It's been dubbed "The Manhattan Project of Entomology."
And it may have "the potential to revolutionize the way we think about insects," says Richard Levine, communications program manager of the Entomological Society of America (ESA).
Call it "The Manhattan Project of Entomology." Call it "The i5k Initiative." Call it "The 5,000 Insect Genome Project." They're one and the same and will involve entomologists worldwide sequencing the genomes of 5,000 insects and other arthropods over the next five years.
The goal, as the article in the current edition of American Entomologist states, is “to improve our lives by contributing to a better understanding of insect biology and transforming our ability to manage arthropods that threaten our health, food supply, and economic security."
"We hope that generating this data will lead to better models for insecticide resistance, better models for developing new pesticides, better models for understanding transmission of disease, or for control of agricultural pests," Daniel Lawson, a coordinator at the European Bioinformatics Institute, told Levine. "Moving into the genetics era revolutionizes what you can do, what you can try to assay in your species, what you can infer from your experiments."
Professor Gene E. Robinson of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, pointed out: "This will provide information that breeders would need to look for ways of dealing with insect resistance to pesticides. It would also provide geneticists with information on what might be vulnerable points in an insect's makeup, which could be used for novel control strategies."
The first step? Entomologists will sign up to create wiki pages.
"We're trying to find out who's working on what insects, and if they feel that having genomic information about their insects would help," professor Susan J. Brown of Kansas State University told Levine. "Quite a few researchers are probably working on transcriptomics, looking at the genes that are transcribed under certain contexts, environmental conditions or life stages. Looking at the whole genome will help us understand these comparatively and not just in one organism."
This is an exciting project with entomologists networking on a project that will benefit us all. We're especially interested in insects of agricultural and medical importance.
Read Richard Levine's piece in American Entomologist at http://entsoc.org/PDF/2011/AE-15k.pdf.
The industrious honey bee buzzed around a lot during the Linnaean Games at the Entomological Society of America’s recent meeting in San Diego.
Not the honey bee itself—questions about the honey bee.
The Linnaean Games, a college-bowl type quiz featuring insects, entomologists and entomological facts, drew nine teams, with Ohio State University defeating the Univesity of Nebraska in the championship game.
But back to the bees. One of the questions asked was: “The monarch (butterfly) is actually the second most popular state insect. What insect is the most frequently adopted state insect?”
You guessed it—the honey bee.
Another time the Linnaean judging panel posted a photo on the screen and asked the Linnaean teams: “Considering this pest of honey bee hives, what is its common name and the family to which it belongs?”
It was the small hive beetle, Nitidulidae.
Can you answer these questions? (Answers at the end)
1. The order name Hymenoptera can be interpreted as meaning “membranous wing” or “married wing,” which refers to the way the front and hind wings of bees and wasps are linked by little hooks. What is the name of these hooks?
2. How many eyes does a honey bee have?
3. Problems with honey bee hives in what state led to the recognition of colony collapse disorder?
4. What Greek city state used the honey bee as a symbol on its coins?
5. In apiculture, what is the term used to describe the dark discoloration on the surface of comb honey left on the hive for some time, caused by bees tracking propolis over the surface?
1. Hamuli, which are the leading edge of the hind wing.
2. Five: two compound and three ocelli
5. Travel stain
If you got all five right, you're probably an apiculturist. Three to four right, you probably keep bees. One to two right? You've (1) been around bees, (2) listen to the news, or (3) you're related to a beekeeper. Miss all five? You may want to take a course, read a book, or visit an apiary to learn more about these tiny agricultural workers.
Postdoctoral researcher Rebecca “Becky” Trout-Fryxell (right), who studies Culex and Anopheles mosquitoes with University of California, Davis medical entomologists Anthony Cornel and Gregory Lanzaro, just received an award designating her as one of the top young entomologists in the nation.
Trout-Fryxell won one of the five John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Awards presented at the Entomological Society of America’s 58th annual meeting, held recently in San Diego. The Southwestern Branch of ESA selected her at its most outstanding entomology graduate student in a region encompassing Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, plus the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The other four ESA branches—Pacific, Eastern, North Central, and Southwestern Branch—also each selected a recipient.
Trout-Fryxell works with population genetics of the West Nile virus vector Culex pipiens, and does research on the malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae.
Fryxell joined the UC Davis team in April of 2009. Cornel is an associate professor of entomology, with offices and labs at UC Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier, and UC Davis. Lanzaro is a professor in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine.
Trout-Fryxell previously won a Isley-Duport Entomology Scholarship and was a member of the 2007 Linnaean Games National Championship team from the University of Arkansas. The Linnaean Games is a college bowl-type competition featuring questions about insects, entomologists and entomological facts.
Trout-Fryxell has published her research in Journal of Medical Entomology, Journal of American Mosquito Control, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Medical and Veterinary Entomology, among others, on topics ranging from mosquitoes and ticks to bed bugs.
Trout-Fryxell received her master’s degree in entomology from the University of Kentucky, Lexington, where she studied with major professor Grayson Brown. Her research focused on reducing mosquito populations in the peridomestic environment.
She received her doctorate in entomology from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, last May. Studying with major professors Dayton Steelman and Allen Szalanski, she completed her dissertation on the distribution and occurrence of ticks in Arkansas, also examining tick-host pathogen interactions.
The four other winners of the coveted John Henry Comstock Awards:
Pacific Branch: Ashfaq Sial, Washington State University
North Central Branch: Anna Fiedler, Michigan State University
Southwestern Branch: Joe Lewis, University of North Texas
Eastern Branch: Gaylord Desurmont, Cornell
Back, in 2008, mosquito researcher Christopher Barker of the William Reisen lab at UC Davis won the Comstock award from the Pacific Branch.
Davis is definitely a good place to be for mosquito research!
Emcee Tom Turpin of Purdue University stood at the podium and acknowledged he might mispronounce an entomology student's name. "If it sounds anything like your name and I’m looking at you, that’s you."
So began the Linnaean Games, a college-bowl type competition that's as lively as it is entertaining and educational.
And it's all about insects, entomologists and entomological facts.
The Linnaean Games, held at the annual Entomological Society of America (ESA) meeting, is an event that pits student-teams against one another until a winner is declared. The 2010 event, hosted in San Diego, ended with Ohio State University winning the championship.
Students buzz in with the answers to questions such as:
What’s the loudest insect in the world? What is the egg case of a cockroach called? Kissing bugs, in the family Reduviidae, are vectors of what disease? About how long have insects been on earth? Give three official common names for Helicoverpa zea.
Ohio State defeated UC Davis, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Georgia and finally, in the championship game, toppled the University of Nebraska.
But first, the Ohio team of Joshua Bryant, Glene Mynhardt, Kaitlin Uppstrom and Nicola Gallagher had to get by the UC Davis team of Meredith Cenzer, Matan Shelomi, Andrew Merwin, and Ralph Washington.
As the crowd cheered them on, the two teams tied the score several times. Finally, with the score knotted at 90-90, Ohio correctly answered the final question to advance to the next round.
Tom Turpin of Purdue emceed the program while a trio of judges--J. E. McPherson of Southern Illinois University, Carol Annelli of Washington State University and Susan Weller of the University of Minnesota--scored the answers.
Each ESA branch sponsors a Linnaean Games competition and sends up to two teams to the nationals.
Pacific Branch sent UC Davis and Washington State University.
Southeastern Branch: University of Georgia and University of Florida
Eastern Branch: Pennsylvania State University (University of Maryland also won at the branch level but did not participate in the nationals)
North Central Branch: Ohio State University and the University of Nebraska
Southwestern Branch: New Mexico State and Texas A&M
Answers to the above questions (see sixth paragraph):
What’s the loudest insect in the world?
African cicada (Brevisana brevis); it has been measured at 106 decibels, (equivalent to a gas mower at 3 feet away).
What is the egg case of a cockroach called?
Kissing bugs, in the family Reduviidae, are vectors of what disease? Answer:
About how long have insects been on earth?
Some 400-380 million years ago.
Give three official common names for Helicoverpa zea?
Corn earworm, tomato fruitworm, and cotton bollworm
Other questions and answers included:
Which sexes of cicadas have tymbals and which have tympana?
Males have both. Females have only tympana.
What term is used to describe the antennae found on male mosquitoes? Answer:
Crickets are well-known music makers. What are the names of the two specialized structures that allow them to make that wonderful noise and where specifically on the body are they located?
File and scraper, located on the forewings.
At what American school was the first entomology class taught and who was the teacher?
Harvard (1805-1822) W.D. Peck.
In the Amazon rain forest, what are the common names of two groups of insects that make up about 1/3 of the biomass of all animals in the habitat?
Ants and termites.
Problems with honey bee hives in what state led to the recognition of colony collapse disorder?
Name two orders of insects that are entirely predatory.
Odonata and Mantodea
The monarch is actually the second-most popular state insect. What insect is the most frequently adopted state insect?
Robert Frost wrote a poem that begins with the lines: “An ant on a table cloth ran into a dormant moth of many times his size.” As you might guess the poem is about ants. What is the title of the poem?
Speaking at the 58th annual Entomological Society of America's meeting in San Diego, Marley
related that he grew up in Oregon
hating bugs--especially their all encompassing, intertwining legs that seemed to be everywhere: on, near or around him. Later, while serving two years as a missionary in northern Chile, he continued to hate every bug that he encountered.
Gradually, his viewpoint changed. After studying fashion design at Brigham Young University and embarking on a fashion designer career that took him to scores of countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas, he began to look at them in a different light. He began to appreciate them for their beauty, design, color, structure, texture, pattern, size and shape.
And their drama and diversity.
His first attempts to incorporate them into art were not easy. "I needed tweezers to handle the tweezers," he said of his initial efforts to overcome the emotional barrier.
Today Christopher Marley is an author and an artist with an art gallery, fittingingly named "Pheromone" in Salem, Ore.
"Pheromones," he explained, "are chemical stimulants that insects release to attract one another -- and they’ve been known to seduce the occasional human, too."
Deeply interested in entomology, Marley can tell you the scientific name of many insects, their host plants, what the larvae eat, and when, where and how to find them.
Marley drew the entomologists into his kaleidescope world with photo after photo of his work featuring insects collected in such faraway places as Malaysia, Borneo, New Guinea and Kenya. The crowd sat mesmerized. You could almost hear a scarab beetle drop.
His 256-page book, "Pheromone: The Insect Artwork of Christopher Marley," has drawn worldwide attention in the print and electronic media. He sells his work (including colorful calendars) at hundreds of galleries and stores in the United States and abroad.
Marley told the entomologists he wants folks to appreciate insects--and he hopes that his art will inspire, educate and enlighten them.
Collecting insects is not as simple as hiring collectors, he said. He acknowledged that he fills out "reams" of paper work for the collecting permits, export permits and import licenses.
Not everyone likes the fact that he collects insects for art. One person once told him: "I love insects and I’d rather see YOU in the frame of that book."
And not everyone likes the fact that he employs catchers to collect the insects. Some insects found in the faraway corners of the world are quite rare or rarely seen.
"But it's not so much 'rare' species as 'rare' ecosystems or habitats," Marley told the entomologists.
Marley said by employing people from other countries as catchers, he is contributing to their well-being and that of their families; aiding the poverty-stricken areas; and teaching humankind to protect the habitat that provides those insects.
Marley quoted Baba Dioum: “In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”
"I believe," Marley said, "that we will only love what we've experienced."