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!
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!
MSc – Role of dung-breeding insects in pasture ecosystems
Applications are invited for an MSc position to begin January or May of 2017. Research will examine the role of dung-breeding insects in pasture ecosystems in southern Alberta. This is a collaborative project between Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the University of Lethbridge (U. of L.), both based in Lethbridge, Alberta.
The project will include insect surveys using dung-baited pitfall traps from May through September on native pastures in southern Alberta, Canada. The role of dung insect activity will be assessed for effects on dung degradation, soil nutrients and micro-fauna, and greenhouse gas emissions. Dung beetles will be examined as potential vectors of parasites affecting livestock.
The ideal applicant will have recently completed an undergraduate degree in biology or related program with courses in entomology and ecology. They will be enthusiastic, innovative, and have excellent communication skills (written, oral) in English. They must be able to work independently and as part of a team. They must have a valid driver’s license and meet the scholastic qualifications required for acceptance into Graduate Studies at the U. of L.
The successful applicant will be jointly supervised by Drs. Kevin Floate (AAFC) and Cam Goater (U. of L.). Under the supervision of Dr. Floate, the student will be based at the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre (AAFC), where they will perform the main body of their research. The Floate lab studies diverse aspects of insect community ecology with particular emphasis on prairie ecosystems (https://sites.google.com/site/dungins/homepage). Under the supervision of Dr. Goater, the student will be enrolled in an MSc program in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Lethbridge. Research in the dynamic Goater lab focuses on the ecology and evolution of host/parasite interactions, and on prairie biodiversity and conservation (http://scholar.ulethbridge.ca/cpg/home).
Informal communication with Dr. Floate prior to application is encouraged. To apply, please send a cover letter detailing your fit to the position, a CV, a copy of your most recent transcripts, and the names and contact details of three referees to Dr. Kevin Floate (Kevin.Floate@agr.gc.ca). The deadline for application is November 1, 2016.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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:
Kevin Floate, Editor-in-Chief
The Canadian Entomologist
As part of a continuing series of Canadian Entomology Research Roundups, here’s what some Canadian entomology grad students have been up to lately:
From the authors:
Finn Hamilton (University of Victoria)
It is now well known that the majority of insects host symbiotic bacteria that have profound consequences for host biology. In some cases, these symbioses can protect hosts against virulent parasites and pathogens, although in most cases it remains unclear how symbionts achieve this defense. In this paper, we show that a strain of the bacterium Spiroplasma that protects its Drosophila host against a virulent nematode parasite encodes a protein toxin. This toxin appears to attack the nematode host during Spiroplasma-mediated defense, representing one of the clearest demonstrations to date of mechanisms underpinning insect defensive symbiosis. Article link
Lucas Roscoe (University of Toronto)
The Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire, EAB) is a buprestid pest of ash trees in North America. As part of the development of long-term management plans for EAB, several projects detailing the biology and ecology of poorly-known, yet indigenous parasitoids associated with EAB were initiated. One project concerned the mating sequences of the chalcidid parasitoid, Phasgonophora sulcata Westwood. Many insects undertake repeatable actions prior to mating. These are commonly mediated by pheromones. The results of this research were the description of the mating sequence of P. sulcata, and evidence of female-produced pheromones that initiate these actions. Article link
Marla Schwarzfeld (University of Alberta)
The parasitic wasp genus Ophion (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae) is almost entirely unknown in the Nearctic region, with the vast majority of species undescribed. In this study, we published the first molecular phylogeny of the genus, based on COI, ITS2, and 28S gene regions. While focusing on Nearctic specimens, we also included representatives of most known species from the western Palearctic region and several sequences from other geographical regions. We delimited 13 species groups, most recognized for the first time in this study. This phylogeny will provide an essential framework that will hopefully inspire taxonomists to divide and conquer (and describe!) new species in this morphologically challenging genus. Article link
Seung-Il Lee (University of Alberta)
Seung-Il Lee and his colleagues (University of Alberta) found that large retention patches (> 3.33 ha) minimize negative edge effects on saproxylic beetle assemblages in boreal white spruce stands. Article link Blog post
Paul Abram (Université de Montréal)
The relationship between insect body size and life history traits (e.g. longevity, fecundity) has been extensively studied, but the additional effect of body size on behavioural traits is less well known. Using the egg parasitoid Telenomus podisi Ashmead (Hymenoptera: Platygastridae) and three of its stink bug host species as a model system, we showed that body size differences were associated with a change in a suite of not only life history parameters (longevity, egg load, egg size), but also several behavioural traits (walking speed, oviposition rate, host marking speed). Our results highlight how the entire phenotype (behaviour and life history) has to be considered when assessing associations between body size and fitness. Article link
Delyle Polet (University of Alberta)
Insect wings often have directional roughness elements- like hairs and scales- that shed water droplets along the grain, but why are these elements not always pointing in the same direction? We proposed that three strategies are at play. Droplets should be (1) shed away from the body, (2) shed as quickly as possible and (3) forced out of “valleys” formed between wing veins. A mathematical model combining these three strategies fits the orientation of hairs on a March fly wing (Penthetria heteroptera) quite well, and could readily be applied to other species or bioinspired materials. Article link
In-brief research summaries
Taxonomy, Systematics, and Morphology
Thomas Onuferko from the Packer Lab at York University and colleagues carried out an extensive survey of bee species in Niagara Region, Ontario. Onuferko et al. collected over 50 000 bees and discovered 30 species previously not recorded in the area. Article link
Christine Barrie and colleague report the Chloropidae flies associated with common reed (Phragmites) in Canada. Article link
Behaviour and Ecology
Blake Anderson (McMaster University) and colleagues investigates the decoupling hypothesis of social behaviour and activity in larval and adult fruit flies. Article link
Susan Anthony from the Sinclair Lab at Western University, along with Chris Buddle (McGill University), determined the Beringian pseudoscorpion can tolerate of both cold temperatures and immersion. Article link
A study by Fanny Maure (Université de Montréal) shows that the nutritional status of a host, the spotted lady beetle (Coleomegilla maculata), influences host fate and parasitoid fitness. Article link
Is connectivity the key? From the Buddle and Bennett Labs at McGill University and the James Lab at (Université de Montréal), Dorothy Maguire (McGill University) and colleagues use landscape connectivity and insect herbivory to propose a framework that examines that tradeoffs associated with ecosystem services. Article link
Alvaro Fuentealba (Université Laval) and colleague discovered that different host tree species show varying natural resistance to spruce budworm. Article link
Insect and Pest Management
Rachel Rix (Dalhousie University) et al. observed that mild insecticide stress can increase reproduction and help aphids better cope with subsequent stress. Article link
Lindsey Goudis (University of Guelph) and others found that the best way to control western bean cutworm is to apply lambda-cyhalothrin and chlorantraniliprole 4 to 18 day after 50 % egg hatch. Article link
Matthew Nunn (Acadia University) and colleague document the diversity and densities of important pest species of wild blueberries in Nova Scotia. Article link
Physiology and Genetics
Does heterozygosity improve symmetry in the Chilean bee, Xeromelissa rozeni? Margarita Miklasevskaja (York University) and colleague tested this hypothesis in their recent paper. Article link
Recent University of Alberta graduate Jasmine Janes and others explored the mating systems and fine-scale spatial genetic structure for effective management of mountain pine beetle. Article link
Also from the Sperling Lab at the University of Alberta, Julian Dupuis and Felix Sperling examined the complex interaction of hybridization and speciation. They characterized potential hybridization in a species group of swallowtail butterflies. Article link
Marina Defferrari (University of Toronto) and colleagues identified new insulin-like peptides in Rhodnius prolixus and that these peptides are involved in the metabolic homeostasis of lipids and carbohydrates. Article link
Crystal Ernst (McGill University) and colleague sampled beetles and spiders in different northern habitats. They found that the diversity of beetles and spiders are affected by habitat and trap type. Article link
We are continuing to help publicize graduate student publications to the wider entomological community through our Research Roundup. If you published an article recently and would like it featured, e-mail us at email@example.com. You can also send us photos and short descriptions of your research, to appear in a later edition of the research roundup.
Cet article fait partie d’une série continue de rassemblement de la recherche entomologique canadienne (Canadian Entomology Research Roundups). Voici ce que les étudiants de cycle supérieur canadiens ont fait récemment:
De la part des auteurs:
Finn Hamilton (University of Victoria)
C’est bien connu que la majorité des insectes sont hôtes à des bactéries symbiotiques qui ont de profondes conséquences sur la biologie de l’hôte. Dans certains cas, ces symbioses peuvent protéger l’hôte contre de virulents parasites et pathogens, même si dans la plupart des cas planent encore un mystère sur la façon dont les symbionts réussissent à atteindre cette défense. Dans cet article, nous avons démontré qu’une souche de la bactérie Spiroplasma qui protège son hôte drosophile contre un nématode parasitaire virulent encode une toxine sous forme de protéine. Cette toxine semble attaquer l’hôte du nématode durant une défense induite par Spiroplasma. Ceci représente, à ce jour, une des démonstrations les plus claires des mécanismes sous-jacents de la symbiose promouvant la défense des insectes. Lien vers l’article
Lucas Roscoe (University of Toronto)
L’agrile du frêne (Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire) est un buprestide ravageur s’attaquant aux frênes d’Amérique du Nord. Dans l’optique du développement de plans de gestion à long-terme de l’agrile du frêne, plusieurs projets détaillant la biologie et l’écologie de parasitoïdes indigènes peu étudiés auparavant ont été amorcés. Un des projets s’intéresse à la séquence de reproduction d’un parasitoïde, Phasgonophora sulcata Westwood. Plusieurs insectes entreprennent des actions répétées avant la reproduction qui sont souvent induites par des phéromones. Les résultats de cette étude sont la description de la séquence de reproduction de P. sulcata et la preuve que les phéromones produites par les femelles sont à la base de ses actions. Liens vers l’article
Marla Schwarzfeld (University of Alberta)
Les guêpes parasitiques du genre Ophion (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae) sont presqu’entièrement inconnu dans la région Néarctique, où la majorité des espèces ne sont pas décrites. Dans cette étude, nous publions la première phylogénie moléculaire de ce genre, basé sur les régions COI, ITS2, and 28S. Bien que nous mettions l’accent sur les spécimens Néarctique, nous avons aussi inclus des représentants des espèces les plus connus de de l’ouest de la région Paléarctique et plusieurs séquences d’autre régions géographiques. Nous avons délimités 13 groupes d’espèces, la plupart étant reconnu pour la première fois dans cette étude. Cette phylogénie nous fournit un cadre essentiel qui pourra, nous espérons, inspirer les taxonomistes à divisier et conquérir (et décrire!) de nouvelles espèces dans ce genre qui présente de grands défis morphologiques. Liens vers l’article
Seung-Il Lee (University of Alberta)
Seung-Il Lee et ses collègues (University of Alberta) ont trouvé que de larges territoires de rétention (> 3.33 ha) minimisent « l’effet de bordure » négatif sur les coléoptères saproxyliques dans les peuplements boréals d’épinette blanche. Liens vers l’article Billet de blogue (EN)
Paul Abram (Université de Montréal)
La relation entre la taille des insectes et certains traits distinctifs (tel que la longévité, la fécondité, …) a été largement étudié, mais l’effet additionnel de la taille sur les traits comportementales sont moins bien connus. En utilisant le parasitoïde d’oeuf Telenomus podisi Ashmead (Hymenoptera: Platygastridae) et trois de ses hôtes punaises comme système modèle, nous avons démontrés que la différence de taille était associé a un changement dans la plusieurs traits distinctifs (longévité, masse d’oeufs, taille des oeufs), mais aussi de certains traits comportementales (vitesse de marche, taux d’oviposition, taux de marquage des oeufs). Nos résultats mettent en relief comment la phénotype complet (comportement et traits distinctifs) doivent être considéré quand nous évaluons l’association entre la taille et la condition physique. Liens vers l’article
Delyle Polet (University of Alberta)
Les ailes de insectes ont souvent des éléments directionnels rugueux – comme des poils et des écailles- qui perdent des gouttes d’eau dans le sens des éléments, mais pourquoi ces éléments ne pointent pas toujours dans la même direction? Nous avons proposé que trois stratégies sont en jeu. Les gouttes pourrait être (1) évacuer loin du corps, (2) être perdues aussi vite que possible et (3) évacuer de « vallées » formés entre les veines des ailes. Un modèle mathématique combinant trois de ces stratégies concorde avec l’orientation des poils sur un taon (Penthetria heteroptera) assez bien et pourrait être appliqué à d’autres espèces ou à des matériaux inspirés par la biologie. Liens vers l’article
Résumés bref de recherche
Taxonomie, Systématique, and Morphologie
Thomas Onuferko du laboratoire Packer à York University et ses collègues ont réalisé un vaste étude sur les espèces d’abeilles dans la région de Niagara, Ontario. Onuferko et al. ont collecté plus de 50 000 abeilles et ont découvert 30 espèces qui n’avait pas été rapporté dans la région. Liens vers l’article
Christine Barrie et ses collègues ont signalé que des mouches de la famille Chloropidae sont associés aux phragmites au Canada. Lien vers l’article
Comportment et écologie
Blake Anderson (McMaster University) et ses collègues ont étudié l’hypothèse du découplage du comportement social et de l’activité dans les mouches larvaires et adultes. Lien vers l’article
Susan Anthony du laboratoire Sinclair à Western University, ainsi que Chris Buddle (McGill University), ont déterminé que le pseudoscorpion de Béringie peut tolérer tant les basses températures et l’immersion. Lien vers l’article
Une étude par Fanny Maure (Université de Montréal) démontre que le status nutritionnel d’un hôte, la coccinelle maculée (Coleomegilla maculata), influence le destin de l’hôte et condition physique du parasitoïde. Lien vers l’article
Est-ce que la connectivité est la clé? Des laboratoires Buddles et Bennet à l’Université McGill et du laboratoire James à l’Université de Montréal, Dorothy Maguire (Université McGill) et ses collègues ont utilisé la connectivité du paysage et les insectes herbivores pour proposer un cadre pour examiner les compromis associés aux services ecosystèmiques. Lien vers l’article
Alvaro Fuentealba (Université Laval) et ses collègues ont découvert que différentes espèces d’arbres hôtes montrent des variations à la résistance naturelle à la tordeuse du bourgeon de l’épinette. Lien vers l’article
Gestion des insectes ravageurs
Rachel Rix (Dalhousie University) et al. ont observé qu’un stress modéré induit par l’insecticide pour augmenter la reproduction et aider les pucerons a mieux se débrouiller avec le stress subséquent. Lien vers l’article
Lindsey Goudis (University of Guelph) et ses collègues ont découvert que la meilleure façon de contrôler Striacosta albicota (Smith) est d’appliquer de la lamba-cyhalothrine de la chlorantraniprole 4 à 18 jours après l’éclosion de 50% des oeufs. Lien vers l’article
Matthew Nunn (Acadia University) et ses collègues ont documenté la diversité et densité d’importantes espèces ravageuses des bleuets sauvages en Nouvelle-Écosse. Lien vers l’article
Physiologie et génétique
Est-ce que l’heterozygositie améliore la symétrie de Xeromelissa rozeni? Margarita Miklasevskaja (York University) et ses collègues ont testé cette hypothèse dans leur plus récent article. Lien vers l’article
Jasmine Janes, récemment graduée de University of Alberta, et d’autres ont exploré les systèmes de reproduction et de structure génétique à petite échelle pour la gestion efficace du Dendroctone du pin ponderosa. Lien vers l’article
Du laboratoire Sperling à University of Alberta, Julian Dupuis et Felix Sperling ont examiné l’interaction complexe de l’hybridation et de la spéciation. Ils ont caractérisé le potentiel d’hybridation dans un groupe de Papilonidae. Lien vers l’article
Marina Defferrari (University of Toronto) et ses collègues ont identifié un nouveau peptide similair à l’insuline dans Rhodnius prolixus. Ses peptides sont impliqués dans l’homéostasie métaboliques des lipides et carbohydrates. Lien vers l’article
Crystal Ernst (McGill University) et ses collègues ont collecté des coléoptères et des araignées dans différents habitats du Nord. Ils ont trouvé que la diversité des coléoptères et des araignées par habitat et type de trappes. Lien vers l’article
Nous continuous à aider à divulguer les publications des étudiants de cycle supérieur à la plus vaste communauté entomologique grâce aux rassemblement de recherche. Si vous avez publié un article récemment et souhaitez le divulguer, envoyez-nous un email à firstname.lastname@example.org. Vous pouvez aussi nous envoyer des photos et une courte description de votre recherche dans le but apparaître dans notre prochain rassemblement de recherche.
Pour des mises à jour régulières sur la nouvelle recherche entomologique canadienne, vous pouvez joindre la page Facebook de ESC Students ou nous suivre sur Twitter @esc_students (EN) ou @esc_students_fr (FR).
The following is a guest post by Staffan Lindgren
When I was about 10 years old I won a competition in a hobby magazine, which landed me a nice race car track. Since then I have not won anything, really. Yet, I consider myself a lucky person, not only because of a great family life, but because opportunities have always seemed to pop up just when I needed them. But looking back, I would say that my luck was in large part self-made. Over the years, I had made sure I had summer and temporary jobs that gave me appropriate experience, e.g., as a substitute teacher, forest regeneration surveyor, etc.
When I was doing my undergraduate degree in Sweden, the course offerings in the fall of 1973 were not to my liking, so I landed a job as a research assistant to a PhD student studying spiders. But the reason I did, was that I had a longstanding interest in spiders, so I had connected with the student long before that. For example, as a 12-year-old, I wrote to Professor Åke Holm, Uppsala University, after reading a newspaper article posted on a board in my English teachers classroom. Dr. Holm was then Sweden’s pre-eminent spider taxonomist, and had published my first spider book (Holm 1947). His kindness and encouragement has served as a model for me throughout my career. After I graduated with my undergraduate degree, I made a misguided attempt at a PhD in medical endocrinology, studying testosterone secretion in rats. Apart from five small publications (Carstensen et al. 1976, Lindgren et al. 1976, Damber et al. 1977a, Damber et al. 1977b, Bergh et al. 1982), I came away with a bruised ego and a severe allergy to rats.
After my failed 2-year forage into mammal reproductive physiology, I realized that I needed to re-focus on my first love, which was entomology. The first thing I did was to contact (by which I mean that I wrote a letter ) Dr. Bertil Lekander, professor of forest entomology at the Royal College of Forestry, Stockholm, Sweden. He offered to take me on as a special interest student in the two forest entomology courses offered to future foresters. To make a long story short, this led to a life-long association, albeit informal, with Swedish forest entomologists. For example, I published my Master of Pest Management Professional Paper as a Forest Entomology report (which also has a long story associated with it, the main lesson of which is the old adage “It’s not what you say, but how you say it”), and I had the privilege of spending 6 months as a visiting scientist at SLU in Uppsala in 1993 thanks to the connections I made there. Nevertheless, a few courses did not lead to a specific job, so once that was done I was once again without a firm direction in life. Because I had made many friends and connections in the Department of Ecological Zoology at Umeå University, in part through the spider job, but also through volunteering every spring and fall on an annual 4-day microtine rodent survey (Hörnfeldt et al. 1986) I got wind of a 4-month Teaching Assistant position in the Department of Health and Environment, which I was offered (notably in competition with another future entomologist, Anders N. Nilsson, who became a world authority on aquatic beetles). This position involved leading a class trip to the Soviet Union, among other things.
At the end of that position, I had started the proceedings to go to Canada, which ultimately led me to where I am today. Again, this was not something that happened by accident. In 1968-69, I spent a year in central Michigan as a high school exchange student. This was an extremely formative experience for me. It made me confident that I could succeed in an English-speaking environment, and it shaped me politically (it was the height of the Vietnam War, two political assassinations , Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., had happened earlier in 1968), and there were significant racial tensions throughout the US. Anyway, I had become convinced that applied science was the only worthwhile pursuit in terms of education (see my earlier post here), and had found the Centre for Overseas Pest Research, a British organization. (Remember that there was no Google or internet, so all of this was done through libraries and by asking for information by mail). I received a letter back that they could only offer employment to “British subjects”, but they passed on a brochure about the Master of Pest Management program at Simon Fraser University. This seemed like the ticket to my future, so I wrote to SFU. The response was positive, so I decided to apply. But I needed funding. Fortunately for me, I managed to land a fellowship from the Sweden-America Foundation, and in combination with the relatively generous student loans from the Swedish Government, I all of a sudden found myself in a position to go to Canada! And the rest is history, as they say!
What does this history of my formative years have to do with luck? I truly believe that some people have more luck than others. When you buy a lottery ticket, the odds are fixed. But in the job market, including academia, you can change the odds in your favour, at least to some degree. The points I take home from the experience I have accumulated over my career are:
These are some ways to “make you lucky”. Just like an athlete has to put time and effort into achieving their goals, we do as well.
Best of luck!
Bergh, A., J.-E. Damber, and S. Lindgren. 1982. Compensatory hypertrophy of the Leydig cells in hemiorchidectomized adult rats. Experientia 38:597-598.
Carstensen, H., S. Marklund, J.-E. Damber, B. Näsman, and S. Lindgren. 1976. No effect of oxygen in vivo on plasma or testis testosterone in rats and no induction of superoxide dismutase. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry 7:465-467.
Damber, J.-E., H. Carstensen, and S. Lindgren. 1977a. The effects of barbiturate anesthesia and laparotomy on testis and plasma testosterone in rats. J. Ster. Biochem. 8: 217-219.
Damber, J.-E., S. Lindgren, and B. Näsman. 1977b. Testicular blood flow and oxygen tension in unilaterally orchidectomized rats. Experientia 33:635.
Holm, Å. 1947. Svensk spindelfauna. 3, Egentliga spindlar. Araneae Fam. 8-10, Oxyopidae, Lycosidae och Pisauridae. Entomologiska Föreningen, Stockholm, Sweden.
Hörnfeldt, B., O. Löfgren, B.-G. Carlsson. 1986. Cycles in voles and small game in relation to variations in plant production indices in Northern Sweden. Oecologia (Berlin) 68:496–502
Lindgren, S., J.-E. Damber, and H. Carstensen. 1976. Compensatory testosterone secretion in unilaterally orchidectomized rats. Life Science 18:1203-1205.
By Lisa Jørgensen
The sand-verbena moth (Copablepharon fuscum) is, when it comes to looks, a relatively anonymous fellow. This nocturnal moth, which belongs to the order Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and the family Noctuidae, has a wingspan of 3.5-4.0 cm and has only been found in three Canadian sites, all on the coast of southwestern British Columbia, and in a few sites in the northwestern coastal part of Washington, USA.
The moth is heavily dependent on the presence of yellow sand-verbena, as this plant is the only host that it uses for egg laying, and later for the emerging larvae and adult to feed on. The yellow sand-verbena demands sandy, nutrient poor conditions, and though it is present in areas where other plants are dominating, it will only flower at sites where it is the dominant species. The moth has been found to require large patches of yellow sand-verbena to sustain a population, but such patches are difficult to come across because of the habitat requirements of the plant.
This pickiness in the moth’s choice of host plant is the most probable reason that the sand-verbena moth is considered an endangered species under the SARA (Species at Risk Act), which is the official list of Canadian wildlife at risk. The label ‘endangered’ is put on species that are in risk of extirpation or extinction, meaning that the present populations of an ‘endangered’ species are the last in the wild. We do not know how many individuals of this moth species is left, but we do know that due to plant invasion, the number of sandy patches with yellow sand-verbena is decreasing, as other plants colonize the same habitat, thus keeping down numbers of yellow sand-verbena and keeping them from flowering. When the number or size of available habitats is lowered, the moth populations will naturally experience a decrease. Another reason for the loss of habitat is the proximity of the sandy patches to the shoreline that makes the patches at risk of suffering of erosion or flooding, and the use of dunes for military training that expose the plants to the risk of being trampled down. A more direct threat to the moth than the threat of habitat loss, is the spraying of Btk (Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki) against the larvae of pest moths, or parasitic flies introduced (i.e. not from the “hood”) for the same cause.
But why should we care about this specific endangered species? It does not play any crucial part in the pollination of yellow sand-verbena, nor is it particularly important in the local food web or to the economy, so what would happen if it we took the laissez-faire approach and did nothing to help this species? It would probably disappear from some patches, and ultimately go extinct, as it has shown poor ability into dispersal on its own. But we can do something, and it may not even cost us a lot of money (that’s a good argument, eh?)! Approaches to help recovery the Canadian populations of sand-verbena moth include the protection of patches dominated by yellow sand-verbena by physically protecting the plants from erosion and trampling by training soldiers, by fencing the area (however temporarily), and the movement of yellow sand-verbena from patches where it has a low abundance (and so no sand-verbena moth population) to patches that are in risk of being dominated by other plants (with a moth population). Also, public outreach to the areas with populations of sand-verbena moth has been initiated, and the existing populations are being monitored. The Ministry of Environment of British Columbia considers the recovery goal of the sand-verbena moth, to maintain the populations at the current locations, to be feasible.
SARA (Government of Canada): https://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/species/speciesDetails_e.cfm?sid=789 25/11 2015
British Columbia Invertebrates Recovery Team. 2008. Recovery strategy for Sand-verbena Moth (Copablepharon fuscum) in British Columbia. Prepared for the B.C. Ministry of Environment, Victoria, BC. 18 pp.
A guest post by Staffan Lindgren
I finished my bachelor’s degree at the University of Uppsala in Sweden in 1975. I had actually completed most of my degree at Umeå University, but because I wanted to take limnology and entomology, I moved to Uppsala for my last semesters, so my degree was granted by that venerable institution. Like many recent graduates, I was now faced with finding my way to a future in biology, and since I was interested in research I wanted to continue as a graduate student. A 2-year detour as a failed doctoral student in medical physiology (I have actually co-authored five publications in endocrinology), a semester as a special-interest student in two courses in forest entomology at what was then the Royal College of Forestry in Stockholm brought me back to essentially the same conundrum. I managed to land some temporary jobs (teaching assistant, which had the perk of leading a student field trip to what was then still the Soviet Union, and stream surveyor using aquatic insects to assess pollution) I applied for entry into the Master of Pest Management (MPM) Program at Simon Fraser University. Why this program? Well, one of my criteria for future employment was that anything I did had to be “useful”, so it had to deal with applied science. To make a long story short, I managed to get through this program, and was recruited by Dr. John Borden for a PhD working on semiochemical-based management of ambrosia beetles. Dr. Borden had quickly pegged me as “bright, but not particularly hard working if not motivated”! I can’t really argue with the latter part of that assessment! Necessity is the mother of invention, they say, and since using sticky traps (the standard research tool when I started) involved hard work, I invented the “multiple-funnel trap”, a story I will save for another blog.
This is where my obsession with “usefulness” started to hurt me, however. SFU had excellent ecology faculty, and they had a seminar series called “Les Ecologistes” (and they still do). The MPM program also had a seminar series, and unfortunately there was a bit of a rift between the MPM and ecology faculty with each side preferring to stay clear of the other. Consequently I never went to their seminars, something I deeply regret to this day. I feel that it hurt me because I went through my PhD with blinders on, looking only at outcomes, rather than causes for my successful and failed experiments.
Skip forward to well into my 10-year stint as Research Director at Phero Tech, Inc., a spinoff company that was in part based on my PhD work, including a commercial version of what was now called “the Lindgren trap”. I was working on the application of verbenone, an oxidation product of a major monoterpene of many conifers, α-pinene via trans-verbenol, the principal aggregation pheromone of the mountain pine beetle Hunt et al 1989). Verbenone had been known for some time through research in the United States, but I wanted to see if we could use our release technology to make it applicable for mountain pine beetle management (Lindgren et al 1989, Safranyik et al. 1992, Shore et al. 1992, Lindgren and Borden 1993, Miller et al. 1995, Lindgren and Miller 2002a,b). The results were somewhat mixed, however. On the one hand we achieved significant protection of trees, but sometimes there seemed to be no effect at all (Amman and Lindgren 1995). It appeared as if the beetles responded, but if they attempted an attack, they then ignored the verbenone. At high densities, verbenone appeared to have no significant effect at all.
As I thought about this, I gradually came to the realization that I had no idea whatsoever of the mechanism of “anti-aggregation”. In the literature, verbenone had been billed as an anti-aggregation or spacing (epideictic) pheromone. Research by David Hunt revealed that verbenone was produced by microorganisms, so that if bacterial symbionts were knocked out, the beetles could not produce verbenone. Furthermore, it appeared that many species responded negatively to verbenone. This made me think that it was less of an anti-aggregation pheromone and more a tissue degradation kairomone, which would explain some of our failures, and necessitate a different approach to application. Other more capable researchers picked up the mantle and the use of verbenone is still being investigated.
It was about this time that I was fortunate enough to land my current position at UNBC, and with many new avenues of (curiosity-driven) research available to me, I eventually abandoned verbenone and semiochemical –based management research. I felt that mountain pine beetle had taught me a lesson, and in the words of Bart Simpson “…I never give up before trying at least one easy thing”.
What is the morale of all this? To me it is an example that shows that we must strive to not let existing paradigms blind us to the opportunities. My experience in science is that paradigm-shifts, even at the small scale that I would be capable of, are often slowed down because you cannot get funded to try something that goes against existing wisdom. One of my lasting memories from my undergraduate years in Sweden was listening to a Nobel Laureate (whose name has long since faded away) in brain research from UC Berkeley (if I recall correctly). He said that he would essentially state as fact something that would go against common knowledge, because he knew that it would generate lots of research to prove him wrong. He didn’t care if he was right or wrong, he just wanted to know the answer! I was never such a maverick, but I think some of the most successful scientists are. In the end, my zealousness for being “useful” made me less able to be just that. Don’t let that happen to you!
Amman, G.D. and B.S. Lindgren. 1995. Semiochemicals for management of mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins: Current status of research and application. In S.M. Salom and K.R. Hobson [tech.eds.], Application of Semiochemicals for Management of Bark Beetle Infestations – Proceedings of an Informal Conference, Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America, Indianapolis, Indiana, December 12-16, 1993, Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-GTR-318, U.S. Dept. Agric., Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Ogden, Utah, 54 pp.
Hunt, D.W.A., J.H. Borden, B.S. Lindgren, and G. Gries. 1989. The role of autoxidation of α-pinene in the production of pheromones of Dendroctonus ponderosae (Coleoptera:Scolytidae). Canadian Journal of Forest Research 19:1275-1282.
Lindgren, B.S. and J.H. Borden. 1993. Displacement and aggregation of mountain pine beetles, Dendroctonus ponderosae (Coleoptera: Scolytidae), in response to their antiaggregation and aggregation pheromones. Can. J. For. Res. 23: 286-290.
Lindgren, B.S., and D.R. Miller. 2002a. Effect of verbenone on predatory and wood boring beetles (Coleoptera) in lodgepole pine forests. Environmental Entomology 31: 766-753.
Lindgren, B.S., and D.R. Miller. 2002b. Effect of verbenone on five species of bark beetles (Coleoptera: Scolytidae) in lodgepole pine forests. Environmental Entomology 31: 759-765.
Lindgren, B.S., J.H. Borden, G.H. Cushon, L.J. Chong and C.J. Higgins. 1989. Reduction of mountain pine beetle (Coleoptera:Scolytidae) attacks by verbenone in lodgepole pine stands in British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 19:65-68.
Miller, D.R., J.H. Borden, and B.S. Lindgren. 1995. Verbenone: Dose-Dependent Interruption of pheromone-based attraction of three sympatric species of bark beetles (Coleoptera: Scolytidae). Environmental Entomology 24:692-696
Safranyik, L., T.L. Shore, D.A. Linton and B.S. Lindgren. 1992. The effect of verbenone on dispersal and attack of mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopk. (Col., Scolytidae) in a lodgepole pine stand. Journal of Applied Entomology 113: 391-397
Shore, T.L., L. Safranyik and B.S. Lindgren. 1992. The response of mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) to lodgepole pine trees baited with verbenone and exo-brevicomin. Journal of Chemical Ecology 18: 533-541
Guest post by Tom Chapman
I have introduced many Canadian students to Australian based fieldwork (e.g. Jake Coates). They’ve heard the stories, so they tended to start with some fear of Australia’s deadly denizens. Here is my advice to them woven into some of my personal stories of working in Australia. First, some of the most amazing biologists (professional and otherwise) in the world are Australian. But, do not assume that every Australian you meet is an outback survival expert with excellent knowledge of the local flora and fauna. And get ready; you are going to be teased and fed a lot of nonsense (exhibit A: dropbears).
My first expedition to Australia, the land of perilous animals, was in 1997. I was a graduate student, I knew next to nothing about the southern hemisphere let alone anything about Australia, and I was traveling on my own. I was to begin collecting gall-inducing thrips on Acacia. My supervisor, arguably the world’s expert on these insects (sorry Laurence Mound, father of all things thrippy), was to follow me a few weeks later. Why was I going first? I never really knew, maybe my supervisor didn’t want to be seated long-term by my side on cramped airplanes, but I tried not to take it personally. After about 31 hours of traveling, I arrived in Adelaide; well placed at the edge of Australia’s arid zone to begin my search for Acacia thrips.
A very generous and outgoing student, among the research group at Flinders University that was to host me, volunteered to pick me up at the airport. It was a two hour round trip for her, so I was grateful and indebted, but she seemed to have no idea how exhausting my travels were for me. During our commute to the University she was non-stop questions and instantly personal. What were my dreams and aspirations? Did I prefer to sleep with men or women? How many times had I had my heart broken? My brain was so clouded with exhaustion that I couldn’t deflect this assault or form coherent replies, the latter of which didn’t seem to matter to her. When we parked at Flinders, we were confronted by a long flight of cement stairs leading to the biology building. I lagged well behind on our ascent, but here is when I uttered my first ignorant and anxiety-motivated question during this visit: Should we be worried about redback spiders? She came back down the stairs and told me that while having lived her entire life in Adelaide she had never seen a living specimen of that species. I pointed down and past her foot and I said, “I think that’s one”. She took a look and she agreed: it was a living redback spider. We continued up the stairs, but I was baffled. How had this woman, so unaware of this deadly spider species, survived to adulthood? Anyway, one hour after arriving in Australia I had escaped injury during this my first deadly Australian animal encounter.
Over the next few days my jet lag receded and I started to get to know many more of the students among my host group. I knew I was making strong personal connections when during a trip to the campus bar one student informed me, “We thought you’d be an asshole”. After asking a few questions, what I think he was saying was that having met my supervisor the year before, that by association I would share many of his qualities. I don’t agree with this person’s opinion of my supervisor, but is there evidence of personality associations between students and supervisors? I leave you, the reader, to ponder that question, and I know that for some of you it would be horrifying if there were positive evidence on the subject. Another indication that I was making connections that afternoon was that I was also invited to join a group to watch a Cricket test on TV. I didn’t admit it at the time, but I thought Cricket was a game that died out a century and a half ago. I can’t have been the only Canadian that is embarrassingly ignorant of the fact that there are well over a billion people that are obsessed with this game. And for those that are aware of the vibrancy of Cricket, and think very little of me now, I want you to know that I became a fan. For instance, I know who Sir Donald Bradman is and I even lived a few blocks away from Centennial Park Cemetery and was present when his ashes were interred there. If you want to impress South Australians in particular, look up “The Don” and memorize a few of his batting statistics, you’ll win over some hearts.
However, this initial introduction to Cricket was painfully dull for me despite my host’s encyclopedic tutorials on rules and traditions. Several times I tried to engage the group in conversational topics other than Cricket. These efforts failed until I asked about swimming locally and the potential for being attacked by sharks. Admitting any anxiety about these dead-eyed predators to a group of Australians is somewhat like the popular notion of adding blood to the water on the behaviour of a shark. Everyone in that lounge room broiled with horrendous attack stories for me to hear. It was hard to keep track, but I think there were at least three people this group knew of directly who had been bitten or killed. When they had clearly shaken me the group switched to trying to assure me that swimming was safe – Listen mate, you have more chance of being struck by lightning. I asked the group to tell me some stories of people they knew that had been struck by lightning. They didn’t have a one! I am not suggesting that means that shark attacks are more common; instead I think it means that lightning strike stories just don’t hold the attention of visitors to Australia. Therefore, there isn’t the same temptation for locals to retell, confuse some details and exaggerate these stories. I have seen other visitors tormented the same way as I was. It seems cruel. We really are worried and have deep fears about shark attacks. Why is that not apparent to our hosts? I think I gained some insight years later when I moved to Adelaide and naturalized (my family and I became CanAussies). A neighbour asked me how, when I lived in Canada, I had the courage to leave my house. I thought they were referring to Canada’s cold winter weather, but instead they meant the bears. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Even Canadians that live in bear country would find that ridiculous – Listen mate, you have more chance of being struck by lightning (I’m strategically leaving Churchill, Manitoba out of this discussion). My point is that Australians see our fears as absurd so teasing us doesn’t seem so wrong.
Australians might have sharks in perspective, but not everyone you meet there knows the bush like a Mick Dundee. Australia is more urbanized then Canada (89.2 % versus 80.7 %). And, among the general population there remains significant fear and ignorance of the wildlife on their Island Continent. Turning again to the deadly redback spider, another neighbour in Australia was using these nifty rake/gloves to bag yard waste. Imagine The Wolverine with webbing between his claws. A redback climbed out of the dried leaves pinned between the gloves and crawled on to the back of my neighbour’s hand and bit him. He told me later that the pain was immediately blazing hot and he was terrified that he would die. That is not what is commonly reported; the bite is usually described as a mild sting with pain sharpening 20 to 40 minutes later. He screamed, got the attention of his wife and she rushed him to emergency where the highly competent staff there encouraged him to ice it, monitored him for a little while and then sent him home. What, not instant death? There is an antivenin but it is not always administered, and there hasn’t been a death due directly to a redback bite post 1956 (when the antivenin was developed). We found a redback in the pouch on the front of my daughter’s bicycle, one in the door of our car, and one under the last step of the spiral staircase in our house. I played volleyball once a week at a sports complex and if our game was the last of the evening we had the job of taking down the nets and turning off the lights. One night a teammate noticed that there was a redback in the light box. He warned us that they can jump two meters and that we needed to stay back. Nonsense. Enough was enough. I stepped up and reached in and turned off the lights. I am certain that this spider was grateful; the dark brings out her preferred prey and it certainly wasn’t volleyball players. While living in Australia, these spiders were a constant in my family’s lives and none of us were ever bitten. It was now easy to imagine how the unobservant woman I mentioned at the start of this piece survived her childhood and adolescent years.
It is now almost two decades that I have been conducting fieldwork in arid Australia. The only animals that have caused me any harm have been ants, it was on that first trip to Australia and it wasn’t that bad. By this time my supervisor had arrived in Australia. Along with an Australian student, my supervisor and I drove from Adelaide to near Brisbane and returned to Adelaide. The trip took us 10 days and we covered over 5000 km, much of it on dirt tracks. We kept the air conditioner off to save fuel and we had the windows down. The work was hot and dusty. I wanted to be seen as a hard working student. I didn’t want to show any weakness on this trip, but by the sixth day late in the afternoon a wall appeared and I ran right into it; I had squatted down in front of a small Acacia bush and was staring blankly through the foliage. I hoped that it would appear that I was still looking for thrips galls, but I was really pretending that I was anywhere but in that desert. So I didn’t notice that several hundred bull ants had crawled up over my boots and socks until they started stinging me. I whooped and leapt around while slapping myself with my hat, and just as I settled down a flat bed pickup truck, off road and appearing to come from nowhere, drove slowly (a trot maybe) past me. There were four people in the cab, two on the cab, two on the bonnet and maybe eight people on the back. In the middle of the eight was a very large and dead red kangaroo: a big boomer. Even though the truck was only meters away, no one made eye contact with me as they past except for a little kid that beamed me a beautiful smile and waved the Kangaroo’s front paw. All these years later that moment remains my most favorite, stings and all.
We took a family vacation to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. It was a three-day drive up from Adelaide, tough to do with little kids. We had only two children’s music tapes, so we heard the tapes a dozen times each. One tape was by the Wiggles. It was the one where the Wiggles ask Steve Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter) a question about an Australian animal, like can emus fly? After Steve answered them the Wiggles would then sing a song about that animal. After we heard this tape five times my five-year-old sounding very exasperated bellowed, “Those Wiggles don’t know anything about Australian animals!” To be fair, they probably do know something, and I would say that just like hiking through Canada’s bear country it helps to have a little knowledge about the local wildlife to stay safe. But, fear and ignorance have no place. While traveling in Australia, if you still get talked into putting forks in your hair to ward off dropbear attacks, well then there is no helping you.
This past weekend marked the beginning of the Entomological Society of Canada and the Société d’entomologie du Québec’s Joint Annual Meeting in Montreal. This three day event brought together a large number of insect researchers and insect enthusiasts from all across Canada. This was my second ESC/SEQ meeting in Montreal, and the second since I have been a student. As a blog administrator, I got a bit of an inside look at the current issues facing the society at the meeting of the ESC board meeting, which will be the subject of future posts. I also got quite a few bedbug bites from staying in a cheap hostel the night of the board meeting, but that is another, and terrible story.
Anyway, of course I brought my camera, and so here I give you the conference from my perspective.
From here on, my trajectory through the conference will probably differ substantially from yours. I of course needed to attend the sessions in which my former labmates were giving talks, but even so I did not manage to catch them all! I present to you instead a slideshow of images that I took during the conference. I will say how impressed I was by the student presentations this year in the GSS and the President’s Prize sessions. ESC students are really on the ball at how to give effective talks, and I hope that the more senior among us are paying attention! Perhaps in 2017 we can have a Student’s Prize to award to the best regular session talk!
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