Transgenic Bt crops have been a very successful tool for managing various insect pests in field crops. However, like all pest management strategies, they have both pros and cons. Dr. Dominic Reisig, from North Carolina State University, discusses the challenges of managing resistance against Bt crops, using the example of Helicoverpa zea, an important pest of both corn and cotton.
The mechanisms of exactly how mosquitoes locate their human hosts still elude the scientific community. Dr Conor McMeniman’s lab at Johns Hopkins has made advances in understanding the important role that the CO2 we exhale has to play in mosquitoes’ host-finding abilities. With the urgency of the Zika threat looming, understanding its mosquito vectors’ human-finding processes is vital to public health.
Annual emergences of chronomid (non-biting) midges at the subarctic Lake Myvatn in northeastern Iceland are being studied for their interesting effects on arthropod food webs. Understanding the aquatic-terrestrial linkages in the near-shore ecosystems will shed light on the role midges play in the nitrogen cycle.
Ph.D. student, Samuel Ramsey of the vanEngelsdorp Lab took 1st place in the 4th annual 3MT competition on April 5, 2017. After much preparation and making it through the first round of competitions the week prior, he scored the top prize!
Sammy will be awarded $500 and will go on to represent UMD in the International competition in October. Here is some info on the background of the competition but without the winners for this year updated on the site.
Please offer him congratulations when you see him. We are very proud!
Honey bees face a myriad of interacting stress factors including pesticide exposure and poor nutrition in intensive agricultural landscapes. Andrew Garavito spent his masters looking at how these factors interact in real-world landscapes to affect honey bee health. Comparing factors such as pollen diet, pesticide contamination of pollen, and drought stressing of pollen, he gained some interesting insights into what bees face on any given day in the field.
A piece of exciting news to welcome you back from spring break!
Natural threats among the flowers lurk. Dr. T'ai Roulston delves into the somewhat macabre world of bumble bee parasitism by conopid or thick-headed flies.
Tackling challenging and complex questions about ecosystems, Dr. Jamin Dreyer explores how we can better understand natural processes to improve human interactions with the environment.
Ants have been farming for millions of years before humans walked the planet. Learn more about the Sericomyrmex ants that Dr. Ješovnik studies.
"Dr. Arnaud Martin details his research adapting the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system to crustaceans and butterflies, providing further evidence that supports previous findings surrounding the use of genetic tool kits found in all animals."
Dr. Leslie Pick has a new book out through Academic Press publishers titled Fly Models of Human Diseases. More information on her book can be found here. Check out the flyer below for more details!
We live in a world full of signals. We are constantly bombarded with exciting new combinations of light, sound, taste, smell, and texture. Ultimately our brains interpret these sensations to form what we call reality. However, as it turns out, human beings are only able to perceive a small slice of reality: there are many smells which, for better or worse, we can never smell, and we can only see a tiny slice of the colors light has to offer (we refer to this small portion of wavelengths as the “visible spectrum”).
As it turns out, flies do not base their behavior on the smell of the fruit: they base it on the smell of the yeast growing on the fruit. When yeasts are removed from fruit, the flies do not know where to go. Dr. Syed’s team took a sample of yeasts abundant in fruit and associated SWD flies and found that SWD choose certain yeasts over others, but why?
To answer this question, they sampled the odors that were produced by his yeasts using solid-phase microextraction (SPME) to see if they were different. They were in fact different – qualitatively and quantitatively - with each yeast isolate producing a very complex and wide range of odorant repertoire. Approaching the point of despair at interpreting all of his data, a statistician swooped in to save the day. The statistician was able to distinguish between the yeasts based solely on the odors they produce.
Read more about Dr. Syed’s Work
Scheidler, N. H., Liu, C., Hamby, K. A., Zalom, F. G., & Syed, Z. (2015). Volatile codes: Correlation of olfactory signals and reception in Drosophila-yeast chemical communication. Scientific reports, 5, 14059.
Hickner, P. V., Rivaldi, C. L., Johnson, C. M., Siddappaji, M., Raster, G. J., & Syed, Z. (2016). The making of a pest: Insights from the evolution of chemosensory receptor families in a pestiferous and invasive fly, Drosophila suzukii. BMC genomics, 17(1), 648.
About the author:
Brian Lovett is a PhD student in Dr. Raymond St. Leger’s Lab studying mycology and genetics in agricultural and vector biology systems. He is currently working on projects analyzing mycorrhizal interactions in agricultural systems, the transcriptomics of malaria vector mosquitoes, and the genomes of entomopathogenic fungi.
At the first Entomology colloquium of the Spring 2017 semester, Dr. Zain Sayed described his work on the agricultural pest spotted wing drosophila. His work unravels how female flies use odors from yeasts growing on fruit to find their mates.
Beginning in the Fall of 2016, the entire Department of Entomology pledged to become a green department . Partnering with the UMD Sustainability's Green Office Program we underwent an extensive audit, evaluation, and received a list of sustainable behaviors we are practicing well and where we have room for improvement.
We have 23 goals to meet, 11 of which we have achieved to become Bronze Certified. So, what actions have we taken so far? Check out our list of accomplishments below!
Ear damage? In this case, we are not talking about listening to music too loud or standing too close to the speakers at a rock concert. Instead, Dr. Galen Dively, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Entomology, has unlocked the mystery shrouding the increased dmanage to ears of corn. Read more about Dively's study here.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus was channeling his inner taxonomist when he declared, “everything is in flux.” Depending on who you ask, taxonomy as a field precariously teeters between being either the foundation of all other biological sciences or the most esoteric debate topic two scientists can choose. Scientists rely on taxonomists to draw the lines between the species that we study so we can all be on the same page while we study them (imagine trying to plan a trip to the zoo without names for the animals). As Dr. Jason Mottern explained during the last Entomology Department colloquium of 2016, these lines are often drawn in pencil.
Congratulations to the winners of the Spring 2017 Ernest N. Cory Undergraduate Scholarship!
Conservation biological control – a fancy term for the support of beneficial insects in a cropping system to enhance natural pest control - has long been of interest in organic agriculture. Lauren Hunt of the Department of Entomology’s Hooks Lab has been investigating the potential for conservation biological control in organic field corn using partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata) to attract and support insects that feed on and parasitize pests. Many predators and parasitoids, collectively called beneficial insects or natural enemies, need nectar resources offered by flowers to successfully develop and reproduce. Partridge pea offers these nectar resources to insects in the form of flowers and via special glands, termed “extrafloral nectaries” located at the base of the petioles. These nectaries are particularly attractive to wasps known to parasitize a variety of insect pests, including stink bugs, corn earworms, and corn borers – common pests of corn and key pests in Lauren’s study.
Post-doc Christopher Taylor (Hamby Lab), graduate student Veronica Johnson (Hooks Lab), and Professor Emeritus Dr. Galen Dively have a new publication titled, "Assessing the use of antimicrobials to sterilize brown marmorated stink bug egg masses and prevent symbiont acquisition" in Journal of Pest Science. You can read the abstract below and find the full feature here. Congratulations on your achievement!
The kudzu bug (Megacopta cribraria) (Family Plataspidae) (Fig. 1) has become a widespread invasive pest in the southern United States since it was first detected in Georgia in 2009. This small, round bug is closely related to stinkbugs (Pentatomidae) and has plagued soybean farmers under non-treatment and high density conditions with yield losses as high as 59%! It feeds on the soybean plants’ leaves and stems with its piercing-sucking mouthparts, which can affect the number of seeds per pod and overall seed weight. The overall damage is astounding, especially when considering all kudzu bugs in North America originated from a single female bug from Japan. Luckily, many studies have been done to track and monitor this pest, such as those done by Jessica Grant.
It can be a lonely world for a bed bug researcher! Dr. Mark Feldlaufer began his presentation by extending an open invitation to visit his bed bug research lab at the United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland. He assured us that the offer rarely gets takers, and it is really not surprising, all things considered. As parasites that feed on people and cause itchy welts, bed bugs give people the heebie-jeebies. Just a picture or two of the bed bugs (Fig. 1) was enough to have several attendees visibly cringe, as they imagine the marks and persistent itches that usually follow after bed bug bites. However, Dr. Feldlaufer’s fascinating research, which aims to improve bed bug detection and control, may contribute to a future where everyone can rest assured that there truly are no creatures lurking under the bed.
often do not come in contact with them. It is impractical, dangerous, and against labelled usage, to coat every surface and crack of a home or business in insecticide, so bed bug chemical treatments often fail. The silver bullet control method appears to be heat treatments, but, like silver, heat treatments are expensive. Homes are heated to between 120-140⁰F for several hours to kill all bed bug life stages, which tend to cost anywhere between $2,500-$7,000. Though bed bugs themselves do not discriminate against the rich or poor, our methods of remediation tend to do just that. The most effective way to get rid of bed bugs is unaffordable to many.
In the course of his bed bug research, Dr. Feldlaufer has worked on other projects to help to detect and control bed bugs early in their infestations with a number of students, including our very own Dr. Kevin Ulrich. The team found that bed bugs consistently avoided a common chemical insect repellent, DEET, the main ingredient in most mosquito repellents. They did not, however, respond with greater avoidance to higher dosage. Although this may seem like a quick and easy fix, wearing DEET to bed may just cause bed bugs to merely move on to other surfaces (e.g. the couch). On the other hand, they also found that aldehyde compounds produced by bed bugs elicit a strong attractive response to other adult and immature bed bugs. These aldehydes may be one way bed bugs attract each other to form aggregations (Ulrich et al. 2016), suggesting that the aldehydes may be used to develop an inexpensive and more discreet option to lure and trap bed bugs. Dr. Feldlaufer currently aims to develop and test reduced risk pesticides that show promise in killing bed bugs.
Bed bugs can be a terribly menacing presence in anyone’s home, but thankfully Dr. Feldlaufer has dedicated much of his career to keeping us informed about these insects and their crafty activities. By pairing lures with reduced risk pesticides, Dr. Feldlaufer aims to develop options to safely, affordably, and discreetly ensure we can sleep tight assured that the bed bugs will not bite.
Lit L., Schweitzer J.B., and Oberbauer A.M. 2011. Handler beliefs affect scent detection dog outcomes. Animal Cognition 14: 387.
Pfiester M., Koehler P.G., and Pereira R.M. 2008. Ability of bed bug-detecting canines to locate live bed bugs and viable bed bug eggs. Journal of Economic Entomology 101(4):1389-96.
Ulrich, K.R., Kramer, M. and Feldlaufer, M.F. 2016. Ability of bed bug (Hemiptera: Cimicidae) defensive secretions (E)-2-hexenal and (E)-2-octenal to attract adults of the common bed bug Cimex lectularius. Physiological Entomology 41: 103-110.
Hanna Kahl is a master’s student at University of Maryland in Dr. Cerruti Hooks’ lab researching the effects of red clover living mulch on arthropod pests and pollinators.
Samuel Ramsey is a PhD student at University of Maryland in Dr. Dennis vanEngelsdorp’s lab researching Varroa destructor.