Dr. Jeff Shultz, quoted in The New York Times commenting on a recent publication out in Molecular Biology and Evolution that suggest rather than occupying their own individual lineage, horseshoe crabs are in the same family as arachnids.
Quote: “Personally, I think it is an interesting finding,” said Jeffrey Shultz, a professor of entomology at the University of Maryland who studies arachnid evolution, “but experience shows that results can change when the same data are analyzed by different workers, when new data are added to the mix or when new insights into genomic evolution come to light.”
Link to article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/18/science/horseshoe-crabs-arachnids.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Science
[Seminar Blog] Tiny wasps to the rescue: investigating biological control of the brown marmorated stink bug and emerald ash borer
written by: Max Ferlauto and Madeline Potter
Most tiny insects go unnoticed, yet tiny insects can greatly impact humans and our ecosystems. Dr. Nicole Quinn has spent the past five years researching how to utilize particularly tiny insects, known as parasitic wasps, to help manage invasive insect pests (non-native species that cause harm). The invasive pests Dr. Quinn focused on were the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) during her PhD research at Virginia Tech University, and the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) during her postdoctoral research with USDA-ARS Beneficial Insects Introduction Research Unit and University of Massachusetts. Her research helps reveal and enhance methods to effectively control invasive insects.
Eriophyid mites, aka rust, gall and bud mites feed on all kinds of plants and have been estimated that there are close to a million species on the planet. Several species of eriophyid mites can cause stunting, curling and brown discoloration of leaves on host plants leading to millions of dollars in losses in production on grasses, ornamentals, forest and fruit trees. So what can farmers and other agricultural agents do to manage these mites? And can management be done sustainably?
Researchers from the University of Maryland Department of Entomology Professor Emeritus Galen Dively and MS student Maggie Hartman team up with USDA's Ron Ochoa to investigate a more sustainable strategy for mite management involving the integration of chemical control, host plant resistance, and cultural practices. Their study, "Population Dynamics of Eriophyid Mites and Evaluation of Different Management Practices on Timothy Grass" published this month in the Journal of Economic Entomology, is the first to demonstrate the relative effectiveness of alternative management practices that could reduce the need for chemical control of eriophyoid mites on timothy grass. Read the paper here>>.
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written by: Angela Saenz and Taís Ribeiro
Our identity and background shape how we work. This is not different in science. In their seminar for the University of Maryland Entomology department, Dr. Lauren Esposito gave a presentation entitled "Why Entomology Needs Queer Voices", sharing their story and how it has inspired them to work towards increasing diversity and inclusion in STEM.
The beautiful and abundant plant genus Calceolaria L. is one of most iconic Andean plant genera. However, its evolutionary relationships have remained evasive despite dozens of years of research. Further understanding of the evolutionary history of the group can hold the key to recognizing patterns of diversification across the world's largest mountain ranges, the Andes. Researchers Lauren Frankel (former researcher in the EspindoLab), Dr. Murúa and Dr. Espindola’s latest paper – published this week by the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society – used chloroplastic genome analyses to help fill in the gap of Calceolaria’s evolutionary history. Through this approach they were able to resolve for the first time the backbone of the genus, identify two main clades that also display interesting pollination-relevant traits, and estimate a timing of diversification contemporaneous to major climatic and orogenic events. Check out paper here>>
Additional shout out to Lauren Frankel; this is her 1st first-authored paper, and to Anahi Espindola her proud UMD mentor. Fun fact, this is the same journal in which Anahi had her first first-author paper published!
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[Seminar Blog] Meet the bee relatives: What can phylogenies teach us about bee evolution and ecology?
written by: Taís Ribeiro and Darsy Smith
Have you ever thought about how scientists know how organisms are related? Similar to how humans can use family trees to know who are their relatives, scientists can study the relationship between groups of organisms by constructing phylogenetic trees. These phylogenetic trees are two-dimensional diagrams that can represent the evolution and diversification of a group of organisms (Figure 1). Phylogenetic trees can show what organisms are in the base (or the root) of a tree, and more closely related groups in closer branches. Phylogenetic relationships help us understand the diversity of species and address ecological and evolutionary questions. Traditionally phylogenies were constructed using morphological data – what organisms look like—but advances in molecular phylogenetics, first with a few genetic markers and now with phylogenomic studies that use hundreds of genes, have transformed our understanding of these biological questions.
[Seminar Blog] USDA Protects US Agriculture Using Sterilized and Genetically Engineered (GE) Insects
Written by: Krisztina Christmon and Veronica Yurchak
From its first use in the 1950’s through present day, scientists have been trying to manage insect pests using the sterile insect technique (SIT). Today, USDA ‘s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) - Plant Protection and Quarantine unit uses SIT as part of their Fruit Fly Exclusion and Detection Program, the goal of which is to protect US Agriculture from potentially invasive and damaging exotic fruit fly species. Dr. Corey Bazelet is responsible for coordinating this fruit fly program and presented her work as part of the University of Maryland’s Safeguarding American Agriculture seminar series.
Written by: Patrick McNamara and Jonna Sanders
Dr. Peter Kozmus is a zoologist, author, diplomat, and worldwide advocate for political action to protect honeybees, insects, and insect diversity. He is a leading figure at the world honeybee association, Apimondia, as well as among Europe’s Entomologists focused upon honeybee genetics. Since 2011, Dr. Kozmus has been the Director of the Republic of Slovenia’s Carniolan Bee Breeding program at the Slovenian Beekeeping Association, Čebelarska zveza Slovenije. This program strives to protect Apis mellifera carnica, the Carniolan bee, which is the indigenous honeybee subspecies in Slovenia. A graduate of the Biotechnical Fakulteta at Slovenia’s University of Ljubljana, his Doctoral research explored the morphological and molecular markers of bumblebees. In 2014, he joined the Slovenian Beekeeping Association, which is a honeybee industry advocacy center, a research institute, and a powerful political ecological voice in Slovenia. In 2017, Dr. Kozmus was elected to the position of Vice President of Apimondia.
Congratulations to Dr. Leslie Pick for being named a 2021 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Dr. Pick is being recognized for her “distinguished contributions to the fields of evolutionary developmental biology (evo devo) and insect biology, particularly the role of Hox genes in embryogenesis and organismal diversification.”
In February, Leslie will be awarded at the AAAS Annual Meeting. Congratulations again on the well-deserved recognition Dr. Pick!
See full CMNS press release here>>
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Congratulations to Dr. Dan Gruner, recipient of the Entomological Society of America's Eastern Branch, Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching! Dr. Gruner has a long teaching career with undergraduate courses in the Biological Sciences Program, graduate classes in Entomology, and mentoring student researchers. Currently he teaches “Principles of Ecology,” where he incorporates ecology-related projects that highlight environmental issues, encouraging students to document current events and work with real world data. In 2021 this course was praised by students and the college alike for offering “A Hole New Perspective on Brood X.”
In April, Dan will be honored at the Eastern Branch Meeting in Philadelphia and entered for consideration for the Society–level award given at ESA's Annual Meeting. Congratulations again on the well-deserved recognition Dr. Gruner!
Before you bug out for the semester, take a moment to look back at Fall 2021 with us! The Department of Entomology newsletter highlights publications, awards, defenses, media mentions and much more:
^Eckert RA, Lamp WO and Marbach-Ad G. Jigsaw dissection activity enhances student ability to relate morphology and ecology in aquatic insects. Journal of Biological Education. 2021 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00219266.2021.2006268
^Evans K, Underwood RM and López-Uribe MM. Combined effects of oxalic acid sublimation and brood breaks on Varroa mite ( Varroa destructor ) and deformed wing virus levels in newly established honey bee ( Apis mellifera ) colonies. Journal of Apicultural Research. 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00218839.2021.1985260
Satler JD, Carsten BC, Garrick RC and Espíndola A. The Phylogeographic Shortfall in Hexapods: A Lot of Leg Work Remaining. Insect Systematics and Diversity. 2021. https://doi.org/10.1093/isd/ixab015
Tait G, Mermer S, Stockton D [and 46 others including Hamby KA and ^Schöneberg T]. Drosophila suzukii (Diptera: Drosophilidae): A Decade of Research Towards a Sustainable Integrated Pest Management Program. Journal of Economic Entomology. 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/jee/toab158
Marsden BW, Ngeve MN, Engelhardt KAM and Neel MC. Assessing the Potential to Extrapolate Genetic-Based Restoration Strategies Between Ecologically Similar but Geographically Separate Locations of the Foundation Species Vallisneria americana Michx. Estuaries and Coasts. 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-021-01031-z
*Graham PL, ^Fischer MD, Giri A, and Pick L. The fushi tarazu zebra element is not required for Drosophila viability or fertility. G3 Genes|Genomes|Genetics. 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/g3journal/jkab300
Kard BM, OI FM, Thorne BL, Forschler BT and Jones SC. Performance Standards and Acceptable Test Conditions for Preventive Termiticide and Insecticide Treatments, Termite Baiting Systems, and Physical Barriers for New Structures or Buildings Under Construction (Pre-Construction; During Construction; Post-Construction). Florida Entomologist. 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1653/024.104.0308
Hensel MJS, Silliman B., van de Koppel J, Hensel E, ^Sharp SJ, Crotty SM and Byrnes JEK. A large invasive consumer reduces coastal ecosystem resilience by disabling positive species interactions. Nature Communications. 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-26504-4
Bold ENTM Faculty; ^ENTM current/former graduate student or post-doc; *ENTM research staff
How can we keep native bee species alive?
Dr. Nathalie Steinhauer, UMD postdoc and Bee Informed Partnership science coordinator says to Capital News Service MD:
Support companies working to reduce the environmental impacts affecting bee populations.
& how in the world did bees survive for weeks under volcano ash following the Canary Islands eruption? Nathalie tells the New York Times:
That behavior is typical of honeybees, who use propolis, which they produce from substances they collect from plants and buds, to plug tiny gaps in the hive to protect it from rainwater and drafts, said Nathalie Steinhauer, a researcher in the department of entomology at the University of Maryland
Still, the fact that the bees on the island managed to spend weeks inside the hive insulating themselves from such oppressive conditions was surprising — and even inspirational, Dr. Steinhauer said.
“It is a very empowering story,” she said. “It tells a lot about the resilience of honeybees.
[Seminar Blog] I declare a plant-insect war: The arms-race and profiteering of species interactions.
We may think of herbivores, or animals that feed on plants, as large lumbering creatures grazing on grass, but most of them are, in fact, insects (Forister et al., 2015). Herbivorous insects interact with the predators that seek to eat them and the plants they rely on for food. But from a plant’s perspective, the insect herbivores are the predators. Plants rely on various tools to reduce the onslaught of attack from these foliage feeders. For example, they can utilize sticky appendages called trichomes, and deploy stinky or toxic chemicals. These interactions that originate from the plant and have impacts on herbivores are known as ‘bottom-up effects’ (Figure 1). Due to the abundance of insect herbivores in nature, they are also important food sources for insect predators and parasitoids. These interactions, which involve herbivore predators, are an example of ‘top-down effects’ (Figure 1).
In 2017, Professor Sara Via started a collaboration with the Maryland Department of Agriculture on soil health and how farmers can manage their land to store carbon in agricultural soils. As part of this collaboration and her role as one of Maryland's representatives to the Natural and Working Lands Workgroup of the US Climate Alliance, Dr. Via began a review of the scientific literature on the topic to evaluate the carbon-sequestering effectiveness of a set of 23 practices, including reduced tillage and the use of cover crops. This review led to a comprehensive report that demonstrates how increased adoption of these key practices can make agriculture a significant part of the American climate solution. The report, titled “Increasing Soil Health and Sequestering Carbon in Agricultural Soils: A Natural Climate Solution” highlights a set of farming practices that improve soil health, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and store carbon in the soil while providing economic benefits for farmers and environmental benefits for all. The table of expected GHG reductions from using each of the recommended practices was integrated into Maryland's 2030 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act Plan as Appendix K. For more information and to download the report, check out publisher Izaak Walton League of America’s press release here>>.
Arthropods are famous for their segmented body plans, which contribute to their vast diversity through modular addition of appendages, wings and more. Segments are patterned early in embryonic development, and this process has been intensively studied in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Drosophila is a premier model system, owing to ease and speed of culture and abundant genomic and molecular tools. However, it’s segmentation process is seemingly unlike that of most arthropods. Drosophila establishes all its segments at the same time, whereas other species specify segments one at a time over a long growth period. It has long been assumed that distantly related flies, such as mosquitoes, make this segments the same way that Drosophila do. However, while exploring the loss of an important segmentation gene from mosquito genomes, the Pick lab noticed that mosquito segmentation appeared to represent an intermediate, blending aspects of simultaneous and sequential segmentation. In their new work, published in JEZ-B, Alys Cheatle Jarvela, Catherine Trelstad, and Leslie Pick characterize this intermediate segmentation mode in the mosquito, Anopheles stephensi, and show that it is likely controlled by a progressive wave of developmental regulatory gene expression. These observations offer clues into understanding how different modes of segmentation evolve and have opened new lines of research into segment patterning in the Pick lab.
Karen Rane, director of the Plant Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Maryland, quoted in Washington Post article on the decline of oaks in the DMV.
“The anaerobic conditions of flooded soil are not good for oaks,” said Rane, noting that many of the hard-hit oaks are next to highway construction, where there are changes in drainage and soil compaction.
“They lose oxygen in the soil. That’s stress on older trees — or on any tree, but older ones can’t tolerate it the way younger trees can. That may have triggered an acceleration of decline in these older trees,” Rane said. “Once the trees weaken, trees emit signals that allow opportunistic insects to find them and attack. That’s the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.”
Read full article here>>
Fritz lab finds Washington DC mosquitoes are using belowground urban infrastructure as breeding and development sites
In spring of 2018 the Fritz Lab was asked to investigate a mosquito infestation on federal property in Southwest Washington, DC. So PhD student Arielle Arsenault-Benoit and Assistant Professor Megan Fritz headed off to the capital to scrounge around in dirty basements and look for mosquitoes. Could moderation of winter conditions make belowground urban structures a refugia for warmer-climate species, like Ae. aegypti and Cx. quinquefasciatus, allowing them to overcome assumed thermal barriers? To test their hypothesis they surveyed belowground levels of nearby parking structures for mosquitoes and standing water in the summer months of 2018 and 2019 and compared winter and spring temperatures above and belowground. Their findings, published in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association, found several species using these structures as adults, but only a few species (and ones that can transmit disease) use them as breeding and development sties. Belowground urban infrastructure may allow populations to persist for longer and build up earlier in the spring, plus warmer temperatures can shorten the development and generational time, extending the breeding season, increasing population size, and potentially affecting disease transmission. Given these results, the authors suggest pest control operators and local public health officials incorporate surveillance of these structures into their integrated pest management programs. This article also includes new records of Aedes aegypti populations beyond the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Washington DC.
written by: Demian Nunez and Mike Nan
On October 29th, the UMD Entomology Department’s weekly colloquium was unique. Rather than listen to a speaker from outside the department, Dr. Anahi Espindola presented the survey results of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee’s department survey. The survey was developed to assess the internal atmosphere in the department, identify positive experiences and actions happening, assess what negative features needed to be addressed, and define actions to be taken to improve the department for all its members.
[Seminar Blog] Case Study Pedagogy as a Method for Improving Learning Outcomes and Fostering Inclusivity
written by: Lasair ni Chochlain
Case studies are one teaching tool that can be utilized to engage students, improve learning outcomes and inclusion in the classroom. Dr. Ally Hunter presented her work exploring the effectiveness of case study pedagogy at a Department of Entomology seminar earlier this semester. Dr. Hunter began this work in her doctoral dissertation, completed at University of Massachusetts – Amherst. Now a postdoctoral fellow at UMass Amherst, she utilizes case studies in her undergraduate science classrooms to promote inclusive pedagogy. The advantage in using case studies in scientific teaching is that the stories, with rich narratives, convey scientific content and concepts while also contributing to the maintenance of situational interest which facilitates undergraduate learning. Here, we dive deeper into the methodology of Dr. Hunter’s educational research, to illustrate how her findings can be applied in entomology classrooms and beyond.
In 2020, Kriztina Christmon, PhD student vanEngelsdorp Lab, won AGNR's AgEnterprise Challenge. Now Kriztina serves as CEO of Repurpose Farm Plastic LLC, a company developing sustainable plastic recycling practices in the field of agriculture. The Office of International Affairs at UMD - Global Maryland features Kriztina's interests in agro-plastic recycling, her experience as a new CEO and the aims of the new business.