Category Archives: Science

A middle-aged white male writes about cultural sex-based bias…

I hope most of you are all ready readers of Ted MacRae’s excellent blog Beetles in the Bush. Ted and I were out blacklighting recently and I saw something that made me think. I wrote a short essay that appears on the Beetles in the Bush blog – perhaps you may wish to check it out, this is a great opportunity to enjoy Ted’s work while you are there!

Kelly’s fame has increased…

Kelly Tindall is the heavy duty entomologist/ scientist in our house. Kelly thinks it is

Lissorhoptrus oryzophilus - adult- Note the nautatorial forlegs!  Kelly Tindall Photo

Lissorhoptrus oryzophilus – adult- Note the natatorial forlegs! Kelly Tindall Photo

interesting to work with and/or sample insects that live underground. When I first met Kelly, I helped her take what seemed like all (but was only several truck loads) of the topsoil from a cooperator’s corn field because the roots had to go back to the lab to be rated for insect damage. The tonnage of roots and associated soils moved in the name of science was mind blowing! Of course, the only thing better (in Kelly’s mind) than working with underground insects, is if these insects could also be underwater.

Kelly has recently had a manuscript published that involves just that – an insect that lives under ground AND under water. Lissorhoptrus oryzophilus is a North American weevil that has become a major pest of rice world wide. Kelly and her team examined how the depth of rice flooding could influence numbers of L. oryzophilus in rice fields and could be part of an integrated pest management plan. Of course this paper represents tons of samples of roots (and their associated saturated soils) carefully dug from under water in research rice plots and lovingly washed to census weevil numbers. The amount of physical labor this manuscript represents is simply astounding!

Hooray for Kelly, John, Mike, and Donn! I salute your underwater – underground fortitude!

Tindall KV, Bernhardt JL, Stout MJ, Beighley DH. 2013. Effect of depth of flooding on the rice water weevil, Lissorhoptrus oryzophilus, and yield of rice. Journal of Insect Science 13:62. Available online:

Lightning bugs!

As usual this cartoon is based on real events. I thought about using Manti T’eo, to represent the non-biologist, but used a farmer. I respect and like farmers, and it is a farmer that was helping with some of my insect research that is responsible for for the statement central to this comic. I have not done it, but if any of you are participating in the lightning bug citizen science project, please comment and share your experience.

lightning bugs

What does Languria mozardi eat anyway?

I know this question is a central issue that keeps most of you up at night, but it was bothering Kelly Tindall, Cory Cross, and myself. We found Languria mozardi tunneling in soybean stems and were curious as to why we found this native insect in a non-native plant. This was especially interesting to us as another stem-boring beetle, Dectes texanus, is also a native beetle that has made a switch from boring native plants in the family Asteraceae to boring stems of non-native plants in the family Fabaceae.

As we read the literature on the plants used by L. mozardi, we found things that just did not seem right. The primary clue was: Languria mozardi was using plants that didn’t exist! We then went back to the source material to try and figure out exactly what was the case for this insect. To make a long story short, by not using consistent criteria and terminology 48 plants were listed as host plants for L. mozardi when only 13 were actual developmental hosts.

So we critically thought about how insects (especially L. mozardi) use plants, then came up with a way of evaluating the source literature, then slugged our way through all the source literature, and finally developed a little paper to report our results:  Fothergill, K., K.V. Tindall, and C.B. Cross. 2013. What is a host plant? Plants used by Languria mozardi Latreille 1807 (Coleoptera: Erotylidae): a review. Pan-Pacific Entomologist 89.1:43-59.

Running the traps

Today it was time to run the poop beetle traps and it occurred to me that many of you may have never run a poop beetle trap line, so today we are going to do it together! The first

Trapping running supplies - left to right: alcohol, empty wide mouth bottle, collecting  vial (1 per trap), bag o' bait, small strainer. NOT SHOWN: note book, camera, pencil, forceps (science tweezers).

Trapping running supplies – left to right: alcohol, empty wide mouth bottle, collecting vial (1 per trap- pill bottle), bag o’ bait, small strainer. NOT SHOWN: note book, camera, pencil, forceps (science tweezers), extra kill solution.

thing you need to do is gather all your toys. Then head out to your traps. If you are running a few traps, you should probably carry extra traps, spiders (bait holders), and bait cups – believe it or not there are those who will take your poo beetle traps!

Once you are at your traps, the fun of discovery begins! Remove the spider and bait   and peek inside and see what you caught! Sometimes the trap will be full of glorious dung beetles, sometimes you will only get a few. Regardless, it is always exciting to see what you have caught. There are many ways

Catch of the day!!

Catch of the day!!

to get the beetles out of the trap. A good way is to put the trap’s funnel into the wide mouth bottle and then pour the trap contents through the strainer. This separates the beetles from the kill solution and allows you to reuse the kill solution. You can then empty the strainer into a collecting vial with a few mls of alcohol and move on to the next trap! With the beetles safely marinating in alcohol you can work up your trap catches

The very intricate strainer-funnel-bottle setup for trap processing.

The very intricate strainer-funnel-bottle setup for trap processing.

the next day.

Be certain to take notes and label your vials! The data I record (in addition to the data that should accompany any insect collected) are: trap dates (in this case: 5-8 April 2013), trap number (in this case: 1 or 2), type of trap, and type of bait,

In a previous post I mentioned I was using a ‘less toxic’ kill solution. I think it worked very well. I reused the solution, so I should get a good idea of the solution life span. Trap two captured three slugs. Slugs do not like the kill solution (like any does?) and produced a huge amount of slug slime – a possible drawback? I do not like to think of slugs suffering in my pitfall. Occasionally, I trap spiders, frogs or mice in these traps and it feels bad to kill them for no reason. Maybe one of you will come up with a trap modification that makes them spider, frog and mouse proof. I do very much enjoy when the traps have cool insects as bycatch, so please allow for trapping of ground beetles when you make your modifications.