Letter from the Chair
Entomology Community and Friends of the Department,
Our faculty search for a Vector Biologist/Ecologist continues. The vacancy remains posted on the Jobs at UW site, and we are actively working to recruit a highly qualified candidate. The new faculty person will work closely with members of the Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease, and will also contribute to instruction in the Global Health Undergraduate Major and Certificate in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS). Entomology is the administrative home to the new major and certificate. Students explore how human health intersects with economic development, healthcare access, food systems, environmental health, and climate change in order to address the root causes of disease around the world. The program helps students develop a broad, planetary-scale perspective that can be applied to community, state, national, and international health challenges. The major was inaugurated in 2020 and continues to grow rapidly with over 350 current students.
Congratulations are also due to Dr. Claudio Gratton who was recently awarded the honor of ‘Fellow’ in the Entomological Society of America for 2022. Claudio is internationally known for his research on the landscape ecology and conservation of beneficial insects in terrestrial landscapes. Fellows are members who have made outstanding contributions to a wide range of fields served by ESA, with special to those that advance or apply entomological knowledge in research, teaching, extension and outreach, administration, and the broader society. Claudio’s research on the ecology of arthropods has emphasized the relationship between agricultural landscapes and insect conservation. The ecology of linkages between adjoining habitats is a broader theme in Claudio’s research. Claudio’s interests in the application of science to inform agroecological landscape transformations has included multistakeholder participatory approaches to land-use planning through the development of on models, decision-support systems, and place-based research. This year’s honorees will be recognized during the 2022 Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Societies of America, Canada, and British Columbia, November 13-16, in Vancouver.
A special congratulations is also due to our friend and colleague, Dr. Richard (Rick) Lindroth who will be retiring from the Department of Entomology after 37 years of a highly successful career as a celebrated chemical ecologist. Rick has been awarded several professorships here at the UW-Madison to include the Kellett Mid-Career Award, the Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professorship, and the Hilldale Professorship Award. Rick has also been awarded the ISCE Silverstein-Simeone Award, has been elected Fellow of the Ecological Society of America, and has traveled extensively through his career and given a number of honorary lectures. Dr. Lindroth has published over 200 peer-reviewed journal articles and his work has been cited over 20K times with an amazing h-index of 77 (Google Scholar, Richard Lindroth). Rick also served as Associate Dean for Research at the UW-Madison, CALS. He is truly an exceptional scientist and we have all benefited greatly from his expertise and guidance in the Department over these many years.
The Department hosted a celebration of Rick’s career at the Nakoma Country Club in late September where many of Rick’s colleagues, family, friends and former students/trainees gathered to support Rick and wish him all the best! Rick, we wish you health and continued success ahead and fair weather for your back-cast. Rick will formally retire this coming summer, 2023 so he will be with us for a few months to come.
The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences has appointed a new Dean and Director, Dean Glenda Gillaspy. Dean Gillaspy was previously a professor of biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech since 1998 and head of their department since 2015. In 2021, Dean Kate VandenBosch announced she would step down from her position where she led the college since 2012. Dean Gillaspy’s research program has focused on signaling pathways in plants critical for their response to plant nutrition. Notably, the Dean visited our Department in late September and met with several members of our community. She was able to meet with leadership from the Entomology Graduate Student Association, she toured the Insect Diagnostic Laboratory, the advising office of the Global Health major, and chatted with our new Assistant Professors Dr. Emily Bick and Dr. James Crall. We had a great visit and she left with some honey from our emeritus Dr. David Hogg (thanks Dave!).
In late July, the Department hosted Insect Fest at the Kemp Natural Resources Station in north central Wisconsin. The event was free and open to the public, and offered activities for all ages. Attendees were able to learn about and celebrate the diversity of Wisconsin’s insects and other arthropods with members of the Department of Entomology. A special thanks to PJ Liesch and Dan Young for their time to plan and organize the event. Additional thanks to all of our Department colleagues who made the event very special to include Shawn Steffan, Jacki Whisenant, Xia Lee, and Kristina Lopez. Your contributions were greatly appreciated and we had a lot of fun at the event. The staff at the Kemp Natural Resources Station were also outstanding, and Dr. Scott Bowe was very gracious to provide a lunch for the group.
To conclude, the Department has made improvements to the Resource page on our web-site. Here you can find a listing of personnel, information about EGSA, Insect Ambassadors, and also links to our Department’s Donations page. With assistance from Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association we have streamlined our site so anyone can learn more about all of funds we have accessible for giving. Notably, one of our newest funds is the John M. & Nancy J. Falter Graduate Student Endowment Fund. This fund was established from a living trust left by the family and in support of graduate education and graduate experiences. Dr. Falter was a UW-Madison graduate of Entomology, and after graduation he later served on the NC State faculty as an extension entomologist, retiring in 1981. The endowment from the family is a wonderful asset to our Department.
– Russ Groves, Department Chair
Entomology Graduate Student Association
The Entomology Graduate Student Association is excited to welcome 7 new graduate students this semester! We started off the semester by helping to organize a series of Welcome Week events. EGSA hosted a LGBTQIA+ Allyship workshop with Katherine Charek Briggs, Assistant Director of the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center. They outlined simple ways that everyone can make spaces more welcoming to queer and trans community members and provided a lot of helpful resources. I think the workshop is especially applicable to instructors, TAs, faculty, and other leaders to make their classrooms, labs, meetings, and other spaces more inclusive. You can find the recorded workshop here and the slides here. EGSA also co-hosted our Departmental Welcome Picnic along with the Entomology Chair’s Office, and it was lovely to see the community back together after a busy summer. We’re glad the community enjoyed some of the leftover cricket snacks from our summer talk series (more info ahead!).
EGSA just started our second group of Bug Buddies, a mentoring program pairing larvae (undergraduates or first year-graduates) and pupae (older graduate students or post-docs). The goal of Bug Buddies is to provide mentoring, community, and belonging within the Entomology Department. Anyone who is an undergraduate, graduate student, or post-doc in Entomology or other labs studying insects can join.
The Insect Ambassadors (IA) Coordinators Ben Iuliano and Gigi Melone were busy over the summer doing outreach presentations for all age groups, organizing a public talk series, and bringing bugs to bus stops around Madison!
IA hosted 3 public talks over the summer at different venues around Madison. In June, Ben and Gigi gave a talk at Lucille about pests, predators, and parasitoids in agroecosystems. In July, Jacki Whisenant and Julia Weissing spoke at the Bur Oak about edible insects, and Julia gave another presentation on the same topic at Working Draft. Coming up this fall, join us on November 30 at the High Noon Saloon for a NerdNite with Jacki and Shawn Steffan. IA is also planning another talk at Working Draft this fall, so keep an antenna out for more info!
As of September, Bus Stop Bugs is at a bus stop near you, featuring information about insect diversity and beautiful illustrations by Jacki Whisenant. You can find the posters at: Gorham at Blair, W Wash at Brittingham, Monroe at Leonard, Speedway at Glenway, Atwood at Cottage Grove, Division at Oakridge, Jenifer at Paterson, Commercial at Packers, Northport at Warner, Sheboygan at Segoe, Mineral Point at Rosa. Thanks to Gigi Melone for working to make insect education more accessible!
Insect Ambassadors receives many presentation and event requests throughout the year, and we need your help! Anyone in the Entomology community is welcome to volunteer, no experience necessary. If you’re interested but don’t know where to get started, Ben and Gigi are happy to train you on how to give presentations, and you can tag along with them the first time to see how fun and easy it is! Check out this spreadsheet to see what’s scheduled and to sign up to volunteer.
This fall, EGSA will be hosting our 2nd annual Pumpkin Painting Party on Friday October 28th from 2:30-4:00 PM in Russell Labs 243. Everyone is welcome to stop by to paint a pumpkin and eat candy with us! EGSA will be bringing back our annual (pre-pandemic) Holiday Party & Raffle in December. This semester we will also be planning a Graduate Student Retreat at Trout Lake (which will be held in April) and an Entomology Careers in Industry panel. We’re still planning these events, so more info soon!
The EGSA Snack Room (Russell Labs 242) is stocked up for fall, so stop by if you’re hungry! All proceeds go to supporting EGSA’s programming. You can now pay with Venmo (there is a QR code in the Snack Room on the bulletin board)!
– Hanna McIntosh, EGSA President
Insect Diagnostic Lab
Last summer was another busy season at the UW Insect Diagnostic Lab with over 1,500 identification requests during the months of June, July, August, and September. Every year is a bit different at the diagnostic lab and 2022 was no exception. I look forward to sharing more details and stories during my next departmental seminar.
In other news, I teamed up with my counterparts at NC State (Dr. Matt Bertone) and Penn State (Dr. Michael Skvarla) on an article about the impacts of the Northern Gian Hornet (Vespa mandarinia; aka “murder hornets”) on diagnostic labs. Although I did see an increase in reports of large Hymenopterans reported to my lab the last few years, my colleagues in the eastern US saw a much more dramatic increase—likely due to the abundance of the European hornet (Vespa crabro) in their area. Our story even made the cover of the Summer 2022 issue of American Entomologist.
– PJ Liesch
Personnel – a big welcome to:
- Eliza Pessereau – New student in joint Entomology and Agroecology MS program. Eliza will be researching the use of early-flowering cover crops as resources for wild pollinators, and working on outreach associated with the lab’s WiBee Wisconsin Wild Bee App.
- Jeremy Hemberger – Welcome back! Jeremy will post-doc with Claudio and James Crall on a Research Forward project to build field deployable, camera-based networks to provide continuous pollinator monitoring and identification.
- Ben Iuliano was at Ecological Society of America meeting in Montreal in August 2022 to talk about “Ladybug Landscapes: Phenological patterns of Coccinellids and their aphid prey across southern Wisconsin”
- Quinlan, G.M., Sponsler, D., Gaines-Day, H.R., McMinn-Sauder, H.B.G., Otto, C.R.V., Smart, A.H., Colin, T., Gratton, C., Isaacs, R., Johnson, R., Milbrath, M.O., Grozinger, C.M., 2022. Grassy–herbaceous land moderates regional climate effects on honey bee colonies in the Northcentral US. Res. Lett. 17, 064036. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ac7063
- Tiede, J., Iuliano, B., Gratton, C., 2022. Agriculturally intensified landscapes are associated with reduced body condition of lady beetles. Landsc Ecol 37, 1921–1936. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-022-01458-0
Other news: Jade & detection dogs article coming out soon, Ben Iuliano is managing editor of Edge Effects (pitch your writing!), and Claudio was elected 2022 Fellow of the Entomological Society!
The Steffan Lab has two new grad students: Victoria Salerno and Celeste Huff. They will be doing work on bee behavior and bee-microbe symbioses. Also, this summer we had a new ARS technician join the lab–Jessica Ross. Welcome all! In the photo below, the whole lab can be seen in a cranberry bed (L-R: Prarthana Dharampal, Victoria Salerno, Celeste Huff, Nolan Amon, Jess Ross), installing our new bee nursery posts and condos.
Finally, an 18-minute documentary (called “symBEEosis”) covering our bee work was released this summer. Have a look:
FIG’gies do Kemp! Dan Young’s ENT 375 F.I.G. (First year Interest Group): Global Biodiversity and the Sixth Mass Extinction enjoyed a weekend of light instructional meetings and discussions along with good bonding time and fabulous weather at the Kemp Natural Resources Station 30 September – 2 October. The setting, as many of you will know is on beautiful Tomahawk Lake. One final field trip awaits the FIG’gies with a Sunday, 20 November trip to the Milwaukee Public Museum and “behind the scenes” special tour of biodiversity and entomology themed venues that are off-limits to the public. Many thanks also to our own Journey Prack and Jacki Whisenant for driving and fantastic kitchen work in helping me feed the 15 member group!
Bugs in the news
- Smelly, invasive stink bugs could get worse in some areas, study suggests. One bug, aptly named the brown marmorated stink bug, is an invasive species already found in much of the United States. They could become even more common thanks to climate change, a team of researchers found. – The Hill
- Unusual butterfly swarms invading Central Texas. What’s the deal with all the butterflies in Central Texas? There has been an increase in butterflies in the area this fall, and the unusually hot and dry weather this summer is to blame. The unusual insect is known as the American snout butterfly, so named because it has a “prominent ‘snout’ formed by elongated mouthparts,” according to Texas A&M’s Agrilife Extension. – The Hill
- Mosquitoes that can’t spread malaria engineered by scientists. Scientists have engineered mosquitoes that slow the growth of malaria-causing parasites in their gut, preventing transmission of the disease to humans. The genetic modification causes mosquitoes to produce compounds in their guts that stunt the growth of parasites, meaning they are unlikely to reach the mosquitoes’ salivary glands and be passed on in a bite before the insects die. So far, the technique has been shown to dramatically reduce the possibility of malaria spread in a lab setting, but if proven safe and effective in real-world settings it could offer a powerful new tool to help eliminate malaria. – Science Daily
- Tropical insects are extremely sensitive to changing climates. Insects that are adapted to perennially wet environments, like tropical rainforests, don’t tend to do well when their surroundings dry out. New research indicates they may be equally averse to heavy rainfall. The results of an extensive five-year study conducted in Peru revealed a 50% decline in arthropod biomass following short periods of both drought and increased precipitation. One of only a few studies of this scope conducted in the tropics, the findings suggest terrestrial arthropods, a group that includes insects and spiders, will be more susceptible to climate change than previously suspected. – Science Daily
- Microbial enzymes are the key to pectin digestion in leaf beetles. A research team shows in a new study how leaf beetles could successfully use new and previously indigestible food sources in the course of evolution. The insects acquired enzymes from microorganisms via horizontal gene transfer that enabled them to degrade pectins, solid components of the plant cell wall. Since the degradation products resulting from pectin digestion are not per se crucial for the growth and development of the beetles, the researchers conclude that the beetles disrupt the cell wall to access the protein-rich cytoplasm of plant cells, which they need for their nutrition. – Science Daily
- Flower strips and hedges combine to boost bees in orchards. Researchers at the University of Freiburg have found that hedges and perennial flower strips are complementary in supporting wild bees in orchards by providing continuous resources over the growing season. Wild bee species were found to visit flowering hedges early in the season from March to June, whereas they visited perennial flower strips later in the season from June to August in the first year of planting, and from April onwards in subsequent years. – Science Daily
- Termites may have a larger role in future ecosystems. Termites are critical in natural ecosystems — especially in the tropics — because they help recycle dead wood from trees. Without such decayers, the world would be piled high with dead plants and animals. But these energetic wood-consuming insects could soon be moving toward the North and South poles as global temperatures warm from climate change, new research indicates. – Science Daily
- Soybean virus may give plant-munching bugs a boost in survival. Most viral infections negatively affect an organism’s health, but one plant virus in particular – soybean vein necrosis orthotospovirus (SVNV) – may actually benefit a type of insect that commonly feeds on soybean plants and can transmit the virus to the plant, causing disease, according to Penn State research. In a laboratory study, the Penn State researchers found that when soybean thrips were infected with SVNV, they tended to survive longer and reproduce better than thrips that were not infected. – Science Daily
- Butterflies: 195 ways to help California’s painted ladies. Though they are a major North American butterfly species, there is a lack of baseline data to quantify a decline in painted ladies. However, scientists believe they are being negatively affected by hotter, drier weather and habitat loss. By documenting hundreds of new nectar plants for painted ladies, scientists have renewed hope these charismatic butterflies may prove resilient to climate change. – Science Daily
- Differences in fungus found in reared and wild ambrosia beetles suggest artificial method to prevent wilt disease in trees. A recent study in Japan has found that reared ambrosia beetles, Euwallacea interjectus, can have symbiotic fungi different to those found in the wild. These findings suggest biocontrol implications for pest beetles that damage valuable crop trees such as fig trees. – Science Daily
- Store-bought milkweed plants can expose monarch caterpillars to harmful pesticides. Milkweed plants purchased at retail nurseries across the United States were contaminated with pesticides harmful to monarch caterpillars, a study found. Every plant sampled was contaminated, even those that were labeled friendly to wildlife. – Science Daily