Veronica Yurchak, a Ph.D. student working in the Hooks Lab, and colleagues have a paper out in Transgenic Research that looks into how Cry proteins, insecticidal toxins created by Bt corn, break down after crops are harvested and whether or not farmers practices can accelerate the degradation process. Although research to date reveals few adverse effects resulting from cry proteins on non-target organisms, the authors say knowing the practices that degrade these proteins will be important for assessing the ecological risk of future genetically engineered crops.
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Bee Informed Partnership has released results from their annual survey, which highlights the continuing cycle of high honey bee colony turnover, with beekeepers and researchers hoping to find solutions.
“This year’s survey results show that colony losses are still high,” says Nathalie Steinhauer, BIP’s science coordinator and a post-doctoral researcher in University of Maryland Department of Entomology. "We should remember, however, that loss rates are not the same as population decline. The recent numbers of honey bee colonies in the U.S. are relatively stable despite those high losses, but that’s because beekeepers invest a lot of time and effort to increase their operation size to mitigate their losses.”
See AGNR's full press release here
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PREDATION OR SCAVENGING? GRUNER LAB COLLABORATES ON A NOVEL METHOD OF MEASURING INTERACTIONS BETWEEN INVASIVE RATS & BIRDS
On the Hawaiian Islands invasive black rats are eating native and introduced birds. The long-term ecological impact of the rats' taste for island birds will depend on whether or not the rats are preying upon birds or scavenging their dead remains, a species interaction that can be difficult to verify through observation alone. So scientist from Smithsonian’s Center for Conservation Genomics and the Gruner Lab (grad student Madhvi Venkatraman, former postdoc Erin E Wilson Rankin and Associate Prof. Daniel S. Gruner) set out to find another way to measure these hard to see interactions. They worked out a method of using bacterial biomarkers in the rat's stomach and feces to tell whether the birds consumed were alive or dead. Their paper entitled, “Identification of novel bacterial biomarkers to detect bird scavenging by invasive rats”, was published earlier this year in Ecology and Evolution, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.7171.
Varroa mites are a major threat to honeybee health in the US. Chemical applications have proved effective at controlling varroa mite populations in honey bee colonies, however, only to a point. The mites are developing resistance to these chemicals. Collaborative study between University of Valencia and UMD Entomology Bee Lab researchers, Grad Student Krisztina Christmon & Associate Professor Dennis vanEngelsdorp, demonstrate mutations related to tau-fluvalinate resistance in Varroa destructor are widely distributed in the US. Their research reveals an urgent need for pest management strategies based on treatment resistance. Knowing the frequency of resistant mites, the authors argue, would help beekeepers choose the right treatment for their colonies.
Assessing patterns of genetic diversity and structure of foundation species helps researchers better understand population dynamics in order to establish effective conservation strategies. Postdoc Magdalene Ngeve, Neel Lab, collaborated on an extensive study on the mangrove species Rhizophora mucronata in the Western Indian Ocean. Findings of that study were published in Scientific Reports earlier this month: “Expansion of the mangrove species Rhizophora mucronata in the Western Indian Ocean launched contrasting genetic patterns.” The authors hope their findings will, one day, be integrated with other regional genetic data to further understand the connectivity of mangroves at a global scale.
Measuring and comparing biodiversity is challenging because rare species are often undetected. So, what can researchers do to address these sampling issues in biodiversity measurement? Michael Roswell, Postdoc in Espindola Lab, and colleagues have a new paper out in Oikos that recommends using two tools in tandem -coverage and Hill diversity.
Join us in congratulating Michael on this recent pub entitled, “A conceptual guide to measuring species diversity,” "Editor's Choice" of the March issue in Oikos, and now one of the most downloaded Oikos articles from the past 2 years.
Hamby Lab has a new paper out in Insects that describes the current use of cultural controls in the management of the invasive spotted-wing drosophila (SWD), a small insect that causes big problems for fruit crops. Paper entitled, “Cultural Control of Drosophila suzukii in Small Fruit—Current and Pending Tactics in the U.S.”
In this paper first authors, Torsten Schöneberg (Postdoc) and Margaret Lewis (PhD student), explain cultural controls as a pest management technique that modifies production practices and the crop environment to reduce pest populations and damage. By reporting on the approaches and effectiveness of various cultural controls for SWD management, from pruning to irrigation methods, the authors hope to further encourage fruit growers to adopt these techniques as an alternative to pesticide use.
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Katie Reding and Leslie Pick’s paper, High Efficiency CRISPR/Cas9 Mutagenesis of the white Gene in the Milkweed Bug Oncopeltus fasciatus has been chosen for GSA journals’ 2020 Spotlight Collection of research and scholarship. The collection curated by the editors showcases noteworthy examples of genetics and genomics investigations. Congratulations to the Pick Lab for this exciting recognition!
Visit the collection here: https://academic.oup.com/genetics/pages/spotlight
More on the article: Entomology graduate student Katie Reding (Pick lab) used CRISPR/Cas9 to make a genomic deletion of the white gene in the milkweed bug Oncopeltus fasciatus. The white gene was one of the first genes identified in Drosophila, over 100 years ago, where it is necessary for the red eye color of flies. Interesting, in Oncopeltus, white is necessary for pigmentation throughout the body but it is also necessary for organismal survival, as animals homozygous for the white mutations do not survive to adulthood. This is the first demonstration that CRISPR is effective in Oncopeltus. Methods Katie developed will be useful for researchers to test the function of other genes in this and related species.
In the spring, trillions of periodical cicadas are expected to emerge. "They will be a source of wonder and consternation as they emerge from the earth and lay eggs in treetops.” writes Prof. Emeritus Mike Raupp in Tree Care Industry Association Magazine.
Katy Evans, PhD student in Espindola Lab, co-authors new publication w/ Penn State researchers, "The Role of Pathogen Dynamics and Immune Gene Expression in the Survival of Feral Honey Bees" out in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution earlier this month. Their research shows feral colonies may have higher tolerance to pathogens than managed honey bee colonies. Understanding environmental and genetic factors behind the feral bees' increased immunity could help beekeepers combat colony losses.
For more details about the study, check out Penn State's press release.
Professor Emeritus, Galen Dively and his colleagues have a new paper out in the Journal of Economic Entomology titled, “Sweet Corn Sentinel Monitoring for Lepidopteran Field-Evolved Resistance to Bt Toxins” The study demonstrates that the sentinel plot approach as an in-field screen can effectively monitor phenotypic resistance and document field-evolved resistance in target pest populations, improving resistance monitoring for Bt crops. As a direct result of Galen’s research, the EPA has proposed a number of changes to the way the agency monitors genetically modified crop technologies. This fall Galen presented his research at the Fall Entomology Seminar Series. Check out PhD students Darsy Smith and Veronica Yurchak's Seminar Blog summarizing that talk.
On a related note, a recent Maryland Farm & Harvest episode covered several stories on corn production, including a segment at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center featuring Galen’s research on genetically modified corn.
Congratulations to Entomology’s Alys Jarvela and Leslie Pick whose paper was just published in Communications Biology. Their research showed that mosquitos lost a gene that is essential for survival in other insects without ill effects. They also found that a related gene stepped in and took over the lost gene’s role. This discovery represents the first time that scientists identified a gene that naturally evolved to perform the same critical function as a related gene long after the two genes diverged down different evolutionary paths.
You can read CMNS press release on the paper here: https://cmns.umd.edu/news-events/features/4664
In a paper published in Genetics today (https://www.genetics.org/content/215/4/1027) Entomology graduate student Katie Reding (Pick lab) used CRISPR/Cas9 to make a genomic deletion of the white gene in the milkweed bug Oncopeltus fasciatus. The white gene was one of the first genes identified in Drosophila, over 100 years ago, where it is necessary for the red eye color of flies. Interesting, in Oncopeltus, white is necessary for pigmentation throughout the body but it is also necessary for organismal survival, as animals homozygous for the white mutations do not survive to adulthood. This is the first demonstration that CRISPR is effective in Oncopeltus. Methods Katie developed will be useful for researchers to test the function of other genes in this and related species.
Interested in seeing bess beetles, some of mother nature's champion recyclers, at work? Now is a great time, blogs Bug of the Week's Professor Raupp. Bess beetles can be spotted scurrying across the forest floor recycling wood of fallen trees.
Moths and butterflies play a vital role in pollinating plants on wild and manged lands. So how vital are they? Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Cerruti Hooks, and Assistant Professor, Anahi Espindola pair up to respond. The two blog in Maryland Agronomy News about the efficiency of moths and butterflies as pollinators and advocate for the conservation of these important insects.
Trio from Pick Lab, Faculty Assistant Jessica Hernandez, Prof and Chair Leslie Pick and Grad Student Katie Reding, look into using a new study organism to discover novel genes and mechanisms. Their findings conclude that harlequin bugs are a versatile insect model, effective for examining gene expression. The Pick Lab takes us through their discovery, from rearing harlequin bugs in the lab to where they see molecular genetic analysis of harlequin bugs leading. Learn more in their latest paper out this month in EvoDevo "Oncopeltus-like gene expression patterns in Murgantia histrionica, a new hemipteran model system, suggest ancient regulatory network divergence."
Grad Student Darsy Smith and Professor Bill Lamp have an article out in a special edition of University of Maryland Extension's Agronomy News entitled, "Unexpected Outbreak of Cowpea Aphid in Alfalfa." Although outbreaks have been observed in the past, they warn that this outbreak, discovered by Terry Patton (Dively Lab), is considerable in size and extent. Follow link to see their guidance on identifying, monitoring and reporting this crop damaging pest.
Professor Emeritus Michael Raupp collaborates with researchers Ashley N. Schulz, Angela M. Mech, Craig R. Allen, Matthew P. Ayres and others to develop standardized tools for determining non-native insect impact. They are optimistic that standardized assessment tools can build consensus among experts, which in turn, could improve managers and policy makers' response to the threats imposed by non-native species. Their findings were published this month in NeoBiota. Follow link for publication, "The impact is in the details: evaluating a standardized protocol and scale for determining non-native insect impact"
Postdoc Alina Avanesyan and Professor Bill Lamp have another publication out on the invasive lanternfly. The paper entitled, "Use of Molecular Gut Content Analysis to Decipher the Range of Food Plants of the Invasive Spotted Lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula" was published in Insects special issue "Molecular Gut Content Analysis: Deciphering Trophic Interactions of Insects.” Their study is the first to show that host plant DNA can be identified within the gut contents of the spotted lanternfly. Molecular gut content analysis provides insight into the feeding behavior of lanternflies at all developmental stages and can be helpful in predicting host plant range. This research could improve the monitoring and management of this invasive species.
Krisztina Christmon (PhD student, vanEngelsdorp Lab), who is studying the host-parasite-pathogen interaction of honeybees, is co-author of a paper published in Viruses special issue: Advances in Honey Bee Virus Research. Follow link to read Krisztina’s first ever publication titled, “Development of a Honeybee RNA Virus Vector Based on the Genome of a Deformed Wing Virus.” Krisztina and her fellow researchers are hopeful that the development of these vectors could lead to the further understanding of viruses like deformed wing virus including similar viruses affecting different bee species.
Congratulations on reaching this milestone Krisztina!
MacCracken has a paper out in the Journal of Plant Sciences on Permian insect herbivory titled, "The Middle Permian South Ash Pasture Assemblage of North-Central Texas: Coniferophyte and Gigantopterid Herbivory and Longer-Term Herbivory Trends." Check out publication here>>
Congratulations to Aditi Dubey, Maggie Lewis, Galen Dively and Kelly Hamby whose research paper, "Ecological impacts of pesticide seed treatments on arthropod communities in a grain crop rotation", was published last week in the Journal of Applied Ecology.
Their findings, "Pesticide seed treatments can impact arthropod taxa, including important natural enemies even when environmental persistence and active ingredient concentrations are low."
Congratulations to Gussie MacCracken (PhD Student, Shultz Lab) whose paper is out in Biology Letters today! Her research extends the history of plant–mite mutualisms back another 25 million years.
Publication: "Late Cretaceous domatia reveal the antiquity of plant–mite mutualisms in flowering plants." https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2019.0657