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Taxonomic adventures in the world of paper wasps (Polistes, Vespidae)

By Matthias Buck, Royal Alberta Museum, Edmonton


For many of us who are working as taxonomists, describing new species has become somewhat of a routine. Sometimes it can even become a burdensome chore: I am thinking about those of us who work on hyperdiverse groups of insects in the tropics where almost every species is undescribed (case in point: one of my former lab mates recently described 170 new species of a single genus of Diptera in one paper!). However, the feeling is very different when new species unexpectedly show up in iconic groups that were thought to be well-known. Suddenly, common and familiar creatures turn into an exciting new research frontier, providing a fresh rush of adrenaline!

Mug shot of a female of Polistes hirsuticornis Buck. Vespidae Wasp

Mug shot of a female of Polistes hirsuticornis Buck. The hairs on the basal articles of the flagellum are longer than in related species (Photo credit D.K.B. Cheung & M. Buck).

This is what happened a few years ago when I started working on the vespids of the northeast. The family Vespidae (which includes mason wasps, paper wasps, yellowjackets and hornets) is most diverse in warmer parts of the World, as is the majority of stinging wasps. Doing a review of the northeastern Nearctic fauna therefore didn’t seem to be a very promising project for taxonomic novelty. Especially considering that the fauna of the eastern half of the continent is significantly less diverse and far better known than that of the west.

To my utmost surprise the study (published 2008 in the Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification) not only turned up four new species of mason wasps but also two new paper wasps (Polistes). As you know, paper wasps are some of the most iconic species in the world of wasps, almost as much as their odious relatives, the yellowjackets. Further to that, they have received great attention as model organisms for the study of social behaviour and its evolution in insects. Finding not only one, but two new species in a group like this was beyond what I expected in my wildest dreams.

So how did it come to pass? As a novice to paper wasps I expected that reviewing the taxonomy of such a high-profile group would be like a walk in the park. Weren’t there scores of scientists before me who seemingly had no difficulties in identifying these sizeable and handsome insects for their behavioral studies, filling up cabinets of specimens in collections across the continent? Or so I thought! After months of fruitless staring through the microscope my nonchalant attitude gradually turned into frustration. One of the species, the common and widespread Northern Paper Wasp (Polistes fuscatus), was so variable that it blended virtually into almost every other species in the same subgenus. Previously published keys gave me a pretty clear sense of what typical specimens of each species look like, but where were the objective criteria that would allow me to identify the numerous intermediate forms? Truly, I found myself in a taxonomic quagmire!

Aedeagus of Polistes parametricus Buck. Vespidae Wasp

Aedeagus (penis) of Polistes parametricus Buck. The size, shape and position of teeth is diagnostic with regard to P. fuscatus and P. metricus, with which this species was previously confused (Photo credit D.K.B. Cheung & M. Buck).

Grasping for straws I turned to three taxonomic methods that had not been applied to Polistes before: DNA barcoding, detailed study of male genitalic features and morphometric analysis. During the previous months, I had rounded up a number of puzzling specimens which represented the spearhead of my taxonomic headaches, and submitted them for sequencing. The results came back like a thunderclap, turning my anguish into cautious excitement: the DNA barcodes of these troublemakerswere clearly different from any of the described species. With renewed energy I launched into a detailed morphological study which led to the discovery of several new diagnostic characters, confirming the distinctness of these wasps beyond a doubt. A lot of hard work had finally paid off, and I was looking at the first newly discovered species of paper wasps in eastern North America since 1836 when Amédée Louis Michel Lepeletier de Saint-Fargeau described Polistes rubiginosus!

Female of Polistes parametricus Buck Vespidae Wasp

Female of Polistes parametricus Buck nectaring on goldenrod in West Virginia (Photo credit: Donna Race).

Since molecular methods, and in particular DNA barcoding, have received a lot of attention in recent years, it seems opportune to share some of my experiences working on Polistes. Unlike a few other taxa (such as spider wasps, Pompilidae), vespids sequence nicely and easily from pinned specimens, which makes them an ideal group for this kind of study. I found the sequence data extremely helpful but they certainly did not provide the cure of all taxonomic confusion. Barcoding uncovered an unexpected genetic diversity below the species level, which proved to be hard to interpret in the absence of other data. In Polistes there is no hint of a « barcoding gap », which postulates that genetic distances between individuals of the same species are (nearly) always greater than those between conspecific individuals. In fact, some of the species were genetically so similar that they differed by a mere 2 base pairs (out of 658). Nonetheless, the combination of molecular data with fine-scale morphology resulted in a quantum leap forward for Polistes taxonomy. Just days ago, I found out that a group of researchers in Germany and Switzerland are making similar progress on European paper wasps using a nearly identical approach.

My research paper on eastern Nearctic Polistes, including formal descriptions of Polistes hirsuticornis Buck and P. parametricus Buck, was published in the journal Zootaxa on October 1st.
Matthias Buck, Tyler P. Cobb, Julie K. Stahlhut, & Robert H. Hanner (2012). Unravelling cryptic species diversity in eastern Nearctic paper wasps, Polistes (Fuscopolistes), using male genitalia, morphometrics and DNA barcoding, with descriptions of two new species (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) Zootaxa, 3502, 1-48 Other: urn:lsid:zoobank.org:pub:6126D769-A131-49DD-B07F-0386E62FF5B9

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Popular galls on Poplar

Hi, my name is Holly Caravan and I am a PhD student in Dr. Tom Chapman’s social insect lab at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Currently my work is focused on galling aphids and their potential for antimicrobial activity within the gall. This past summer I visited Dr. Patrick Abbot’s lab at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN) where I was able to access three species of galling aphids. But, to address the ultimate goal of my research, I want to include the species Pemphigus spyrothecae which produces spiral galls on Lombardy poplar, Populus nigra. This species has a soldier caste which is morphologically specialized, different from the other three species I have already researched. I am looking for any information on locations of this aphid species in Canada; Newfoundland would be ideal, but my hopes are not high! Attached are links with pictures of the host tree and the spiral galls produced by the aphids. Any information would be greatly appreciated! I can be contacted at holly.caravan@gmail.com or hcaravan@mun.ca!



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Australia’s call for international researchers: A Canadian entomologist in the Outback

Jacob Coates is an MSc student in the Chapman Entomology Lab at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador.


Cockroach – Photo by Jacob Coates

If you’ve never thought of visiting Australia, you’re making a terrible mistake. I just recently returned from a 6 month stint in Sydney based out of a Lab in Macquarie University. I carried out lab and field work on several species of gall-inducing thrips. I owe this great trip to the Australian Endeavour’s Awards, An Australian government run program which takes applications from students all over the world and to those lucky enough to be accepted, ships you to an Australian University with a wage, living allowance and travel cash. On top of getting some serious work done I enjoyed snorkeling around the many beaches, hiking in the Blue Mountains, and took part in the City 2 Surf road race where over 80,000 individuals take to the streets of Sydney to run the largest road race in the world.

Southern Queensland Red Road – Photo by Jacob Coates

In early June I completed a field trip into Southern Queensland to collect insect samples. Tenting through the outback presented some difficulties like torrential downpours, cold nights, and very sloppy road conditions (Nearly sinking a 4×4 in a flooded dirt road). Despite the problems, after nearly 2500 kms and 10 days of driving I returned to Sydney with thrips samples in hand and a very dirty truck to clean. Amazing wildlife, epic landscapes and great people await everyone in the outback, without a doubt the best trip of my life.

Jacob Coates

For those interested about the Endeavour’s award go to http://www.deewr.gov.au/International/EndeavourAwards/Pages/Home.aspx It’s well worth your time.

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New Mosquito Record on Newfoundland

Today’s post is by Kate Bassett of Memorial University. If you’d like more information about her work, she encourages you to contact her.



I’m a graduate student at Memorial University (MUN, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador), nearing the end of my masters…hopefully :). My research project is focused on a wildlife issue. Snowshoe hare, Newfoundland’s only Lagomorph, suffer from infection by California serogroup viruses (snowshoe hare virus and Jamestown Canyon virus). Helped by the province’s Chief Veterinarian Officer Dr. Hugh Whitney, I sampled the blood and tested for infection in wild hares and laboratory rabbits used as sentinels.  This work was based in part in the laboratory led by microbiologist Dr. Andrew Lang at MUN, as well as working with the team at the National Microbiology Lab headed by Dr. Michael Drebot in Winnipeg. But, my project also included studying mosquitoes that are thought to transmit these viruses. That part of my project was based in the social insect lab at MUN headed by Dr. Tom Chapman.

I spent two summers catching mosquitoes. Consequently, I can’t miss them. I seem to have permanently altered my hearing and vision such that a mosquito in flight always grabs my attention. Last May while putting in a load of laundry, a specimen alighted on the washer. I dropped everything and ran upstairs for my aspirator, and made it back to collect this girl to identify at work. I froze her and didn’t get around to id’ing until later in the summer, and I was shocked to see that it may be Culex pipiens. This mosquito gains attention on the East Coast of North America because it can transmit West Nile Virus, and when I made this determination the worst West Nile viral outbreak in N.A. was underway and centered in Texas. I was uncertain of my morphological identification, so I added a leg or two of this specimen to my DNA barcoding work, and I waited for the outcome. When the sequence confirmed by identification, I put out a press release, which had me immediately doing live interviews on TV and Radio. I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it, I just went from interview to interview. It was a good experience; I do recommend it. I should add that we don’t have confirmation of West Nile Virus in Newfoundland, but we don’t know what lies ahead. Drs. Lang (aslang@mun.ca), Chapman (tomc@mun.ca) and Whitney (hughwhitney@gov.nl.ca) are looking for students to pick up where I am leaving off.

Culex pipiens photo by Kate Bassett

Here’s a picture of Cx. pipiens I took using a digital camera mounted on a dissecting scope. I used the program Helicon for producing a wide focal plane. It’s not the one that I got in May and fingerprinted, but another one that I got last weekend (September, 2012), also in my house!

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How was your summer?

Mosquito field trials at the Guelph Turfgrass Institute

Sometimes field work can look a little unconventional, like using large screened tents for a mosquito repellent trial. This original (yet ultimately unsuccessful) idea came from some work I did at the Guelph Turfgrass Institute in 2011.

Another field season has come and gone (mostly, I bet there are some field crop entomologists still out collecting data), and the entomology conference season will soon be upon us. But before you wrap yourself up in a nice warm cocoon of fresh data in preparation for the coming winter, we’d love to hear how your summer went!

The only thing better than obtaining exciting new data is the great story about how you got it! Maybe you traveled to a new location (or had an adventure on the way to your normally-mundane field site), met some interesting new people, took some photos you’re proud of, or did your best MacGyver impression by rigging your equipment together using only duct tape, dental floss and that perfectly shaped twig you found. Being the start of a new semester, maybe you’ve started a new project or joined a new lab and want to introduce yourself, your work, and put out a call for specimens.

Whatever your situation, the ESC Blog is a great place to share your story and earn the adoration of your peers for heroics and valor in the face of p > 0.05! Simply send us an email (entsoccanada@gmail.com) with your story (and a few pictures if you can) and we’ll help bring your story to the masses.

We know you’ll be swapping stories with newfound friends over beer at the ESC meeting in a few weeks, so hopefully you’ll consider sharing them with everyone a little sooner. We promise, we’ll ooh & ahh at all the appropriate moments (and not tell your advisor how the dent in the rental truck really got there)!

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Determining authorship for a peer-reviewed scientific publication

By Chris Buddle

Authorship on written work should never be taken lightly.  Authorship implies ownership and responsibility for the ideas and content portrayed as the written word.  In science, our currency is the written word, in the form of peer-reviewed articles submitted and published in scientific journals, and multi-authored works are the norm (sometimes to ridiculous degrees!).   Being an author on a paper is critically important for success in academia: the number of publications on your CV can get you job interviews, scholarships, and often leads to increased research funding.  Scientists are often judged by publication metrics, and although we may not like this system, it remains prevalent.  With this context I pose the following question: What is the process by which an individual is granted the privilege of being an author on a peer-reviewed journal article?  This blog post will provide an objective method to determine authorship for a publication, and by sharing it, I hope it helps bring some clarity to the issue.

(Note: as a biologist, I am drawing from my experiences publishing in the fields of ecology and entomology, and in my role as the Editor-in-Chief for a scientific journal, The Canadian Entomologist – the ideas presented below may not be transferable to other fields of study).

A paper that resulted from a graduate class; should all these individuals be authors on this paper? (yes, of course!)

The method outlined below starts by thinking about five main stages in the publication process, and there are individuals associated with each stage:

1. Research concept, framework, and question:  The research process leading to a publication has a conceptual backbone – it is the overarching research framework.  The background ideas and concepts that initiate the research that leads to a publication come from somewhere (…and someone).  Although the end product of research may be the publication, a good research question is at the start, and drives the entire process.  Without a solid framework for research, and a clear question, the research will simply never be in a form suitable for publication.   The person (or people) who developed the big-picture ideas, research framework, and research question are to be considered as authors on the final publication.  In the University framework, this is often an academic who has developed a laboratory and research program around a thematic area of study.

2.  Funding.  Someone has to pay for research – whether it be a large, collaborative research grant that supports many graduate students, or whether it be a small grant from a local conservation agency.  An individual scientist applied for money, and was able to support the research that leads to the publication.  These monies could directly support the research (e.g., provide travel funds, purchase of equipment), the individual doing the research (e.g., pays the graduate student stipend, or technician), or the monies could offset the costs associated with the publication process itself (e.g., many journals charge authors to submit their work, also known as page charges).    The individual(s) who pay for the research need to be considered as authors on the final publication resulting from the research.  More often than not, this individual is the main “supervisor” of a research laboratory, but could also be important collaborators on grant applications, often from other Universities or Institutions.

3. Research design and data collection:  Once the overall research question is in place, and funding secured, the actual research must be designed and executed.  These are placed together under one heading because it is difficult to separate the two, nor should they be separated.  You cannot design a project without attention to how data are collected, nor can you collect data without a clear design.  In a typical University environment, Master’s and PhD students are intimately associated with this part of the research equation, and spend a very significant portion of their time in design and data collection mode.  Without a doubt, the individual(s) who “design and do” the research must be considered as authors.

4.  Data analyses, and manuscript preparation:  The next step in the process is taking the data, crunching the numbers, preparing figures and tables, and writing a first draft of the manuscript.  This is a very important step in the process, as this is the stage where the research gets transformed into a cohesive form.  In a typical University laboratory, this is often done by Master’s students, PhD students, or post-docs, and the product of this stage is often (part of) a graduate student’s thesis.   However, it is also quite likely that a research associate, technician, or Honour’s student be involved at this stage, or that this stage is done by multiple individuals.  For example, data management and analyses may be done by a research technician whereas the head researcher does the bulk of the synthetic writing.  Regardless, one or many individuals may be involved in this stage of the publication process, and all of these people must be considered as authors on the final product.

5. Editing, manuscript submission, and the post-submission process: The aforementioned stage is certainly not the final stage.  A great deal of time and effort goes into the editing process, and quite often the editing and re-writing of manuscripts is done by different individuals than those who wrote the first draft.  Important collaborators and colleagues may be asked to read and edit the first draft and/or other students within a laboratory may work to fine-tune a manuscript.  Most likely, the supervisor of a graduate students invests a lot of time and energy at this stage, and works to get the manuscript in a form that is ready to be submitted to a scientific journal.   The submission process itself can also be difficult and daunting – papers must be formatted to fit the style requirements for specific journals, and the on-line submission process can take a long time.  After the manuscript has been submitted and reviewed by peers, it will most likely return to authors with requests for revisions.  These revisions can be lengthy, difficult, and require significant input (perhaps from many individuals).   For all these reasons, this fifth stage of the publication process cannot be undervalued, and the individual(s) associated with editing, submitting and dealing with revisions must be considered as authors.

Those five categories help define the main stages that lead to a scientific publication, and there are individuals associated with each stage.  Here’s the formula to consider adopting when considering which individuals should be authors on the final product:  if an individual contributed significantly to three or more of the above stages, they should be an author on the final paper.  Here’s an example: in a ‘typical’ research laboratory, the supervisor likely has a big-picture research question that s/he is working on (Stage 1) and has secured funding to complete that project (Stage 2).  A Master’s student, working with this supervisor, will work on the design and collect the data (Stage 3), and as they prepare their thesis, will do the bulk of the data analysis and write the first draft of the paper (Stage 4).  In most cases, the editing and manuscript submission process is shared by the supervisor and the student, and both individuals are likely involved with the revisions of the manuscript after it has been peer-reviewed (Stage 5).  In this case, both individuals clearly contributed to at least three of five categories, and the paper should be authored by both individuals.

A classic example of a paper with a graduate student and supervisor as co-authors.

What about the research assistant that helped collect data? – since they only contributed to Stage 3, they are not considered as an author.  The same is true of a collaborator at a different University who may have helped secure the funding (Stage 2), but did not help with the process in any other way – they do not qualify as authors on this work.   It is quite possible that a post-doc in a laboratory contributes to multiple stages, even on a single Master’s project. For example, the post-doc may have helped secure the funding, assisted significantly with data analysis, and helped to edit the final paper – this entitles them to authorship.

This entire method may be considered too rigid, and cannot really be implemented given the complexities of the research process, and given personalities and politics associated with the research process. Furthermore, many researchers may include their friends on publications, in hopes that the favour will be returned so both individuals increase their publication numbers.    I do not think this is ethical, and overall, if an individual did not contribute to the research process in a significant way, they should not be authors.  The method outlined above provides one way to help determine how this ‘significant way’ can be determined objectively.  The process is certainly not without fault, nor will it work in all circumstances, but perhaps it will help to define roles and help to consider seriously who should be considered as authors on papers.

I can also admit that I have not always contributed to “3 of 5 stages” on all the paper for which I am an author, so you can call me a hypocrite.  That’s OK, (I’ve been called worse), and I reiterate that the process outlined above is context-dependent, and simply provides a framework, or guide, for thinking about this important issue in science.

I am certainly not alone in this discussion, nor with this concept – Paul Friedman wrote about this (in A New Standard for Authorship) and the method in analogous to the one outlined above (although with more categories).  Some journals also specify their expectations for authorship.  As an example, in its instructions to authors, PNAS states that ‘Authorship should be limited to those who have contributed substantially to the work’, and request that contributions be spelled out clearly.  This is a good idea, and forces people to think about the issue.

I’ll finish with two more important points:  First, determining authorship, and thinking about authorship, must be a transparent and clear process.  Graduate students must not be surprised when their supervisor states that some other researcher will be an author on their work – this should have been clear from the start.  A discussion about authorship must occur early in the research process.  Full stop.

Second, another key question is the order of authors.  For example, when is the student’s name first on a publication, and the supervisor second?  What’s the convention for your field of study? Who should be second author when there are four or five co-authors?  This is a complicated question and, you guessed it, one that will be addressed in a future blog post!

Please share your thoughts… how does your laboratory deal with the question of authorship on scientific papers?

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Here be giants. How do they breathe?

By Brent Sinclair, University of Western Ontario

I’m currently on sabbatical in the Department of Zoology, University of Otago in Dunedin New Zealand.  This is the department where I did my PhD, so it is an opportunity to come back to familiar territory and re-connect with all sorts of people and places from the past.  It’s not a very insect department, but there is a lot of interesting work on ecology, parasites and freshwater biology.  A sabbatical is all about recharging scientific and creative batteries, so my main goal here is to write and read and think (and drink coffee and run and hike – but that’s for a different blog), but I felt that I also needed to justify coming all this way by actually gathering some data while I’m here.  Respirometry is the perfect answer – once set up, it’s possible to gather data on metabolic rates, breathing patterns and water loss at the expense of only a few minutes at each end of a run, leaving plenty of space for writing and drinking New Zealand’s excellent coffee in between.

What is respirometry?

Respirometry is the science (art?) of measuring the products and substrates of respiration – depending on your strategy, you can measure oxygen consumption and/or carbon dioxide production (to get a handle on metabolic rate) and water loss – among other things.  Because I work on generally small insects at generally low temperatures, we mainly measure carbon dioxide production and water loss (the instruments are much more sensitive), and can do some clever calculations to turn this into estimates of metabolic rate.

The equipment itself can look quite intimidating – and certainly like Science – with plenty of tubes and wires (when I calibrate the water channel, there’s even a bubbling flask!), but it’s not that difficult once you figure out what everything is doing, and it looks scary enough that other people generally don’t mess with it.  We pass CO2-free, dry air over an insect, and measure the CO2 and water vapour in the excurrent air – all the CO2 and water vapour must have come from the insect, so we can calculate how much it is breathing out.  The equipment we use is from a company in Las Vegas called Sable Systems International.  Sable Systems’ head honcho, John Lighton, is an insect physiologist who has published in places like Nature and PNAS, which means that when he designs the equipment, he often has insects in mind.

The respirometry system set up in a controlled-temperature room at the University of Otago. CO2-free dry air is supplied by the gas cylinder, and passes through a chamber containing the insect housed in a temperature-controlled chamber (the big grey cooler box), before going on to an infra-red gas analyser (the green box), which uses IR absorbance to measure CO2 and H2O.

What else can we learn from respirometry?

As well as a simple measure of metabolism, it is possible to use respirometry to determine the thermal sensitivity of metabolism (this is important in understanding the effects of climate change), as well as the metabolic costs of various environmental stresses, like freezing or chilling.  We can also use respirometry to study how insects breathe (there is much debate surrounding the adaptive significance of the Discontinuous Gas Exchange Cycles observed in some insects), and we can also use respirometry to figure out how much water is being lost across the cuticle of insects – even small ones like individual flies!

What am I …er… respirometing?

After 65 million years of evolution without mammals, New Zealand has an amazing array of endemism and some pretty weird insects.  My favourites are the alpine insects, which include impressive radiations of cockroaches, stick insects and weta – large Orthoptera related to the Jerusalem crickets of North America.  The mountains are fairly young (<3 million years old), so it’s possible to do all sorts of work comparing alpine species with their lowland relatives .

A group of alpine weta, Hemideina maori found under a stone at 1400 m a.s.l. on the Rock and Pillar Range, Central Otago, New Zealand. The males defend harems of 2-7 females. Female weta can weigh over 5 g, and males over 7 g, making them the heaviest insect known to survive internal ice formation. Photo by B. Sinclair.

Of course, it is the most fun to work on the big, weird insects.  So far I’ve been putting alpine weta (Hemideina maori, Orthoptera: Anostostomatidae) and New Zealand’s longest insect, the gloriously-named phasmid  Argosarchus horridus through their paces.  Male alpine weta can weigh up to 7 g, and are the largest insect species known to withstand internal ice formation.  The stick insects can easily reach 4 g, and posed some unique challenges in respirometry – with a body form so long and stick-like, it makes perfect sense to use a converted spaghetti-storage container!

A large female Argosarchus horridus (this one weighs a shade over 3 g) ready to go in her respirometry chamber. Photo by B. Sinclair.

The main questions I will be addressing will be about the evolution of thermal sensitivity and water loss in alpine insects, but the great thing about respirometry is that I never know what I’ll find along the way!


Brent Sinclair is an Associate Professor at the University of Western Ontario.  He is the 2012 recipient of the Entomological Society of Canada’s C. Gordon Hewitt Award.

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Digitizing the Journal of the Entomological Society of British Columbia

As the new web editor of the Entomological Society of British Columbia (ESBC), last fall I began a push toward the digitization of all past issues of the Journal of the ESBC and the implementation of an online journal management system. At the time, only a relatively few issues of JESBC were available online, with only the most recent issues available as PDFs. None of these were easily searchable, nor were these issues indexed on our site, Google Scholar, or other search engines.

Over the years, each editor handled submissions in a slightly different way, via email (or post!), and copies of digital files were not retained by the society, but rather by individual editors. Additionally, we used an annual submission deadline, which resulted in annual “publication push” that resulted in a single “crunch time” leading up to year’s end.

It was with these limitations in mind that I spearheaded an effort to simplify the submission, editorial, and publication processes, and to provide truly open access to our entire journal archive in an effort to increase our journal’s profile, readership, and citations.

Over the past several months (and still ongoing), in conjunction with the SFU library and the Public Knowledge Project, the ESBC began our transition to our new online journal management system and the scanning and uploading of all volumes of the JESBC. Our choice of journal management system was based on several important criteria: cost, features, ease-of-use, robustness, “future-proofing”, and support.

In the interest of brevity, I won’t go into all of the details here, but from our choices of journal management systems, the clear winner was Open Journal Systems, which provides a low-cost, feature-rich, customizable, easy to use, well established, and open-source journal publishing platform. Moving to this new system allows us to easily publish using a continuous submission model, so that articles appear online as they are accepted for publication, as well as provide a streamlined publication work-flow and centralized database.

Screenshot of the new JESBC web site

Our new journal site is now up and running! Check out http://journal.entsocbc.ca for complete open access to all articles, and stay tuned as more back issues of the society’s journal and quarterly bulletin archive are uploaded (going back to 1906!) and as we add DOI support and cross-referencing.

Our journal digitization effort is a huge project, and although we’ve made great headway, we could use your help (more on this soon)! We are looking for volunteers to assist with moving this content online to the new site. Contact Alex Chubaty (webmaster@entsocbc.ca)  if you are interested in contributing time towards this project.

Thank you!

Alex M. Chubaty

ESBC Web Editor

ESBC on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/135038946598013/

ESBC on Twitter: @EntSocBC



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Sneak Peek: Some upcoming papers in The Canadian Entomologist

By Chris Buddle, Editor-in-Chief, The Canadian Entomologist


As Editor-in-Chief for The Canadian Entomologist, I have the privilege of knowing what papers will be appearing in our journal in the future… in this post, without saying too much, I wanted to give you a ‘sneak peek’ of what to expect in the future.

First up, ground beetles (Carabidae) in eastern Canada:  Chris Cutler and colleagues studied the communities of ground beetles associated with wild blueberry fields in the land of the Bluenose (Nova Scotia).  They collected over 50 species in their study fields, and a high proportion of these species were not native (this is a pretty common trend with ground beetles in agroecosystms).   They also considered whether ground beetle communities differed between the interior and edges of their study fields – another important consideration in these systems.  In the discussion of their paper, the authors place their work in the context of conservation biological control.  It is a fascinating and important paper, and I know you will enjoy it when it appears on-line and in print.
In our Systematics and Morphology Division, you will soon see a paper by Art Borkent on biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) in cretaceous amber.   In this paper, he describes two new species (and provides a key to the genus) based on specimens from many amber specimens.  These lovely flies are diverse and abundance in Amber, and in this case, Art Borkent looks into amber from southern Alberta.  This paper includes some lovely images and drawings, and you will be delighted when it appears in the journal.
Because I am quite fond of spiders, I am delighted to report that we will have a paper appearing about the dispersal behaviour of young Dolomedes triton (the ‘fishing’ spider), written by Carol Frost, Alice Graham, and John Spence.  The authors used a sophisticated laboratory set-up to understand the dispersal of this ubiquitous species, and tested what sort of cues could relate to the spider’s dispersal propensity.   It’s a very nice study, and one that will be of interest to the broader arachnological (and entomological) community.
Katherine Bleiker and colleagues at the Canadian Forest Service in Victoria BC will have a paper appearing in TCE about the mountain pine beetle -this destructive species is well known to the entomological community in Canada.  In this study, the authors investigated pre-emergence behaviours among females and completed this work completed this work in northern Alberta.  This area is in the ‘newly established’ habitat for the species, so it is important to fully understand the species and its behaviours at these locations.  This will be an exciting paper for researchers working on the mountain pine beetle, and we are delighted that it will appear in our journal.
Finally, I am pleased to report that one of our very own Subject Editors (Gilles Boiteau) will have a paper coming out in TCE on the Colorado potato beetle and its movement.   Gilles and co-author Pamela MacKinley using plant models to test how plant architecture affected the beetle’s movement patterns.  This is an important question given that management of this species in eastern Canada is a key priority, and a full and comprehensive examination of its movement behaviours provides important insights for researchers.
We have many, many more papers in our « production queue », but this little sneak peek will hopefully get you excited about our Journal.  You can view papers on-line by clicking here, and members of the Entomological Society of Canada have full access – another great reason to join the society!
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Luminous impressions of nocturnal pollinator research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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