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Dung beetles in high mountain landscapes of Oaxaca

By Matthias Rös, Alfonsina Arriaga-Jimenez, Bert Kohlmann

 

Dung beetles (Scarabaeidae) belong, besides ants and butterflies, to the best-studied insect groups in tropical ecosystems. Three subfamilies are considered as true dung beetles: Scarabaeinae, Geotrupinae, and Aphodiinae. There are about 10,000 species of dung beetles around the world known to science, although that number is still rising; montane areas in the tropics are exceedingly rich in species, and new species are regularly discovered. 

High mountain ecosystems in the American tropics have been less studied than the diversity-rich lowland rain forests, which have received greater attention and efforts for conservation purposes. Nevertheless, the significance of temperate ecosystems within the tropics may have been underestimated regarding their importance to explain species distribution patterns in various biodiversity hotspots of the Earth. Mexico, and particularly the state of Oaxaca, will serve us here as an example to explain why. 

Oaxaca is one of the most (if not the most) biodiverse states of Mexico. One reason is the rugged orography, shaped by different geological events, which, accompanied by changing climate, separated and connected animal and plant populations several times, and so turned Oaxaca into a laboratory of species evolution. Oaxaca is situated in the southeast of Mexico and is dominated by three major montane areas (Sierra Norte, Sierra Sur, Mixteca Shield). Eighteen percent of the state has an elevation higher than 2000 m, and around four percent is situated between 2500m and 3700m. 

Typical land-use patterns in Oaxacan mountains. Forest dominated landscapes with traditional milpa system (corn, beans, squash). El Rosario Temextitlan, Chinantla, Sierra Norte de Oaxaca at elevations between 2000 and 2700 m. Photo by Matthias Rös.

In the last two years, we have collected and described new dung beetle species from Oaxaca. All of them were not collected in pristine or remote places, but in mountain forests close to the capital city of Oaxaca. Whereas the state has few large reserves, Oaxaca is known for its high number of community-conserved areas (CCA), and the new species were collected in the CCA La Mesita, in San Pablo Etla, a 3000 ha community-managed forest at altitudes between 1800 and 3200 m, which provides firewood, clean water to the entire watershed, and offers small scale sustainable tourism. In Oaxaca, at lower altitudes, there exists an oak forest, with mostly small trees that lose all their leaves during the dry season, reminiscent of the familiar chaparral vegetation. In Oaxaca, this oak forest is a typical vegetation type of piedmont, mostly surrounding the Central Valley. We named Canthidium quercetorum after this forest type, only known at present from La Mesita. Onthophagus etlaensis, named after the Nahuatl word for bean-fields, sampled by us in the same reserve, had already been collected in the 1970s but was erroneously identified because of its closeness to another, more common species. This is a very typical pattern found in Oaxaca: there abound many endemic sister species of common and more widespread taxa, and they have a small distribution range in the mountains of Oaxaca, which indicates their speciation in situ.  Finally, Phanaeus dionysius, a veritable jewel of a beetle, was also found in this CCA.

Onthophagus etlaensis (left) and Phanaeus dionysius (right), two dung beetle species of the subfamily Scarabaeinae, described from the community-conserved area of La Mesita, San Pablo Etla, near the city of Oaxaca.

Oaxaca belongs to the Mexican Transition Zone, a region ranging between the southern USA down to the Nicaraguan lakes. Its outstanding characteristic is the overlap of Nearctic and Neotropical species distributed here, the former more often at higher elevations with the latter at lower elevations. Both Neotropic and Nearctic faunas have generated a high number of endemic species in Mexican mountains. 

Besides its rich biodiversity, Oaxaca is also one of the most understudied states in Mexico, and regarding plant or animal groups we have only little information. This  might explain why we also found, in addition to the recently described species, some species which were last collected 45 years ago. 

This map shows Oaxaca as depicted by a 3D Digital Elevation Model. Black dots represent sampling sites for Onthophagus anthracinus, the red dot Canthidium quercetorum, and the blue dot Phanaeus dionysius.

AAJ started to work on dung beetle diversity at high-altitude mountains ten years ago when she collected insect material from the alpine prairies of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt (TMVB). For her Ph.D. project, she moved up to high elevations between 2500 and 3500 at four volcanos. One of the most interesting results was that a high variability of diversity patterns between the volcanoes existed. We also found an unexpectedly high diversity, coupled with low abundances and detection probabilities, that in three years of sampling, abundances were still lower than what you collect in one rainy season in a cloud forest. Our next step shall be to compare diversity patterns between the mountains of Oaxaca and the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. Bert Kohlmann has studied for almost three decades the dung beetle communities in the high altitude-mountains of Costa Rica and Mexico, where interesting evolutionary phenomena have been discovered associated with the Last Glacial Maximum. Nevertheless, to detect and understand processes which determine diversity patterns at high altitude mountains in the tropics, more attention, longer sampling periods, and deeper taxonomic knowledge of the species and their phylogenetic relationships covering the whole Neotropics is needed. Matthias Rös studies diversity patterns in natural and human-modified landscapes, looking for biodiversity-friendly land-use patterns. Oaxaca seems to have plenty of these biodiversity-friendly land-use patterns in its mountain landscapes, despite or even because of a human-induced modification history dating millennia. Our research of describing new species is the baseline for further investigations. How can we protect the outstanding biodiversity under scenarios of climate change and land-use intensification? Oaxaca might suggest very interesting answers to many questions related to this topic. Oaxaca and its mountains still have many secrets to unfold, and we want to explore and reveal them.

 

Arriaga-Jiménez, A., Escobar-Hernández, F., Rös, M., & Kohlmann, B. (2020). The establishment of the Onthophagus anthracinus (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) species complex and the description of a new species. The Canadian Entomologist, 152:1-17. https://doi:10.4039/tce.2019.62. (Paper made available to read for FREE until March 24, 2020 in cooperation with Cambridge University Press)

 

Related research to dung beetles in high mountains:

Kohlmann B., Arriaga-Jiménez, A., Rös, M. 2018. Dung beetle vicariant speciation in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico, with a description of a new species of Phanaeus (Coleoptera, Geotrupidae, Scarabaeidae). ZooKeys743:67-93. https://zookeys.pensoft.net/articles.php?id=23029

Arriaga-Jiménez, A., Rös, M. & Halffter.G. 2018. High variability of dung beetle diversity patterns at four mountains of the trans-Mexican volcanic belt. PeerJ 6:e4468. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.4468

Kohlmann, B., Arriaga-Jimenez, A., & Rös, M. 2018. An unusual new species of Canthidium (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Scarabaeinae) from Oaxaca, Mexico. Zootaxa 4378 (2): 273–278. https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4378.2.7

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Do Insects Feel Pain?

By Dr. Shelley Adamo, Dalhousie University

Do insects feel pain?  Many of us probably ask ourselves this question.  We swat mosquitoes, step on ants, and spray poison on cockroaches, assuming, or perhaps hoping, that they can’t – but can they?  As someone who studies the physiology behind insect behaviour, I’ve wondered about it myself. Those thoughts motivated me to examine the question from the perspective of evolution, neurobiology and robotics.

Are these crickets angry? In pain from being whipped by antennae? How would we know?

To find out whether insects feel pain, we first need to agree on what pain is.  Pain is a personal subjective experience that includes negative emotions.  Pain is different from nociception, which is the ability to respond to damaging stimuli.  All organisms have nociception.  Even bacteria can move away from harmful environments such as high pH.  But not all animals feel pain.  The question, then, is do insects have subjective experiences such as emotions and the ability to feel pain?

We’ve probably all observed insects struggling in a spider’s web or writhing after being sprayed with insecticide; they look like they might be in pain. Insects can also learn to avoid electric shocks, suggesting that they don’t like being shocked.  However, just as I was appreciating how much some insect behaviour looked like our pain behaviour, I realized that Artificial Intelligence (e.g. robots and virtual characters) can also display similar behaviours (e.g. see (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxyGwH7Ku5Y). Think about how virtual characters can realistically express pain in video games such as “The Last of Us” (e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQWD5W3fpPM). Researchers have developed circuits allowing robots and other AI to simulate emotional states (e.g. ‘joy’, ‘anger’, ‘fear’). These circuits alter how the robot/virtual character responds to its environment (i.e. the same stimulus produces a different response depending on the AI’s ‘emotion’).    However, this does not mean that robots or virtual characters are ‘feeling’ these emotions.  AI shows us that behaviour may not be the best guide to an insect’s internal experience.

Given that behaviour seemed an unreliable guide, I then looked for neurobiological evidence that insects feel pain.  Unfortunately, the insect brain is very different from the human brain.  However, once we understand how our brains perceive pain, we may be able to search for circuits that are functionally similar in insects.  Research in humans suggests that pain perception is created by complex neural networks that link up the necessary brain areas.  These types of networks require massive bidirectional connections across multiple brain regions.  Insect brains also have interconnections across different brain areas.  However, these interconnections are often quite modest.  For example, the mushroom bodies in the insect brain are critical for learning and memory. Although the mushroom bodies contain thousands of neurons, in fruit flies, for example, they have only 21 output neurons.  In humans, our memory area, the hippocampus, has hundreds of thousands of output neurons.  The lack of output neurons in insects limits the ability of the insect brain to sew together the traits that create pain in us (e.g.  sensory information, memory, and emotion).

Finally, I considered the question from an evolutionary perspective.  How likely it is that evolution would select for insects to feel pain?  In evolution, traits evolve if the benefits of a trait outweigh its costs.  Unfortunately, nervous systems are expensive for animals.  Insects have a small, economical, nervous system.  Additional neurons dedicated to an ‘emotional’ neural circuit would be relatively expensive in terms of energetics and resources.  If it is possible to produce the same behaviour without the cost, then evolution will select for the cheaper option. Robots show that there could be cheaper ways.

The subjective experience of pain is unlikely to be an all-or-none phenomenon.  Asking whether insects feel pain forces us to consider what we would accept as a subjective experience of pain.  What if it was devoid of emotional content?  What if cognition is not involved?  If insects have any type of subjective experience of pain, it is likely to be something that will be very different from our pain experience.  It is likely to lack key features such as ‘distress’, ‘sadness’, and other states that require the synthesis of emotion, memory and cognition. In other words, insects are unlikely to feel pain as we understand it.   So – should we still swat mosquitoes?    Probably, but a case can be made that all animals deserve our respect, regardless of their ability to feel pain.

Adamo, S. (2019). Is it pain if it does not hurt? On the unlikelihood of insect pain. The Canadian Entomologist, 1-11. doi:10.4039/tce.2019.49 (Paper made available to read for FREE until Sept. 16, 2019 in cooperation with Cambridge University Press)

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When should a non-aggressive exotic species be demoted to a harmless naturalized resident?

By Dr. Laurel Haavik, US Forest Service

Exotic species that establish, spread, and cause substantial damage are demonized as foreign invaders that charge with menacing force across the landscape. Rightly so; those pests threaten to displace or eliminate native species and alter ecosystem functions. Chestnut blight, emerald ash borer, and hemlock woolly adelgid are all excellent examples. What about invaders that aren’t so destructive? Or, at least don’t seem to be at the moment? At what point do we stop monitoring a seemingly innocuous invasive species, especially one that has proved itself a serious pest elsewhere? To make this decision, it’s helpful to know how much the species has affected its new habitat, and whether this impact already has or is likely to change over time. That is exactly what we set out to do with the European woodwasp, Sirex noctilio, in Ontario.

Nearly a decade after the woodwasp was first found in a trap near the Finger Lakes in New York (and then a year later across Lake Ontario in Sandbanks Provincial Park), it still hadn’t killed pines in noticeable numbers, either in the US or Canada. Native to Europe and Asia, this woodwasp has been introduced to several countries in the Southern Hemisphere, where it has been a serious pest in forests planted with exotic pines. By contrast, in North America, it seems that only the weakest trees, those that are already stressed by something else, are killed by the woodwasp. Would forests with many weakened trees allow populations of the woodwasp to build up enough that they could then kill healthy trees in well-maintained forests? Could we find any evidence that this had already happened or would likely happen in the future?

Our goal was to measure the impact the woodwasp has had in Ontario, and whether that has changed over time, by closely examining the same trees in pine forests every year. First, we had to find sites where the woodwasp could be found, which wasn’t every pine forest, and where landowners would allow us to work. We were not interested in sites that were well-managed, because research had already confirmed that the woodwasp was not present in those forests. We used records of positive woodwasp captures from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources trap survey as a guide. We visited 50 potential sites, and eventually selected eight for close scrutiny in our long-term study. These sites were areas where there was likely to be intense competition among trees for resources, with plenty of stressed trees for the woodwasp.

The European woodwasp was probably absent from a well-managed red pine forest (left), but likely to be found in an un-managed scots pine forest (right).

We visited all eight sites every fall from 2012 to 2016, after woodwasps had the opportunity to attack trees. Adult woodwasps mate and lay eggs, attacking trees in the process, in mid-summer. Attack was visible as distinctive resin beads scattered over the trunk. We recorded which trees had been attacked, and later (usually the following year) killed by the woodwasp.

The woodwasp population was considerable at some of our sites, having killed about one-third of the trees within five years. Though at other sites, the population was much smaller, having killed only a small percentage of trees. We’re not exactly sure what caused this variability. It’s possible that the woodwasp arrived at some of our sites years before it arrived at others, and the most vulnerable trees were long dead at the sites it invaded earlier. We have no record of time since woodwasp invasion at any of our sites. It’s also possible that local environmental conditions, which we did not measure, could in some way have affected tree resistance or the woodwasp population.

Most curious, though, was that over the five years many trees attacked by the woodwasp did not die – around 50 to 80%. At least half of these trees were attacked again and again in successive years. We had captured an interesting part of the woodwasp’s ecology, its way of essentially priming trees to become better habitat for its young. When laying eggs, female woodwasps also inject a self-made toxic venom along with a symbiotic fungus into the tree, to help kill it. If the tree is sufficiently resistant to attack, the female may not lay eggs, only the fungus and venom. The fungus and venom then work in concert to weaken (prime) the tree for re-attack – and hopefully successful colonization – in subsequent years.

Female woodwasps sometimes die while laying eggs. Survival of the fittest?

Two-thirds of trees that were attacked by the woodwasp at some point in our study (one or more times) did not die, which shows that most trees selected by the woodwasp as suitable habitat are at the moment resistant to its advances. This also shows, along with the variability in woodwasp impact among sites, that this invader is active in the forest. Should environmental conditions change (say, if a drought occurs), woodwasp populations could quickly rise to outbreak levels, which could kill large numbers of healthy pines. This has happened in other places.

Long-term study of these sites, and hopefully others, is needed so that we can be aware of changes that arise in woodwasp impact. This will allow us to be proactive about what steps to take to manage this invader, should it become a problem. It will also help us better understand and predict what causes exotic species to vacillate on the spectrum between aggressive invader and innocuous resident.

Want to read more? Check out the original article published in The Canadian Entomologist, which is freely available for reading & download until May 14, 2018.

Haavik, L.J., Dodds, K.J. & Allison, J.D. (2018) Sirex noctilio (Hymenoptera: Siricidae) in Ontario (Canada) pine forests: observations over five years. The Canadian Entomologist, 1–14. doi: 10.4039/tce.2018.18

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The Canadian Entomologist — Call for Special Issues

The Canadian Entomologist (TCE) regularly publishes special issues of manuscripts with a common theme that review or report significant findings of fundamental and (or) general entomological interest.

Submissions currently are being solicited for two upcoming special issues. The first of these will be published in 2017 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Biological Survey of Canada (http://biologicalsurvey.ca/). It will be on the theme of “Terrestrial Arthropod Diversity in Canada: Celebrating 40 years of the Biological Survey of Canada”. In this context, “terrestrial” is defined to include upland, wetland and aquatic systems. If you wish to contribute to this special issue, please contact Dr. David Langor (david.langor@canada.ca) by October 1st, 2016.

The second special issue will be published in 2018 to celebrate TCE’s 150th anniversary. It will include manuscripts that each will provide a historical overview on a different aspect of entomological research in Canada. The first six submissions accepted for publication will be given free access on TCE’s website. If you wish to contribute to this second special issue, please contact Dr. Kevin Floate (Kevin.Floate@agr.gc.ca) by December 1st, 2016.

Proposals for special issues can be submitted at any time to TCE’s Editor-in-Chief. Proposals will be reviewed for suitability by the Publications Committee of the Entomological Society of Canada. Manuscripts submitted as part of a special issue are subject to the regular peer review process. There are no page charges.

For more information on The Canadian Entomologist, please visit the journal’s website at:

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayJournal?jid=TCE

 

Kevin Floate, Editor-in-Chief

The Canadian Entomologist

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Meet the new Editor-in-Chief of The Canadian Entomologist

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My name is Kevin Floate.  Back in 1985, I became a member of the Entomological Society of Canada (ESC) and found it to be a warm and supportive organization.  I’ve since undertaken a number of roles, because I enjoy a challenge, but also because I believe that it is important to give back to the Society and the scientific discipline that has given so much to me during my career.  I have served on the Society’s Governing Board and I have Chaired the Publication Committee and what is now the Marketing and Fund-raising Committee.  I am a past-Editor of theESC Bulletin and have been a Subject Editor for The Canadian Entomologist (TCE) since 2002.  In September of last year, I embarked on my most challenging role thus far, that of Editor-in-Chief (EiC) for TCE.

I didn’t make the decision lightly.  The journal has been continuously published since 1868 under the capable hands of a long-chain of EiCs and I wanted to be sure that I could devote the time to do a credible job.  So for six months prior to saying ‘yes’, I job-shadowed the activities of the previous EiC, Chris Buddle.  It also helps that I ‘inherited’ a strong Editorial Board and a very competent Assistant Editor (Andrew Smith).  With their support, my first six months at the helm have been relatively smooth sailing.

So what exactly does it mean to be the EiC?  I’m coming to realize that it means several things.  First, I’m the gate-keeper.  TCE is an international journal that publishes on all aspects of entomology.  We only ask that submissions meet the journal’s publication policy and that they be written well-enough to permit a thorough scientific review.  I assess each new submission and reject those that don’t meet these criteria.  Second, I represent the Editorial Board, who help shape the journal’s publication policy and ensure that manuscripts are reviewed by qualified individuals in a timely manner.  I note that Board members (myself included) are all volunteers and receive no compensation for our efforts.  Third, and equally important, I represent the authors, who have taken the time to develop and complete a project, write up the results and submit their findings.  If we all do our jobs right, the outcome is a quality publication that enhances the entomological literature.  And finally, I am the public face of the journal… the bull’s eye at which authors can aim their emails.

Being EiC also means keeping up with changes in technology.  Consider that the very first article published in TCE is a report of a luminous larva authored by C.J.S. Bethune.  He would be amazed to learn that his article remains readily available 147 years later to journal subscribers across the world.  He would be even more astounded to learn of downloadable PDFs, the internet, computers, and open-access electronic journals (e-journals).  This latter topic is of particular interest to me, both as an author and as the EiC.  If you haven’t educated yourself on the potential pitfalls associated with some of these journals, I urge you to read Open access, predatory publishers, The Canadian Entomologist, and you (Bulletin of the ESC, vol. 45 (3): 131-137).  I co-authored this article as a way to understand why I was being inundated with spam emails from journals I’d never heard of, promising to quickly publish my next paper for a nominal fee.  As part of my on-going education as an EiC in this brave new world of publishing, I’ve also become a regular reader of Retraction Watch and Beall’s Blog.

With changes in technology, we also have improved our services for authors and subscribers.  In 2012, TCE entered into a partnership with Cambridge University Press (CUP).  CUP is the world’s oldest publishing house and, in keeping with the philosophy of the Society, is a not-for-profit organization.  This new partnership has allowed us to drop the requirement for page charges, and papers now appear online as ‘First View’ articles prior to hardcopy publication.  Last year, TCEadopted a hybrid open-access model to give authors the option of making their papers open-access upon payment of a one-time fee.  These changes have increased the number of manuscript submissions, which has allowed us to expand our published content by ten percent as of this year.  Quite frankly, I’d be swamped if it weren’t for the efforts of the Assistant Editor to ensure a high-quality standard of editing for all accepted manuscripts.

Another feature of the journal that is often overlooked is that we accept proposals for review articles, special issues and supplemental issues.  Special issues are papers with a common theme that appear in a regular issue of the journal.  Supplemental issues are issues that are in addition to the normal six per year.  This year is particularly exciting, because we have one of each.  A special issue on Emerald Ash Borer will appear in the June issue.  A supplemental issue on the history of forest entomology in Canada is being published later in 2015.  Be sure to keep an eye open for these issues, and send me an email if you want to discuss ideas for potential reviews, special issues or supplemental issues.

Other than EiC, what is it that I do as a researcher?  My graduate research encompassed pests of wheat in northern Saskatchewan and gall-forming insects in riparian forests of Utah and Arizona.  In 1993, I was hired by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to develop a biocontrol program for insect pests of livestock.  Although I’m still with AAFC, my current research has expanded to include insect-symbiont interactions, insect-parasitoid interactions, the ecology of cow dung communities, the non-target effects of chemical residues, and use of molecular methods to barcode insects or characterize their bacterial associates.  I worry a bit about being a “jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none”, but this breadth of experience has served me well in dealing with the large variety of submissions to the journal.  Away from work and depending upon the season, you’ll find me hiking, curling, playing table tennis, reading, gardening and… of course… looking at bugs.

I’m getting more comfortable in my position as EiC, but I’m not complacent about the job.   It takes time to do it well and I promise to take that time to ensure your submissions are dealt with in a timely and respectful manner.  If I don’t, you know where to aim your emails.

Cheers!

Kevin

Click here to read the first issue of 2015 for free.

This article originally appeared on the Cambridge Journals 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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Citizen Science on a continental scale

The Editor’s pick from the Feburary issue of The Canadian Entomologist is Crowdsourcing for large-scale mosquito (Diptera: Culicidae) sampling by Elin C. Maki and Lee W. Cohnstaedt. In this blog Lee Cohnstaedt reveals more about the research.

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“We were inspired to carry out this study to find out the origin and historical geographic spread of the disease vector mosquito species Culex tarsalis and Aedes vexans. By collecting throughout the entire mosquito habitat range, we generated a snap-shot in time of the distribution of mosquito genes. However, collecting mosquitoes throughout the continental United States was not feasible for one lab. Therefore we used social networking and crowdsourcing to solicit specimens from public health officials, mosquito control experts, and citizen scientists. The response was incredible.

Image courtesy of Sarah Edwards.

Image courtesy of Sarah Edwards.

We hope a lasting impact of this project beyond advancing public health safety for humans and food security for agriculture, is demonstrating the importance and unique capabilities of the public health and mosquito control infrastructure in the United States. These agencies continually face budget cuts because their importance is undervalued. In addition to their public health roles, they contribute substantially to research which is an underappreciated role at improving public safety. This large-scale project would not be possible without the agencies volunteering their time, energy, and expertise. These agencies and individuals contributed to an unprecedented mosquito collection on a continental scale and we feel the North American Mosquito Project will continue to ask big questions with the help of network contributors in the future.

This research will lead to the mosquitos being used for three projects: First, the mosquito samples will be processed for population genetic and phylogenetic analysis to determine mosquito migration currently and historical spread. Second, the movement data from the genetics will be used to parameterize mathematical models to predict the spread of mosquito-borne exotic or emerging pathogens. This will improve public health safety and food security an important role of the agencies that contributed mosquitoes. Third, specific genes unique to certain populations (private alleles) will be examined to understand their role in range expansion.

Entomologists are very friendly people and we were amazed at how kind and helpful people were throughout the project. At least 25% of the network consisted of people we never contacted; other contributors contacted them and asked them to help. Similarly, some individuals collected from huge areas or contacted people to cover entire regions of the country. It makes us proud to be a part of the community and hopefully we can return the generosity with useful information.”

Read the full article here until 22nd May 2015.

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A message from the ESC President

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The following is by Dr. Staffan Lindgren, ESC President

Christmas has come and gone and it is now closing in on the end of 2014. Most of us are busy with family and friends, and although winter seems to be spotty across the country (it is plus 3 oC in Prince George as I write this), our insect friends are mostly hibernating – at least those that don’t share our homes (like the pesky fruit flies and other small flies from my wife’s indoor worm compost I am constantly batting!) It is much more than just the end of another year for the Entomological Society of Canada, however. Over the past few years, largely in response to an increasingly challenging fiscal environment, the ESC is continuing the transitioning into a new era. Many of our colleagues have put in a lot of their time to make this happen, and I want to highlight a few of them here.

The transition started in 2011 with the move of The Canadian Entomologist from NRC Press to Cambridge University Press. This should restore TCE to its former glory, because we no longer have page charges, and colour plates are also free of charge. The hard work of former Editors-in-Chief Robb Bennett and Chris Buddle, as well as current EiC Kevin Floate and the Publications Committee made this move possible. Another big change has been our transition to the new Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act. I want to thank Alec McClay, whose diligence alerted us to the requirement for transitioning in a timely manner. Thanks to the invaluable help from the painstaking and detailed work by Gary Gibson and Bill Riel the ESC made a smooth transition and has been operating under this legislation for some time now. As is often the case, there are unforeseen complications with these types of bureaucratic exercises, and one of them is that we have to change the end of our fiscal year to be in compliance with the legislation.

The change that will be most tangible for members happened this fall. At the Annual General Meeting of the ESC on September 30, 2014, in Saskatoon, attending members voted unanimously in favour of contracting office and some other services to Strauss Event & Association Management. After negotiating terms, a contract was signed at the end of October, and as members of the ESC have already noted, communication with members is now handled by Strauss on behalf of the ESC. This means that we are no longer located in Ottawa, but in Winnipeg.

Over the next few months, you will see some tangible evidence of the move. It is important that we get your feedback to refine some of the new features that will be available to us. A major consequence of the change is that the headquarters building in Ottawa will be sold, which will provide some much needed capital to help us get through potential rough patches in the future. It also means that Derna Lisi, ESC’s office manager for the past eight plus years, has moved on to another job, so when you contact the ESC from now on, your first point of contact will be our partners at Strauss. In addition to the executives of the past few years (including Peter Mason, Michel Cusson, Rose DeClerck-Floate, and Rebecca Hallett), Bernie Roitberg, Scott Brooks, and Christopher Dufault among others have been instrumental in moving these issues along, and we owe them all a debt of gratitude for their efforts.

We are looking forward to continuing the traditions of the ESC into the next era, but we also hope that we can strengthen ESC. That can only be done with help from members. You can do your part by remaining a member, encouraging non-member colleagues to join, participating in meetings at the regional and national level, and volunteering for service on one of the many committees or even as a member on the Governing Board. I wish you all a wonderful 2015.

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Update from The Canadian Entomologist Editorial Board

The Editorial Board of The Canadian Entomologist (TCE) welcomes the comments that we receive from readers and authors.  We take these comments seriously and implement appropriate changes when possible.  We are pleased to announce three such changes that will further improve the speed, quality and flexibility of the service provided by TCE.

  • Simplified submission requirement.  Authors previously were required to submit papers with abstracts in both French and in English.  Although they can still do so, authors now need only submit an abstract in the language of the submitted paper; i.e., French or English.  This change eliminates delays associated with having abstracts translated, which will accelerate manuscript publication.
  • New open access option.  Although TCE has no page charges, there has always been a subscription fee.  As of 2014, authors now have the option of paying a one-time open access (OA) fee.  Payment of the OA fee makes articles freely available as soon as they are published online to anyone with internet access.
  • More content.  Elimination of page charges has increased submissions to the journal, with a consequence increase in the number of papers being accepted for publication.  In response, TCE is expanding its content by 10%.  This equates to an annual increase of 72 pages, or approximately 1-2 additional papers per issue.

In addition to the above changes, there are several other items that may be of interest.  ‘Instructions to Authors’ were revised in March of this year.  Revisions include instructions for the submission of ‘Supplementary Material’ and a link to third-party services that specialize in language editing.

You also may wish to read “Open access, predatory publishers, The Canadian Entomologist, and you”.  This article appears in the Bulletin of the ESC (Sept. 2013, p. 131), and examines issues that should be interest to anyone publishing in scientific journals.

In closing, we note that Dr. Chris Buddle (McGill University, Montreal, QC) will be completing his tenure as Editor-in-Chief this fall.  Dr. Kevin Floate (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge, AB) is the incoming Editor-in-Chief.

 

We thank you, the authors and readers, for making TCE an ongoing success.

Chris Buddle

Kevin Floate

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When friends work together: The evolution of a review paper on the evolution of tree-killing in bark beetles. — TCE Editor’s Pick for 145(5)

By Dr. Chris Buddle, McGill University & Editor of The Canadian Entomologist

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This Issue’s Editor’s pick for The Canadian Entomologist is Staffan Lindgren and Ken Raffa’s paper, titled “Evolution of tree killing in bark beetles: trade-offs between the maddening crowds and a sticky situation”.  This is a key review paper that provides comprehensive and in-depth coverage of a critically important topic, especially for forest entomology in North America.  Bark beetles are often in the news because of the economic consequences of their population increases as we have seen in recent years. Behind this, however, are fascinating life history traits and a story about their tree killing habits. This is where the paper by Staffan and Ken comes into play. These two exceptional scientists have decades of experience on the topic of tree killing in bark beetles, and they bring this expertise forward with this paper.

I asked Staffan and Ken a few questions about their paper, and here are the responses:

Q1:  What inspired this work?

The scientific inspiration came from many years of reading about and studying these amazing insects. Over time, it became clear that “aggressiveness” is a relative term with respect to tree-killing beetles, because they generally appear to be very poor competitors. The same also seemed to be the case with tree-killing root diseases, so a pattern of trade-offs became apparent. Given the potent defensive capability of most conifers, the question naturally arose “why would a beetle risk its life attacking a live tree rather than utilizing a dead or dying tree?” It seemed that the answer had to be linked to trade-offs between the selection pressures exerted by competitors and host tree defenses. The inspiration to write these ideas up evolved through many years of developing a friendship with each other, and we tossed the idea around in a number of discussions we had. The opportunity to act came when the former editor of TCE, Robb Bennett, extended an invitation to submit an article as a CP Alexander Review.

Staffan (R) and Ken (L) (photo by C Raffa)

Staffan (R) and Ken (L) (photo by C Raffa)

Q2:  What do you hope will be the lasting impact of this paper?

The main objective was to put the idea out and to stimulate debate and perhaps generate new research ideas that will contribute to an increased understanding of bark beetle ecology and management. Whether or not we are proven right or wrong is really less important. Based on some feedback we have had already, it seems that the paper has had the desired effect in terms of stimulating thought. I also thought this was a great opportunity to work together on a project: we admire each other as scientist and are friends

Q3:  Where will your next line of research on this topic take you?  

We are working with another great friend of ours, Jean-Claude Grégoire, on two chapters in an upcoming book about bark beetles, so there may be some other ideas emerging from that collaboration.

Q4: Any amusing / interesting anecdotes about this research?

(from Staffan): From my perspective one of the most amusing things is that I can claim the unique experience of having Ken Raffa as a nurse. He is very good at that too, as it happens! The last time I visited him in Madison to work on this paper, I caught a bad cold. So we worked from home that week, with me intermittently resting and writing. It was embarrassing at the time, but now I find it rather amusing.

Cambridge University Press has made Staffan & Ken’s paper freely available worldwide until November 30 for being recognized as the Editor’s Pick. Thanks CUPress!

Citation:

Lindgren B.S. & Raffa K.F. (2013). Evolution of tree killing in bark beetles (Coleoptera: Curculionidae): trade-offs between the maddening crowds and a sticky situation, The Canadian Entomologist, 145 (05) 471-495. DOI: