madagascarensis. Ce papillon a toujours plusieurs autres synonymes.

En utilisant les guides sur Wikipédia, en demandant d’autres éditeurs et en m’inspirant de d’autres articles, j’ai rassemblé et résumé de plus en plus d’information. J’ai fait passer l’article par le processus interne d’évaluation par les pairs dans Wikipédia en janvier 2007. Sur Wikipédia, les pairs sont d’autres éditeurs et pas nécessairement des entomologistes. Cela a aidé un peu, surtout pour le format article, mais je devais surtout trouver d’autres sources d’information à inclure.

Puis, j’ai contacté l’un des experts mondiaux sur Chrysiridia rhipheus, le Dr David C. Lees du Musée d’Histoire naturelle de Londres. J’ai été agréablement surpris; il était déjà éditeur sur Wikipédia. Il m’a dirigé vers des références importantes que j’avais manquées et a ajouté des informations lui-même. J’étais ravi.

Carte de cigarettes dépeignant une fée « Chrysiridia madagascariensis » en 1928, compagnie John Player & Sons.

En mars 2008, je jugeais que mon article avait atteint le niveau de “«bon article»”. Pour être reconnu comme tel, un article doit répondre à certains critères et passer avec succès le processus de mise en candidature de bon article. Avec l’examen et des suggestions de l’utilisateur Casliber, c’est ce qui s’est passé le 22 mars 2008 : j’avais écrit un “«bon»” article sur Wikipédia.

J’ai continué; j’ai fait des modifications, j’ai ajouté des références, des images, y compris une carte de cigarettes datant de 1928, et j’ai ajouté ce qui est probablement la seule photo de la chenille de cette espèce sur Internet. J’ai eu l’aide de l’un des principaux éditeurs des articles sur l’optique et la polarisation des articles afin de clarifier pour moi la polarisation de la lumière. Les écailles sur les ailes du papillon produisent les couleurs à travers deux phénomènes optiques, l’un dépend de polarisation. Le papillon ne dispose de pigment que dans les régions noires de ses ailes.

Ensuite, le 18 juin 2008, j’ai fait la mise en candidature de l’article pour qu’il soit reconnu comme article de qualité. Les articles de qualité sont considérés comme représentant le meilleur de ce que Wikipédia a à offrir, comme déterminé par les éditeurs de Wikipédia. Lors de ce processus, de nombreux éditeurs font des suggestions et demandent des changements à l’article. J’ai fait la plupart de ces changements et fait de mon mieux pour répondre aux questions. Le 4 juillet 2008, Chrysiridia rhipheus a été promu au statut d’article de qualité. Featured article en anglais; ce statut exceptionnel est signifié par une petite étoile dans le coin supérieur à droit! :

En moyenne, l’article Chrysiridia rhipheus est visité à peu près une centaine de fois par jour. Le 7 avril 2012, il a été visité plus de 20 000 fois. Au cours des 90 derniers jours, cela fait un total de 37614 fois. C’est de la bonne diffusion!

Je répondrai avec plaisir aux questions de ceux qui s’intéressent à l’écriture de « leur propre » article Wikipédia. Tout commence par le bouton [modifier]…

Pour les professeurs : “«dans le cours ENTO 431 entomologie médico-légale, à l’université du Texas A & M, les étudiants ont la tâche d’écrire plusieurs articles sur Wikipédia concernant les espèces de mouches d’importance médico-légale.»” Le travail des étudiants sert alors leur cours et sert le but de Wikipédia de créer un résumé de toutes les connaissances humaines dans une encyclopédie libre et en ligne. (Pour plus d’informations, voir la page du cours sur Wikipédia (en anglais))


By Guillaume Dury, M.Sc. student, McGill University

Engraving captioned Urania riphaeus from Charles D. d’Orbigny’s Dictionnaire universel d’histoire naturelle (1849)

On April 7th 2012, on Wikipedia, Today’s Featured Article was Chrysiridia rhipheus.

It was an exciting day for me: I wrote most of the article. It isn’t my article; it would be against Wikipedia etiquette to say so. Still, I spent hours researching and wrote most of it.

Just like millions of people, I use Wikipedia to quench my thirst for quick knowledge. Appropriately, “wiki” is Hawaiian for quick. Only there was no wiki-knowledge on the Madagascan sunset moth (Chrysiridia rhipheus).

I was still curious; this particular thirst wouldn’t be left unquenched. Since I would search the literature, I thought I might as well write a summary for the benefit of others. That is how I became an editor on Wikipedia.

I created the article on August 5th 2006, a little before starting my bachelor’s in biology. As a biologist in training, I needed to practice the tasks involved, most importantly: finding information. I was able to find a lot online: in scientific articles and scanned books in Google Books or Internet Archives. I also learned that sometimes, references are simply not available online. That is when I used interlibrary loans for the first time. Little by little, one reference at a time, I filled the different sections of the article.

The section on taxonomy and naming of the species was a lot more interesting to write than I initially thought it would be. The Madagascan sunset moth has quite a story behind its names. It was first described, in 1773, as Papilio rhipheus. That is to say, it was described as a butterfly and not a moth. Captain May of the Hammersmith gave the specimen to the British entomologist Dru Drury, only that specimen had been “repaired” with a butterfly head that had clubbed antennae. (N.B.: don’t glue the wrong head on your broken insect specimen!) In 1831, René Primevère Lesson described Urania ripheus var. madagascarensis. The moth also has a number of other junior synonyms.

Using guides on Wikipedia, asking other editors and inspiring myself with other articles, I gathered and summarized more and more information. I went through Wikipedia’s internal process of peer review in January 2007. On Wikipedia, peers are other Wikipedia editors, not necessarily entomologists. This helped somewhat, especially for article format, but I really had to look for more sources and information to include.

I contacted one of the world experts on the Madagascan sunset moth, Dr. David C. Lees of the London Natural History Museum. I was pleasantly surprised he was already an editor on Wikipedia. He pointed me towards important references I had missed and added information himself. I was delighted.

A cigarette card featuring a “Chrysiridia madagascariensis” fairy in 1928 from John Player & Sons.

In March 2008, I felt my article was close to the level of “Good article”. To be recognized as such, an article needs to meet the good article criteria and to successfully pass the good article nomination process. With the review and suggestions of user Casliber, this happened on March 22nd 2008: I had written a “Good” article on Wikipedia.

I kept going, did more editing, added references and pictures, including a cigarette card from 1928, and what is probably the only photo of this species’ caterpillar on the Internet. I got help from one of the main editor of the articles Optics and Polarization to clarify light polarization for me. The scales on the moth’s wings use two optical phenomena to produce the colours, one of which is polarization dependent. The moth only has pigment in the black regions of its wings.

On June 18th 2008, I proposed the article for evaluation to be recognized as Featured. Featured articles are considered to be the best Wikipedia has to offer, as determined by Wikipedia’s editors. In this review process, various editors make suggestions and ask for changes to the article. I made most of those changes and answered questions to the best of my knowledge. On July 4th 2008, Chrysiridia rhipheus was promoted to Featured Article, this exceptional status is signified by a little star in the top-right corner!:

On an average day, the article Chrysiridia rhipheus is viewed roughly a hundred times. On April 7th 2012, it was viewed over 20 000 times. In the last 90 days, that makes a total of 37 614 times. Good exposure!

I’ll happily answer the questions of anyone interested in writing “their own” Wikipedia article. It all start with the [edit] button…

Lastly, a note for the professors: “As a part of the ENTO 431, forensic entomology course at Texas A&M University students are assigned the task of writing several articles at Wikipedia pertaining to forensically important fly species.” The students’ work serves their course, and Wikipedia’s goal to create a summary of all human knowledge in an online encyclopedia. (For more information see the course’s Wikipedia page)

Today’s post comes from Julia Mlynarek on behalf of the 2012 ESC-ESAlberta JAM organizing committee.


Dear students,

As you may have heard, there will be a workshop on the publication process called “Perspectives on the Publication Process” during the 2012 ESC-ESAlberta JAM.

Publishing research in a high quality, peer-reviewed scientific journal remains an important goal for us, but the process can be difficult to navigate, be frustrating, and create a great deal of anxiety and stress. On the Sunday morning immediately before the 2012 Joint Annual Meeting (4 November) in Edmonton, the Entomological Societies of Canada and Alberta will be jointly hosting a workshop at the JAM venue about the publication process. The overall goal is to provide attendees (students and seasoned professionals alike) with practical information about all aspects of publishing.

The organisers would like your input on the topics that will be discussed during the workshop. Please fill out this short (2 questions) survey by June 20th (I need to tally the scores and forward them to the organising committee).

The link to the survey –

Please take the time to fill it out. It will ensure that you have a say in what is discussed!

“Dear Buggy” is an advice column featured in the ESC Bulletin, written by Dr. Chris MacQuarrie.  “Buggy” will also be offering his great tips, tricks and hints every other month here at the ESC blog. In the meantime, enjoy this teaser from the June 2012 edition of the Bulletin!


Dear Buggy,

I’ve got too many things on the go and I can’t seem to keep on track. My field season starts next week, but I haven’t even started planning for it yet. I’ve missed two due dates in the last month, plus I think I may have stood up my boyfriend last night. I would call him to apologize, but I forgot to pay my phone bill last month and they cut me off. Help me! How do I manage my time?


‘Short on Time in Terrace’

Thanks for the ‘timely’ question. Hopefully you will have managed to contact your boyfriend before this is published! Teaching yourself how to manage your time is an important skill to develop while you’re young. Speaking from experience, I can assure you that things only get worse as you progress through your career. Your time is precious.

Our tasks, and the time it takes to do them, can be organized on different temporal scales. Since entomologists are already pretty good at thinking about the world at different scales, it should be a logical step for you to think about your time in this way. For example, you have to finish your thesis in the next 5 years; you have to prepare and pass your qualification exams next year, your field season starts in a month, your project proposal is due next week, you are teaching tomorrow, and you have a dental appointment in an hour. Obviously, how you manage these different commitments varies depending on their immediacy. To be efficient, you must manage your time over all temporal scales. That way, things won’t sneak up on you.

Click here to read the rest of this great column in the Bulletin!


Chris MacQuarrie is a research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service in Sault Ste. Marie where he studies the management of native and invasive insects. Currently, he’s beginning to realize that all time management tactics go out the window when you have a toddler in the house. “Dear Buggy” is always looking for suggestions or guest contributors. Have an idea or a question? Send it to: or post it in the Facebook student group.