Congrats to Bambi…I mean May Berenbaum

I would like to offer my congratulations to Dr. May Berenbaum on her recent election of the Entomological Society of America!  She will be the fifth female president of our organization.

Dr. May Berenbaum was recently elected to the position of Vice President of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) and upon completing that post she will enter the position of President.  She will preside over one of the biggest events for North American Entomologists in recent memory, the join ESA-ICE (International Congress of Entomology) meeting in Orlando, Florida!  No pressure or anything May!   In addition to these duties she is also faculty and head of the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

Dr. Berenbaum has been a prolific writer and proponent of entomological engagement and education.  She even had a shout out by none other than bug-fan Chris Carter in an episode of The X-Files (one of my favorite shows) by naming the entomologist on screen Bambi Berenbaum.  Quite the cheeky bugger he is.

Though I can’t say for sure, I do think this election reflects a growing change in the organization as well as within the sciences in general.  Recently I attended a small entomology conference and noted that a large number of attendees were female.  When you look at the incoming graduate students I see more and more women occupying desks.  I first noted this during my forensic anthropology classes and field schools I attended/taught a few years ago.  The dynamics are changing.  Women are gaining in numbers within these fields and it’s about time this is recognized.  The sciences have long been thought of as a boy’s club; and unfortunately many within still feel this way.

Slowly, but surely, this attitude is changing and the election of our fifth female president demonstrates this.  Dr. Berenbaum is an amazing scientist, has been an exemplary figure within the entomological community for many years and will continue to be for many years to come.  Congratulations Dr. Berenbaum!!!  And congratulations to the people of the Entomological Society of America.

**To clarify how the electoral system works within the ESA, an individual is elected as VP-elect and they serve in that position for a year.  Following that year, they assume the post of VP while the previous VP becomes President.  The following year the VP assumes the Presidency and the former President becomes the Past-President.  So, Dr. Berenbaum will begin her term as VP-elect at the 2014 meeting, will progress to VP in 2015, etc.   Confused?  Good…that’s how we roll…dung.  Bug jokes!  No one gets them but me…***

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Pesticides & Pot

Smoke it up kids!

 

 

Yup, last year my home state legalized the use, sale, growing and distribution of marijuana.  Not just for medical purposes either.  Since then the state government has been working to figure out the best regulations to have in place and standards to keep the product safely managed.  This is going to be quite a money maker for Washington…I hope Colorado finally gets their butts moving.

Recently the WA Department of Agriculture released a list of 200 pesticides that can be used on marijuana plants.  The thing is, since this plant has been illegal for the last thirty-fourty years there are not EPA standards regarding the use of pesticides on this plant.  I’ve tried a few quick searches online to get a hold of this list but so far I haven’t found it.  I could just not be looking hard enough.  According to KUOW, a local NPR/PRI station in western Washington, this list has earned “praise” for its comprehensiveness.  I’m looking forward to seeing this list.

Aside from possible mold problems or attacks from overeager cats, there are some legitimate concerns in regard to pests of this plant.  According to RollitUp.org pests include: Mealybugs, Aphids, Spider Mites, Whiteflies, Thrips, Beetles, Caterpillars and a few others.  Basically, your pest concerns are going to be consistent with most other plants grown in similar conditions.  Growing in a greenhouse type environment?  Be ready for mealybuggs, whiteflies, thrips and especially spider mites.  Be ready for spider mites wherever you are.  Those suckers are just, well, suckers.  Some good recommendations are to encourage natural enemies (lacewings and lady beetles) to feed on your pests.  Lacewings are especially good at this.  Some of the other recommendations are maybe not so useful.  Grinding up your pests and then spraying them on the plants to serve as a sort of warning to other pests?  Why not just pee on the plant and call it good?  And the bleach-water solution just sounds like a bad idea.  But hey, feel free to smoke that bleachy-leaf bro.*

When I see the list I’ll update you on what I think.  I am particularly interested in what they will recommend for organic treatment methods.  And, keep in mind none of these are official recommendations.  It’s just a list of 200+ things you can use.  I know many who are on the everything-has-to-be-organic-raised-by-virgin-monks kick who would happily smoke a bowl.  I wonder if they will be just as picky with their pot as they are with their tomato choices?  There will very likely be organic and low-impact methods of dealing with pests and if you have low pest levels it probably won’t be that much of an issue anyway.  IPM (Integrated Pest Management) tactics are best.  Cultural and other control and treatment methods combined are the best paths to any treating any pest problem.

Just to be smart, ALL of you, if you’re using any pesticide be sure you read the labels FIRST!  If it says it’s good for grubs but you have aphids, don’t use the bloody stuff.  And, as always, if your plant is outdoors and flowering, be aware that it is likely attracting pollinators.  Bees, butterflies and other pollinators are insects and as such, can be susceptible to insecticides.

 

*Sarcasm does not act as an actual endorsement for smoking bleach drenched plants of any kind. Do not sue me…my cats need to eat.

Bizarre Mimicry in Nature

I was just referred to an interesting post on the absolutely amazing blog Why Evolution is True (seriously, check them out).  The post is a somewhat old one regarding possible mimicry in a moth species found in Malaysia and Borneo.  According to the post, some entomologists look at this and see….well, you look first, think about what you see and then highlight my “…” text below the image.

 

“…The researchers debated back and forth and have determined they believe those are two flies flying towards bird droppings…”

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(Spoilers Below)

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Bird dropping moths are not a new idea (just Google it, you’ll find a number of species) but this idea that it is two flies on the forewings going towards the droppings is a new one on many.  What’s also interesting about this case is that the researchers associate an odor with the moth.  Stinky moth!

It’s a very interesting idea and one that shouldn’t be dismissed right off hand.  It also shouldn’t be accepted right off hand.  A few of us who first looked at the image saw beetles, not flies.  And what evolutionary occurrences would have take place in order for such an adaptation to arise?  We don’t know.  I encourage you all to check out the post and subscribe to their blog too.  It’s a hoot.  See below for my comment on their post.

 

Comments: Bugwitch

There are hundreds of chemical compounds/scents emitted by a decomposing human (or other species) corpse.  Not every odor attracts a fly and not every species is attracted/repelled by such odors.  If we go with the hypothesis that this is an adaptive mechanism that results in fooling potential predators, such predators could:

A) smell it and think it’s rotten,
B) see it is something which is attractive to flies and therefore not of food-value

Eyespots are normally on the outer portions of wings and serve to distract predators from the main dish (their body) and instead result in getting nibbled on the wing tips which can result in higher survival rates for the butterfly.

I personally don’t see flies and I have to *really* look to “see” flies.  I see beetles more immediately, as others have mentioned.  Just going by general size and shape.  And just because you can’t think of a beetle species with a red head just remember…400,000 species of beetles.

All too often we entomologists (and my fellow wannabees) want really-super-duper-hard to find something and then we eventually see it.  I’m not saying that’s what this is; but confirmation bias is something we all need to be wary of.  Does it look like a type of mimicry?  Yeah, sure.  Especially with the odor association.  But as all of my fellow graduate students like to say when we end our presentations: More research is required.