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Elaine B. Jamison's Walk in Support of Cancer Survivors


Participants in the 2012 I-Pinky-Promise Walk

On Saturday October 13, 2012 Elaine B. Jamison, Office Assistant (SEL, USDA), organized and directed a 5km I-Pinky-Promise Walk with the Life After Cancer group (L.A.C.) around the Tidal Basin in Washington DC where the famous Cherry Blossoms and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial are located.

The Walk was to show support of cancer survivors and their loved ones, and to increase awareness of cancer-related concerns in our local communities.

Click here:  [1][2]



Lady beetle discovery offers new hope for Florida's stately Sago Palms, and endangered Cycad Forests from around the World

The kashaya lady beetle: top, front, and side views


The Kashaya Lady Beetle (Phaenochilus kashaya Giorgi & Vandenberg) shown in top, front, and side views

sago palmCan a handful of orange lady beetles save the King and Queen sago palms of Florida? Entomologists Ron Cave (IRREC-UF) and Ru Nguyen (FDACS), the foreign explorers who discovered the beetle in the forests of Thailand, were optimistic about its prospects, but uncertain about its identity. Specimens were forwarded to the Systematic Entomology Laboratory where resident lady beetle specialist Natalia Vandenberg recognized them as a species new to science.

"The lady beetle belongs to a beneficial scale-feeding genus, Phaenochilus, but it doesn't correspond to any of the known species," said Vandenberg. To address this problem, she enlisted the help of a colleague, Jos? Adriano Giorgi(UFPA), and produced a co-authored publication on Phaenochilus, describing the new species, and naming it Phaenochilus kashaya Giorgi & Vandenberg-or simply the kashaya lady beetle.

This paper (Giorgi & Vandenberg 2012) will eliminate confusion over the identity of the new species, and help Florida entomologists obtain the necessary federal approvals to make a release of the kashaya lady beetles against an invasive scale insect pest of sago palms.

Learn more about:

Ron Cave collects the kashaya lady beetle in a Thai forest

Deep in the forests of Thailand, Ron Cave combs through the crown of a young cycad to collect the kashaya lady beetles that keep the plant healthy by consuming scale insects

According to a study by Manrique et al. (2012), the kashaya lady beetle is a voracious and dedicated predator of the tiny sap-sucking scale insect (cycad aulacspis scale, or CAS) that has been killing ornamental cycads in the southeastern United States, and destroying cycad forests on the island of Guam and elsewhere. A single kashaya lady beetle will typically consume more than 5,000 scales during its short lifespan of two to several months, and each adult female can lay hundreds of eggs. This gives the kashaya lady beetle a high intrinsic rate of increase, and bodes well for its potential as a biological control candidate against CAS.

Download Gorgi & Vandenberg 2012


The Systematic Entomology Laboratory and University of Maryland partner in the Ag Discovery Day Program at the National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC.

AgDiscovery Day Banner showing a pastoral scene with farm animals and a field  

Summer Ag Discovery Day Students congregate on the University of Maryland campus

On July 19th SEL sponsored Ag Discovery Day at the National Museum of Natural History, giving twenty-six nationally selected incoming college freshmen a tour of entomology and a generous helping of advice and encouragement in starting a career in the agricultural sciences.

Learn about the UM AgDiscovery program for high school students.



Download a colorful brochure about this program across the nation 


David Adamski, John W. Brown, and Matt Buffington each gave presentations that emphasized the importance of collections; how they are stored and maintained; the value of specimens and their accompanying data; innovative techniques for processing newly collected specimens; and contributions of collections to the study of diversity of form and size of insects.

The importance of collections to research, the dissemination of biological information, and to the identification of organisms intercepted from ports-of-entry into the US were also demonstrated.




Paul Johnson travels to Washington, D.C. to overhaul the National Collection of Click beetles (Elateridae)

images of Johnson working in the collection, with closeups of click beetles

Johnson works with SEL staff to sort, identify, and label 450 drawers of click beetles

A fondness for "skipjacks" and "snappers" brought Prof. Paul J. Johnson all the way from South Dakota State University to the heart of the nation's capital. These terms may sound like menu items from one of D.C.'s elite seafood restaurants, but they're actually common names for members of the beetle family Elateridae, more widely known as "click beetles."

Click beetles constitute a diverse group of insects with nearly 10,000 species world wide, and include a number of notorious plant pests whose larvae damage roots of important agricultural crops (potato, corn, wheat).

As a world authority on the group, Paul's recent visit to the National Click Beetle Collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (8/12-17/2012) was hosted by the Systematic Entomology Lab and paid for by the museum's Casey Fund.

Click here to learn more about click beetles: [1][2]



SEL Hymenopterists present at Smithsonian Digifair 2012

Drs. Buffington and Gates in the exhibition hall for Digifair 2012

Drs. Buffington and Gates in the exhibition hall for Digifair 2012

Drs. Matt Buffington and Mike Gates presented recent advances in the digitization of the USNM Hymenoptera collections at a gathering of digitization personnel across the Smithsonian Institution.

Dr. Gates gave a 'lightning' talk lasting 1 minute, describing our efforts to digitally image all of the Hymenoptera primary types, vet the type data, and integrate type data into ZooBank, CiteBank, and Global Names Interface for Taxonomic Editing (GNITE).

 Dr. Buffington presented on the results of his pilot study to Gigapan the gall wasp (Cynipidae) collection, and he participated in a panel discussion on the visual digitization of collections. Interestingly, Dr. Buffington learned his frustrations in photographing whole drawers insects are shared with Air and Space folks photographing airplanes!




The illustrations of Taina Litwak unveil a microcosm of extraordinary beauty and complexity

Smaller than a mustard seed, this tiny wasp is distinguished from thousands of similar species by the exact colors, textures, and proportions captured in this illustration (click to enlarge).

We are surrounded by natural beauty. Most people appreciate an ethereal sunset (unless driven indoors by biting insects), and everyone admires the form of a newly opened rosebud (unless its symmetry has been marred by insect pests). Litwak captures the beauty of the natural world, but her subjects are the insects themselves, often so small they appear to the unaided eye like motes of dust. Litwak's illustrations reveal the intricacy and perfection of her tiny subjects, and allow the scientists of the Systematic Entomology Laboratory to accurately document the diversity of the many fascinating species that share our planet.



Slides and Codes

National Aphidoidea Collection. Insert shows single slide.

Microscope slides of the National Aphidoides Collection. Insert shows detail of one of the 90,000 microscope slides and it's collection barcode label (click to enlarge). 

Ms. Aneshia McIntyre, funded by the DC Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), worked for six weeks this summer at BARC to digitize and attach USNM barcode labels to over 3,000 microscope slides and captured digital images of the U. S. National Aphidoidea Collection. She then databased 5,000 slide images that make the future curation of the collection more efficient, and data retrieval almost instantaneous. Aneshia is currently a liberal arts student attending UDC and plans to continue her biological studies as a member of one the branches of military service.


SEL scientists present at International Congress of Entomology, Daegu, Korea

Downtown Daegu from the Novotel Hotel

Four SEL scientists attended the International Congress of Entomology held every four years. This year it was held in Daegu, Korea, August 19-25,2012. Dr. Matt Buffington co-organized a symposium entitled "Globalized insect taxonomy in the 21st century: current accomplishments, future prospects" and presented a co-authored presentation with Dr. Mike Gates entitled "From field to screen and beyond: new methods for the collection, curation and illustration of parasitic Hymenoptera (Insecta)."



Dr. Steven Lingafelter co-organized a symposium entitled "Sytematics, biogeography and ecology of Cerambycidae and Buprestidae." He presented a paper entitled "Cerambycidae of Bolivia" and was a co-author of another presentation entitled "Cerambycidae of North Vietnam."

Dr. Lourdes Chamorro presented a co-authored presentation entitled "Phylogeny of the invasive Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire (emerald ash borer-EAB) and its relatives (Coleoptera; Buprestidae) ."

Dr. Alma Solis was invited to present "A molecular phylogeny for the pyraloid moths (Lepidoptera) and its implications for higher-level classification."

SEE MORE IMAGES:  [1]  [2]




APHIS identifiers visit Dr. Tom Henry for true bug identification training


Drs. Emilie Bess and Susan Romero, Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), from Seattle and Nogales had a successful two-week training session on the identification of Hemiptera, or true bugs, at the National Museum of Natural History with Dr. Tom Henry. Their training focused primarily on the superfamilies Lygaeoidea (seed bugs) and Pentatomoidea (stink bugs), and included an overview of pertinent research papers, catalogs and other resources that will facilitate their work at their respective ports.



HYM Course 2012: Tovetorp Zoological Research Station, Sweden

Class for HYM Course 2012. Tovetorp Zoological Research Station, Sweden

Class for HYM Course 2012, Tovetorp Zoological Research Station, Sweden



SEL hymenopterists Matthew Buffington, Michael Gates, and Robert Kula co-taught a one-week course (August 5-12, 2012) on hymenopteran systematics at a field station in Sweden. The course consisted of nine instructors from three countries teaching 27 students from seven countries. Students learned about Hymenoptera classification and natural history, as well as how to collect, identify, and curate wasps, bees, and ants. Lectures were given during the day, and specimen identification sessions were held at night. The course included a symposium in which scientists from Denmark, Sweden, and the United States presented on various aspects of hymenopteran systematics.



PSI Employees of the Year Winners

PSI Award Winner Ms. Elaine B. Jamison and Dr. Gary Miller accepting on behalf of Dr. Alma Solis.

Shown above, PSI Award Winner Ms. Elaine B. Jamison and Dr. Gary Miller accepting on behalf of Dr. Alma Solis.

Two SEL employees received Plant Sciences Institute Employee of the Year awards in a ceremony in August. Dr. Alma Solis for Outreach, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity and Ms. Elaine B. Jamison for Office Support Professional of the Year. In addition, Dr. Robert Kula, received the Early Scientist of the Year award for the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center to be awarded in September, 2012.

Congratulations to SEL!



Technology Transfer and Enhancing the U.S. National Insect Collection in Colorado

 Mike Pogue taking a GPS reading on the foothills of Mt. Shivana, Colorado

Mike Pogue taking a GPS reading on the foothills of Mt. Shivana, Colorado

Commanche National Grassland Colorado 

Commanche National Grassland Colorado

Dr. Mike Pogue and Dr. Alma Solis attended the Lepidopterists' Society Meeting in Denver, Colorado, July 23-29. They presented on noctuid and pyraloid moths. Pogue & Harp: "A revision of the Schinia volupia (Fitch) species complex (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae: Heliothelinae)." Solis et al: "A molecular phylogeny of the Pyraloidea (Lepidoptera)" and Solis: "Recent discoveries about pyraloids with aquatic immatures (Acentropinae: Crambidae)."

Due to the paucity of moth specimens in the National Collection from Colorado, Pogue & Solis collected moths in southwestern Colorado at some of the highest peaks in the Rockies and at the Comanche National Grassland.



Dr. Ron Ochoa presents to the Denver Bee Keeper Association on the study of mites

 Low temperature SEM photo of the honey bee tracheal mite, Acarapis woodi, male
Low temperature SEM photo of the honey bee tracheal mite, Acarapis woodi, male

Dr. Ron Ochoa was invited to give a presentation to the Denver Bee Keeper Association, a group with about 300 members. The title of his presentation was "Bee mites from the mite perspective" where he addressed the challenges of the study of mites associated with the honey and native bees in North America. He described the low temperature SEM technique and its impact on the study of these little arthropods.




Pyraloidea Workshop at the University of San Salvador

Dr. Solis and students collecting aquatic moth caterpillars

Dr. Solis and students collecting aquatic moth caterpillars

Dr. Solis was invited to conduct a week-long workshop (Feb. 19-25, 2012) on the diversity and identification of economically and biologically important Pyraloidea or snout moths at the University of San Salvador, El Salvador. Specific workshops were held on the dissection of moth genitalia and their identification, collection of aquatic larvae and their preparation for study, collection of adults in the field and their preparation for study. Dr. Solis also conducted collaborative research on borers of economically important grasses, such as sugarcane and corn, with Dr. Andrea Joyce, University of California Merced.



SEL Volunteers at the Anacostia Watershed Society Service Day

Volunteers Lucrecia and Lisa hold up a banner: Anacostia Watershed Society. clean the water, restore the shores, honor the heritage  

Systematic Entomology Laboratory (SEL) employees, Lucrecia Rodriguez and Elisabeth Roberts, joined a team of USDA employees from ARS, NASS, NIFA, and OSEC, to participate in the January 12, 2012 USDA National Service Day, honoring Martin Luther King's birthday. Led by members of the Anacostia Watershed Society, the team cleaned up trash and debris from Riverside Neighborhood Park, and removed invasive plants. This was a REE Team Building and Volunteer Event.