Posts Tagged: mosquitoes
They're as long and thin as darning needles. And, sometimes they’re as difficult to find as a needle in the proverbial haystack.
These slender, frail-looking insects (below) are damselflies. They fly around ponds and streams and perch on plants near the shoreline. As adults, they prey on flying insects such as mosquitoes and gnats, and in turn, they're preyed upon by dragonflies, other insects, and birds. Occasionally a spider snares one in its web.
Anglers consider them good luck, especially when these brightly colored insects touch down on their fishing lines.
Like dragonflies, damselflies are members of the Odonata order. Their suborder is Zygoptera--in case anybody asks!
Retired entomologist Jerry Powell of UC Berkeley estimates California has about 40 species of damseslflies.
I saw one damselfly, probably the common bluet, checking out our backyard fish pond last weekend before perching on a tower-of -jewels leaf.
Another one was flitting about the Yolo Causeway last year while a UC Davis researcher was trapping mosquitoes.
Neither looked like a damsel in distress. In fact, they looked quite predaceous.
Especially to skeeters.
Long and Thin
Plain as day. And they’re not going away.
The estimated ratio of insects to humans is 200 million to one, say Iowa State University entomologists Larry Pedigo and Marlin Rice in their newly published (sixth edition) textbook, Entomology and Pest Management. Rice is the 2009 president of the Entomological Society of America.
Rice is the 2009 president of the Entomological Society of America.
There's an average of 400 million insects per acre of land, they say.
“The fact is, today’s human population is adrift in a sea of insects,” they write in their introduction.
Well, what about biomass? Surely we outweigh these critters?
No, we don't. The
There you go. The insects are the land owners; we are the tenants. “They are the chief consumers of plants; they are the major predators of plant eaters; they play a major role in decay of organic matter; and they serve as food for other kinds of animals,” Pedigo and Rice write.
Insects represent the good, the bad and the ugly.
Insects represent the good, the bad and the ugly.
The good: they give us honey and pollinate our crops. They spin our silk. They serve as natural enemies of pests. They provide food for wildlife (not to mention food for some of us humans). They are scavengers. They provide us with ideas for our art work. They are fodder for our horror movies.
And what scientist hasn't benefitted from the inheritance studies of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogasta? What ecologist hasn't studied water pollution by examining the mayfly population? Mayflies are the counterpart of canaries in the coal mine.
The bad: they eat our food crops, forests and ornamental plants. They devour or spoil our stored grain. They chew holes in our clothing. They pester us. They annoy our animals, too.
The ugly: They can—and do—kill us. Think mosquitoes. Think malaria,
But wait, there's more! Many more. Scientists have described more than 900,000 species of insects but there could be seven times as many out there, the authors point out.
Ironically, despite the huge numbers of insects, many people don't know the meaning of the word, entomology, the science of insects. They should. Insects outnumber us and always will. They've lived on the earth longer than us (400 million years) and adapt to changes better than we do. Most are tiny. Most can fly. And most reproduce like there's no tomorrow.
"Based solely on numbers and biomass, insects are the most successful animals on earth," the authors claim.
You can't argue with that.
So, you want to become an entomologist...
Entomologists, future entomologists and others interested in science are looking forward to the fall seminars sponsored Oct. 1 through Dec. 3 by the Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis.
All seminars are held on Wednesdays from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall. Individual faculty members will host the seminars.
You'll learn about fungus-farming ambrosia beetles, the invasive brown marmorated sting bug, argentine ants, thrips, and Culex mosquitoes, to name a few.
The UC Davis entomology faculty do a fantastic job lining up speakers. The key word here is "passion." (The best advice I ever received in a fortune cookie involved passion: "Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.")
Bring on the bugs!
Oct. 1: Jiri Hulcr of Department of Entomology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, “Evolution and Ecology of Fungus-Farming Ambrosia Beetles. Host: entomology professor Phil Ward
Oct. 8: Anne Nielsen, Department of Nematology, UC Davis, “Population Ecology and Damage Estimates of the Invasive Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, Halyomorpha halys.” Host: nematology and entomology professor Ed Lewis
Oct. 15: Urs Wyss, Institute of Phytopathology, Kiel University, Kiel, Germany, “Biological Control of Greenhouse Pests with Natural Arthropod Enemies.” Host: entomology and nematology professor Harry Kaya
Oct. 22: Greg Crutsinger, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, “Linking Plant Genetic Variation to Foliage- and Litter-Based Arthropod Communities.” Host: entomology professor Rick Karban
Oct. 29: Kris Godfrey, California Department of Food and Agriculture, Sacramento "Pest Management of Invasive Insect Pests in California.” Host: nematology and entomology professor Ed Lewis
Nov. 5: Neil Tsutsui, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley, “Exploring the Genetic and Chemical Basis of Argentine Ant Behavior.” Host: entomology professor Phil Ward
Nov. 12: Le Kang, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China Chemical Communications Between Plants, Leafminers and Parasites.” Host: Michael Parrella, associate dean of the Division of Agricultural Sciences, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and entomology professor
Nov. 26: Chris Barker, Department of Entomology, UC Davis, “Environmental Drivers of Large-Scale Spatial and Temporal Patterns in Mosquito Abundance and Virus Transmission in California.” Host: Bruce Eldridge, emeritus professor of entomology
Dec. 3: Lisa Chanbusarakum, Department of Entomology, UC Davis, “Exploring the Microbial World of Frankliniella occidentalis, the Western Flower Thrips.” Host: Diane Ullman, associate dean for undergraduate academic programs at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and entomology professor