A Swarm of Entomologists- ICE and ECN 2016

This year marked the 25th International Congress of Entomology (ICE) meeting in  Orlando, FL. It was the largest gathering of entomologists in the world, with over 6400 people and over 5300 talks!

ICE 2016 opening talks! Photo by Carolyn Trietsch (CC BY 2.0). Click photo for source.

The Deans lab headed south a few days early to catch the annual meeting of the Entomological Collections Network (ECN), which is devoted towards the advancement and improvement of entomological natural history collections. I saw some fascinating talks, including a talk by Elijah Talamas about Platygastroidea at the Smithsonian, and a talk by Beulah Garner about Lucy Evelyn Cheesman, a British entomologist who wrote popular science books about her travels and field experiences in order to fund her work.  There was also an entertaining symposium about collecting trips gone wrong. Different researchers told stories about being chased by a bear, bitten by a venomous snake in a country with no functional hospitals, almost being arrested for drug residue in a suitcase bought at a garage sale, being held at gunpoint twice by the police in Mexico, and more (the ECN program booklet can be found here).

At ICE, I was somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer number of people and the number of different talks going on at the same time.  I went to talks about Hymenoptera systematics, next-generation sequencing, databasing and digitization, insect behavior, morphometrics, and more. I even sat in on an interesting talk about the use of insects as symbols in Japanese art and poetry, as well as an entertaining talk about the use of insects in videogames.

The Exhibition Hall at ICE 2016. Photo by Carolyn Trietsch (CC BY 2.0.) Click photo for source.

Even though there were over 5300 talks at ICE, there were only two talks that dealt with Conostigmusmy talk and Istvan’s talk. It really puts things in perspective  and drives home that we are at the forefront of our field. However, I did manage to find some agricultural researchers that had experience rearing Dendrocerus carpenteri, and was able to get some good tips from them about starting my own colony of megaspilids.

I made a lot of great connections, and was also able to get a lot of helpful advice from others about primer design and PCR, which will help us in our upcoming DNA and PCR work. Overall, it was a very successful and eventful conference, and a memorable experience for my first ICE!

What’s an entomology conference without an entomology-inspired game? I didn’t win the ICE Pokemon Go! competition, but I still found some cool insect-inspired Pokemon. Photo by Carolyn Trietsch (CC BY 2.0). Click for source.

Posted in news | Leave a comment

Mapping it Out

I’ve been east and west for research this year- from California to New Jersey! Lately, I have been on the road or in the air so much that I have not been able to update the blog.

A photo of some dry grassland and trees, with the ocean in the background.

The view from UC-Santa Barbara. Photo by Emily Sandall (CC BY 2.0). Click for source.

What’s been occupying my time, you ask? A ton of georeferencing! I presented on my ecological niche modeling research at the 2016 International Congress of Entomology in Orlando, Florida at the end of September. I then turned around and went to an iDigBio Georeferencing for Research Use course at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in sunny Santa Barbara, California.

Since I only returned a few days ago, I have not yet had a chance to fully realize all that I am hoping to do with georeferencing. For starters, I am working an SOP for best practices for georeferencing specimens with a variety of locality data types. This will help ensure that our records are traceable and replicable, and will help with the “fatigue” that is associated with spending a lot of time on georeferencing. Stay tuned!

Posted in Digitization | Tagged | Leave a comment

Weekly reads 2–19.ix.2016

Carolyn: I’ve been working on trying to identify some structures we found associated with the semitransparent patches in Ceraphronoidea. We spoke to Missy Hazen about what they might be, and she suggested that they might be related to membrane recycling. I’ve been researching membrane recycling since then, and after taking a look back through the Microscopic Anatomy of Arthropods, I think I have finally figured out what the structures we’re seeing are. My guess it that they are lamellar bodies. There’s a good picture in Microscopic Anatomy volume 2, page 665, but I also found the following three papers that all discuss lamellar bodies. They are membrane-bound structures with excess membrane folds that are produced when fat bodies or vacuoles are broken down, and they are involved in organelle recycling, as well as storage and secretion. It seems like there are even lamellar bodies associated with photoreceptors, which is fascinating because we think the tissues underneath the semitransparent patches in Ceraphronoidea might contain photoreceptors.

  • McDermid, Heather, and Michael Locke (1983) Tyrosine storage vacuoles in insect fat body. Tissue and Cell 15 (1): 137–158 DOI: 10.1016/0040-8166(83)90039-3
  • Vigneron, Aurélien, Florent Masson, Agnès Vallier, Séverine Balmand, Marjolaine Rey, Carole Vincent-Monégat, Emre Aksoy, Etienne Aubailly-Giraud, Anna Zaidman-Rémy, and Abdelaziz Heddi. (2014) Insects recycle endosymbionts when the benefit is over. Current Biology 24 (19): 2267–73. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.07.065
  • White, Richard H. (1968) The effect of light and light deprivation upon the ultrastructure of the larval mosquito eye. III. Multivesicular bodies and protein uptake. Journal of Experimental Zoology 169 (3): 261–277 DOI: 10.1002/jez.1401690302

Emily: I read a study published by Fourcade et al. (2014), in which they examine the efficacy of MAXENT models at handling biased locality data. Acknowledging that this is not unusual of species data, the researchers used real and virtual datasets with a variety of biases. They found that AUC (area under the curve), a measure of data fit to the model of species distributions, is not a good indicator of how well the model fits the data. The AUC values were found to be pretty high even when data had strong bias. Fourcade et al. suggest that it is best to ensure that the sample size is large enough to balance out data biases. Systematic sampling, in which a subset of the locality records are picked from the total, can help break up the spatial bias in records. MAXENT already removes records that are in the same grid cells, but this helps remove data that appears to be almost stacked geographically. When I look at data coming from our collection and others, I often think about just how similar the localities must be when they are collected extremely close to one another. However, it is hard to determine exactly how to correct this spatial bias-further georeferencing research and collecting efforts will help!

István: My weekly readings are listed in the Know your Insect course syllabus! Needless to say, it’s been an intense and incredible set of discussions. Watch for dedicated blog posts about each discovery.

Andy: I’m in the throes of ENT 432, so most of my weekly reads are dominated by the topics at hand. This week it is Odonata (e.g., Gorb 1999, Mischiati et al. 2015) and Ephemeroptera, as well as hypotheses concerning the origin of insect wings (Engel et al. 2013).

mayfly clinging to stem of a plant

Great photo of a mayfly at dusk, taken by Bob Fox (CC BY) https://flic.kr/p/H6S81g

Posted in research | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Great Insect Fair at Penn State – Recap & Photo Gallery

Photo advertising the Great Insect Fair at Penn State Univeristy, September 10th 2016. Held up and beyond is the fair in action. Lots of people moving about from table to table in a large building.

Entomophiles near and far flocked to State College this past weekend for the 23rd annual Penn State University Great Insect Fair. There were bugs to eat, bugs to see, bugs to hold, bugs galore!

The Snider Ag Arena filled with Penn State Entomology faculty, staff, and students who showcased their research initiatives and ran an insect zoo and a butterfly tent. Together with organizations such as the Pennsylvania 4-H clubs, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, Penn State Master Gardeners, the Friends of the Snetsinger Butterfly Garden and others, the arena was filled with interactive insect related displays and activities aplenty.

This year’s theme, Bug Appetit, explored the world of entomophagy – the eating of bugs. Penn State Nutrition Science students offered a variety of insect bites from chocolate chip cookies baked with 25% cricket flour to wax worms and meal worms mixed with caramel popcorn.

At the Frost Museum table, we played into the theme by featuring a pinned display of edible insects of Pennsylvania! Yum. We also related insect muscles to that of chicken and other vertebrates. Additionally we had a praying mantis that gave live demonstrations throughout the day on how to eat grasshoppers.

Close up photo of a praying mantis eating a grasshopper. The grasshopper is in the clutches of the praying mantis's raptorial front leggs and the body is in pieces.

Feeding time for Juliet the Praying Mantis. Juliet gave several live demonstrations throughout the day on how to eat a grasshopper. Photo by Isa Betancourt (CC BY 2.0) Click for source.

A Luna Moth caterpillar takes a rest from munching on Sweet Gum leaves.

A Luna Moth caterpillar takes a rest from munching on Sweet Gum leaves. The caterpillar was brought in and presented by the Monroe County 4-H club. Photo by Isa Betancourt (CC BY 2.0) Click for source.

Black Bess Beetle rests on a dead piece of wood.

Bess Beetles! Another charismatic group brought by the Monroe County 4-H club. Photo by Isa Betancourt (CC BY 2.0) Click for source.

Visitors on one side of a table with various insect display cases. They are interacting with entomology interpretors who are on the other side.

The bustling Frost Entomological Museum table. Photo by Isa Betancourt (CC BY 2.0) Click for source

A researcher stands at a table and holds out an insect speciment to teach a girl scouts troupe about insect muscles

Research Associate, István Mikó teaches a local girl scout troupe about insect muscles. Photo by Isa Betancourt (CC BY 2.0) Click for source

Andy Deans stands at the Frost Museum table and speaks with two boys about wasps

Frost Museum Director, Andy Deans answers question about wasp behavior and nest architecture. Photo by Isa Betancourt (CC BY 2.0) Click for source.

Undergrad student, Jonah Ulmer holds out a Death Feigning Beetle for visitors to see and hold.

Undergrad student, Jonah Ulmer holds out a Death Feigning Beetle for visitors to see and hold. Photo by Isa Betancourt (CC BY 2.0) Click for source

Graduate Student, Emily Sandall introduces visitors to the edible insects of Pennsylvania. There is a display case with pinned insects

Graduate Student, Emily Sandall introduces visitors to the edible insects of Pennsylvania and the benefits of eating insects vs other animals. Photo by Isa Betancourt (CC BY 2.0) Click for source.

We had a blast and can’t wait to participate again next year for the 24th Great Insect Fair!

Posted in fun, news, outreach | Leave a comment

The Great Insect Fair

This Saturday, September 10, Penn State University celebrates the annual Great Insect Fair at the Ag Arena from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Stop by and check out the Frost’s exhibit among the fair’s many other entomological activities and attractions. The museum’s theme for this year’s display is entomophagy, the human consumption of insects. Whet your arthropod appetite watching live insect feedings of ant lion larvae and praying mantises. Fuel your hunger learning about the edible entomons of Pennsylvania and the sustainability of biting into bugs. And satiate your cravings for creepy crawlies with our chitinous cuisine.

A nice close-up of a hungry mantis caught eating a meaty insect drumstick grasped in its right forelimb. The remains of the drumstick's associated body are held in its left.

Hope you’re hungry. Photo courtesy of Isa Betancourt.

Posted in fun, news, outreach | Leave a comment