The introduction of Bt eggplant reduced the need for harmful pesticides to be sprayed on commercial fields in Bangladesh. Mohammed Shajahan, left, works in a field with a day laborer at his farm in Bangladesh. Photo by Cornell Alliance for Science. Read more
Nov 29, 2018
Ann Hajek became a Fellow of the Entomological Society of America at the 2018 ESA meeting. This is a competitive award; 9 were awarded this year.
Elson Shields Awarded NYS Excellence
Nov 29, 2018
Elson Shields was awarded the NYS Excellence in IPM Award from the NYS IPM Program (a competitive award).
Mosquito-to-mosquito infections keep dengue circulating
By Krishna Ramanujan |
October 31, 2018
While mosquitoes acquire dengue viruses from people when they feed on blood, the insects can also infect each other, a recent study finds.
Under normal conditions, when mosquito and host populations are robust, dengue is transmitted in a cycle from mosquitoes to human hosts and back to new mosquitoes, which keeps the virus in circulation.
But the study – published Aug. 31 in the journal Public Library of Science Neglected Tropical Diseases – reveals mother Aedes aegypti mosquitoes transmit dengue viruses to their offspring and, for the first time, finds evidence of male mosquitoes infecting females when they mate.
The research answers a big question among disease ecologists: how the virus is maintained during periods when mosquitoes become less active or when populations drop – such as in dry and cold spells – and when hosts are less susceptible.
“The study highlights how much we still need to know about the biology of these viruses and their interactions with the mosquitoes,” said Laura Harrington, professor of entomology at Cornell. Harrington is a co-lead author of the paper along with Irma Sanchez-Vargas, a research scientist at Colorado State University.
Grant explores using seminal fluid proteins to control mosquitoes
Now that researchers have proven these modes of transmission in the lab, next steps will be to test if they similarly occur in the field.
The research opens the door for potential new virus control methods that focus more on male mosquitoes, which tend to be ignored because they don’t take blood meals. “It indicates to me that males could actually be directly involved in transmission in the virus cycle,” Harrington said. “If we could understand in more detail what’s happening in the field, we might be able to target the populations when they are very low and minimize carry-overs of the virus from one epidemic to the next.”
The results have implications for other disease-causing viruses where mosquitoes are vectors, including yellow fever, Zika and chikungunya. These viruses tend to infect all tissues in the mosquito’s body before they reach the salivary glands, Harrington said. More research is needed to identify the exact mechanisms that allow transmission from one mosquito to another, but possibilities include eggs being infected when females fertilize them, and through seminal fluids during mating when males infect females, Harrington said.
Many other researchers have tested mosquitoes for transmissions between mothers and offspring and from males to females after mating, but those studies tested infections after a single blood meal. The meal helps the female develop a clutch of eggs.
“When they take one blood meal there is often not enough time for the virus to actually escape and make it into the ovarian tissue,” Harrington said. The current study re-created natural conditions with mosquitoes taking multiple blood meals, which led to higher infection rates between mosquitoes. Males acquire the virus in the egg and pass it on to females when they mate as adults.
The researchers began with a large number of wild-caught mosquitoes and conducted blind experiments, waiting to determine whether mosquitoes were infected. They separated females and gave them an infectious blood meal and a second noninfectious meal. They collected the second batch of eggs from females, surface sterilized the eggs, hatched and reared offspring to adulthood, and tested them for virus infections. From a subset of infected progeny, they reared a second set of progeny, then mated infected males from that second generation to uninfected females. They then went back and tested the male and the females he mated with for infection.
The paper’s senior co-author is virologist Ken Olson at Colorado State. Other co-authors include Jeffrey Doty at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and William Black at Colorado State.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, Cornell Affinito Stewart Sabbatical Grant, and the Regents of the University of California through the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health and Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative. Read more
Forensic Investigation Research Station in Grand Junction, CO
Oct 29, 2018
Picture of Current crew at the Forensic Investigation Research Station in Grand Junction, CO., affiliated with Colorado Mesa University. Director Dr. Melissa Connor is in the lower right corner. This is the only facility in the western US devoted to the study of human decomposition under semi-arid conditions, a common environment in the western US. Land has been recently donated to open a second facility at 9,300 ft to complement the research at FIRS located at 4,600 ft elevation. The majority of the research is focused on time-of-death estimates to assist law enforcement in the mountain west. Elson Shields left of picture.
There's a teeming world of organisms out there that can help us control pests, weeds and plant pathogens. Plan on coming to the book talk by Cornell Department of Entomology's Prof. Hajek this Thursday, 11/1/2018 @ 4PM to learn more about biological control. Read more
Check out this article Todd Ugine wrote that was published in the Environmental Entomology. Todd also took the picture on the cover. Article on: "An Assessment of the Physiological Costs of Autogenous Defenses in Native and Introduced Lady Beetles" Read more
Check out this article on Corrie Moreau, called "Meeting the Woman Making Ants the Next Big Thing in Biology" in the National Geographic.
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2018/07/ants-evolution-corrie-moreau-women-in-biology/ Read more
The Seed System Initiative, implemented by Cornell’s Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat project in 2017-18, benefits wheat farmers in Nepal. Read more
Leticia Smith receives the 2018 American Committee of Medical Entomology Young Investigator Award
Jul 18, 2018
Congratulations to Leticia Smith who received the 2018 American Committee of Medical Entomology Young Investigator Award - Graduate Student Travel Award. This award is in support of her attendance at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in New Orleans this Fall. The title of her presentation is “The relative fitness cost of two pyrethroid resistance mechanisms, CYP-mediated detoxification and kdr, in Aedes aegypti”.
Channel 12 news segment on the NYS Beekeeper Tech Team and Cornell honey bee research.Emma Mullen was interviewed for the film and Connor Hinsley makes several appearances as well! Bob Finch is the beekeeper, who has been a part of our program for 3 years. Read more
Check out this paper published called “Comparative transcriptomics reveals CrebA as a novel regulator of infection tolerance in D. melanogaster” By Entomology’s Katia Troha, Joo Hyun Im, Jonathan Revah, Brian Lazzaro, and Nicolas Buchon. Read more
Jun 1, 2018
Congratulations on your retirement, Charles Linn!!
Congratulations 2018 Entomology Graduates!
Jun 1, 2018
Congratulations 2018 Entomology Graduates!
Harrington Lab end of semester celebration at the Cornell Dairy Bar 05/17/2018!
May 17, 2018
Harrington Lab end of semester celebration at the Cornell Dairy Bar 05/17/2018!
Elson Shields, Tony Testa, Laura McDermott, Lindsey Elizabeth Pashow and Amy Ivy were the winners of the 2018 NACAA communication Award. They won with their feature article from last summers’ NY Fruit Quarterly – Managing strawberry root problems for improved profitability and sustainability on NYS berry farms: Using entomopathogenic nematodes to control strawberry root weevil complex - and it’s now a National Finalist Read more
May 8, 2018
The last Jugatae seminar of the year was for our Undergraduate research presentations hosted by John Sanderson, Director of Undergraduate Studies. We heard seven great talks starting with Nana Yaa Britwum (PI Sunny Power), Ann Dunn (PI Jason Dombroskie), Kristianna Lea (PI Cole Gilbert), Danielle Rutkowski (PI Katja Poveda), Colin Sears, Laura Telfer and Alicia Williams (PI Jeff Scott).
Professor John Losey also presented an award to Entomology sophomore, Jacob Gorneau, for Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Assistant of the year.
Congratulations to all our presenters, graduating seniors and outstanding students.
Landscapes that surround agricultural lands strongly influence the dynamics of beneficial insects as well as insect pests on farms, which in turn affect crop yields.
Such were the findings of a Cornell study of New York farmlands, published April 4 in the journal Ecological Applications.
Many previous studies on how landscapes surrounding farms affect insect pests and crops have only considered one pest at a time. This study examined the effects of three cabbage pests – aphids, flea beetles and leaf-feeding caterpillars – wasps that feed on caterpillars, and crop yields. It also looked at three different types of landscapes that surround farms: agricultural lands, meadows and semi-natural areas (including shrublands, types of forests and woody wetlands).
“By considering multiple insect pests, [our study design] represented a more realistic situation for what farmers experience, we were able to disentangle some of these complexities,” said Ricardo Perez-Alvarez, the paper’s first author and a graduate student in the lab of Katja Poveda, professor of entomology and the paper’s senior author.
In the study, the researchers set up 22 experimental cabbage plots on farms across the Finger Lakes region of New York from June to September in 2014 and 2015. The details and management of each plot were the same, with no pesticides or insecticides used. Throughout the growing season, the researchers measured plant damage by each pest, density and abundance of parasitoid wasps, and they recorded crop yields at the end of each season.
The researchers expected that landscapes with a higher proportion of cropland and lower habitat diversity would lead to more specialist pests and a reduction in crop yields, according to the paper. Instead, they found that yields and the number of pests were best explained by the presence of non-crop habitats, such as meadows, in the landscape.
A cabbage looper, a pest of cabbage plants. Photo by Ricardo Perez-Alvarez.
Specifically, when the proportion of meadows surrounding farms was high, the amount of infestation from cabbage leaf-eating caterpillars was lower, likely because of increased parasitism from wasps. On the other hand, these same plots experienced more infestation from flea beetles and aphids. The findings suggest that while some beneficial insects increased as a result of the non-crop habitats, so did the number of certain pests.
By considering the collective effect of multiple pest species on crop yields, management schemes need to consider joint effects of pest species to be effective, Perez-Alvarez said. Still, more detailed study is needed to better understand these dynamics. “There were some landscapes where the presence of meadows can have an overall positive effect from crop production, but in other areas, meadows can have a negative effect,” he said, perhaps due to the characteristics of the insect fauna that live in those areas.
“There is not a universal solution,” he added.
Brian Nault, professor of entomology, is a co-author of the study.
The study was supported by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture via the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station. Read more
Check out this article by Philip Houtz, Alessandro Bonfini, Xi Liu, Jonathan Revah, and Nicolas Buchon on a study in which Philip determined the genetic network that controls a stem cell activating signal in damaged midgut epithelium of fruit flies. Read more
Check out the 2nd edition of “Natural Enemies” recently published, written by Ann Hajek. Read more
Ashley Leach was the winner of the PhD Student Oral Competition at the 89th Entomological Society of America’s Eastern Branch meeting in Annapolis, MD
Apr 10, 2018
Ashley Leach was the winner of the PhD Student Oral Competition at the 89thEntomological Society of America’s Eastern Branch meeting in Annapolis, MD last week. The title of her presentation was, “Evaluating effects of nitrogen fertilizer and insecticide use in managing onion thrips (Thrips tabaci) in onion.” Stephen Reiners (Horticulture Section, SIPS) and Brian Nault were co-authors.
Ashley Leach also was the winner of the Student Poster Competition at the 9thInternational IPM Symposium in Baltimore, MD last week. The title of her poster was, “Successful adoption of action threshold-based insecticide programs for thrips management in onion.” Christy Hoepting (Cornell Cooperative Extension) and Brian Nault were co-authors.
Check out this article in the Cornell Chronicle on our spiders for the museum exhibit: Dr. Linda Rayor and five undergraduates, Jake Gorneau, Leeah Richardson, Joe Gulian, Arabelle Orsicky, and Kristianna Lea, spent five months preparing North American spiders for a major international traveling exhibit on Spiders. Together, they helped prepare over 300 spiders in life-like positions for the show. Australia Museum's 'Spiders: Alive and Deadly' will be opening at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada on 16 June 2018, and then touring around the US and Canada for 5 years. Read more
As the Cornell Institute of Host-Microbe Interactions and Disease(CIHMID) wraps up its first year, the launch of its Undergraduate Research Experience (URE) proved to be a highlight, say institute leaders.
CIHMID serves as a hub for the spokes of host-microbe biology and disease across Cornell and includes researchers in departments in the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, Engineering and Human Ecology. CIHMID provides an organizing body for researchers dispersed across colleges to collaborate, communicate and establish a visible presence for Cornell in research areas related to host-microbe interactions.
The URE program provides a mechanism for students to work in CIHMID-associated labs. The students participate in monthly trainings and professional development activities during the academic year, including learning about the scientific method, important research practices, how to read a scientific paper, and how to apply for grants and graduate school. Seventeen undergraduates were chosen for the 2017-18 cohort. The hope is that students will share their experiences and develop connections with each other.
Support is also available for 10 URE students to continue lab work through the summer. Research assistantships during the academic year count for credit, while the summer position includes a stipend.
New host-microbe institute connects campus researchers
“Having good research experiences are critical for encouraging students to stay in academic research or to pick careers in STEM fields,” said Tory Hendry, an assistant professor in microbiology and one of the directors of the URE, along with Teresa Pawlowska, associate professor of plant pathology and plant-microbe biology. “This gives them experience to see the full progression of a research project,” from how to develop a question, implement it and analyze results, Hendry said.
Hendry and Pawlowska have also applied for a National Science Foundation grant to expand the URE program.
Along with the URE, CIHMID is accepting applications for up to three postdoctoral research fellows to be granted three-year appointments in a CIHMID-affiliated lab. Applications are due Feb 26. The institute is also providing promotional support for hiring two faculty positions that would fall under the CIHMID umbrella; one for a specialist in vector biology and vector-borne disease through the Department of Entomology, and another for a plant-microbe biologist in the School of Integrative Plant Science.
Last July, the institute held its inaugural summer symposium and regularly invited seminar speakers over the course of the fall semester.
“The first year was about getting things organized and putting structures and mechanisms in place,” said Brian Lazzaro, CIHMID director and Liberty Hyde Bailey professor in the Departments of Entomology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. “Now that is done, and we are looking to get funding for the future to keep programs running and to expand them.”
Jo Handelsman, director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and former associate director for science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under President Obama, will speak on March 15 at a seminar co-sponsored by CIHMID and Biology without Borders.
CIHMID is currently accepting nominations as it determines its line of speakers for the 2018-19 academic year. Read more
Katja Poveda has been promoted to Associate Professor.
Feb 8, 2018
Katja Poveda has been promoted to Associate Professor. Please be sure to congratulate Katja on this wonderful achievement!
It can be hard to see how important honeybees are to daily life. Just by looking at fully grown oranges, apples and almonds, the honeybee wouldn’t necessarily get marquee credit for their growth.
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But, bees pollinate around 70 percent of the world’s crops, according to Cornell University, and without them, there’s no easy way to pollinate the fresh foods that need to be grown and harvested.
Beekeeper Chuck Kutik with Ginger Zee on his farm in Manning, South Carolina.
The vast farming operations around the country keep bees in high demand almost year-round and it’s up to commercial bee keepers to make sure farmers have their pollinators.
One of those beekeepers, Chuck Kutik, rents his bees out across the country, throughout the year. He said there's one crop that demands more bees than any other -– almonds. In the winter, Kutik, and commercial beekeepers throughout the country, send the majority of the nation's commercial bees to pollinate almonds blossoms.
Bees pollinate around 70 percent of the world's crops and without them there's no easy way to pollinate the food we need to harvest.more +
Kutik loads his bees on flatbed trucks that hold 112 palates of beehives and sends them on a multi-day, cross-country journey.
Before the bees arrive at the almond farms in California, the trees are bare, but after several weeks, they begin to blossom in bright white flowers.more +
Truck drivers have to continue moving throughout the day, only stopping at night, in order to maintain cool temperatures for the bees. If it’s too warm they will be tempted to fly out of their hives.
The bees will spend several weeks pollinating the bright white almond blooms. When they are done, they will be taken to the next farm, to a new crop on the east coast. Watch Full Episodes of “Food Forecast”Almond farmer and beekeeper Ryan Cosyns tells us that the price of pollination rental for almonds has nearly doubled since 2005, which is directly related to the increased acreage devoted to almonds.
A single hive from Kutik’s farm rented for as much as $200 in 2017, to a California almond farmer.
Beekeeper Chuck Kutik loads his bees on flatbed trucks and sends them on a multi-day cross country journey to reach California almond farms.more +
But as the demand for bees has gone up, keeping honeybees healthy has also become more and more of a challenge.
According to the USDA, Between 2015 and 2016 the nation's beekeepers lost 44 percent of their colonies.
"The consensus in the scientific community now is that it's not any single factor that is driving losses of bees," said Scott McArt, an associate professor in the Department of Entymology at Cornell University. "It's multiple factors."
Beekeepers make new hives by taking one that is thriving and splitting it into two.
He said those factors can include pesticides, insecticides, loss of habitat and climate change.
However, as honeybees are dying the overall population of bees has gone up.
"This is something that a lot of people don’t necessarily understand," said Emma Mullen, an associate in the Department of Entymology at Cornell University, "because if you do track the number of colonies that are in New York or the U.S., they do tend to increase. So what they’ll do is they’ll split their colonies and in that way they can continue to replace the colonies that were lost and grow their operation."
In the springtime, beekeepers can take a hive that is thriving and split them, creating two from one. Kutik predicted he would create 6,000 new hives in the spring. Treasure hunt: Ginger Zee searches for rare, expensive Italian white trufflesWhen the bees return home to Kutik’s farm, there is still more work to be done; that's when honey production starts. But farmers in the U.S. cannot produce enough honey to meet the total demand across the country.
“We only produce, I don't know what it is, 120 million or 140 million pounds of honey in the U.S.," Kutik said. "I think the consumption is 300 [million pounds]. The consumption is way more than we can produce."
David Fazekas/ABC News
At Chuck Kutik's farm in New York, his bees stay home in the summer to make honey.
With so much work to be done by American beekeepers and their bees, can the industry keep up with demand?
In this episode of “Food Forecast,” Ginger Zee tags along the route of the bees to the almonds groves of California and talks to the beekeepers along the way. For more stories from ABC News' "Food Forecast" series, download the ABC News App on iOS or Android.Read more
ABC News' TV show "Food Forecast" created a fantastic episode on beekeeping! It features one of New York's own commercial beekeepers, Chuck Kutik. The episode also includes interviews with Emma Mullen and Dr. Scott McArt from Cornell University, who discuss beekeeping in NYS and what viewers can do to help pollinators. Watch the episode here. Read more
We’ve heard a lot about honeybees and how important they are as pollinators. But bumblebees pollinate wildflowers and crops, too, and some kinds of bumblebees are in trouble.
Scott McArt is an assistant professor of pollinator health at Cornell University. He says that bumblebees can be extremely important pollinators for certain crops.
“So, for example, the vast majority of tomatoes that you will buy at the grocery store are pollinated exclusively by bumblebees,” he says.
In a new study, McArt found that fungicides could be playing a role in the declines of four species of bumblebees. He and his team looked at two dozen environmental factors to understand why these species are declining.
“We have this excellent data set; this data set includes 10,000 individual bumblebee samples. And believe it or not, someone has actually gone through all of these 10,000 bees and pulled out their guts, and looked for the prevalence of a particular pathogen, this Nosema pathogen. It’s a microsporidian, it’s related to a fungus.”
They used the data set to look for landscape predictors.
“So the things that were around the different sites that these bumblebees were actually collected, and looked at the predictors of what was associated with this particular pathogen,” he says.
McArt says most fungicides are relatively non-toxic to bees, but there can be problems for bees when fungicides interact with insecticides. He explains that some pesticides can have synergistic interactions which can lead to up to a thousand-fold increase in toxicity.
“So if you look in the pollen and look in the nectar that the bees are bringing back to the colonies, we’re finding that there’s a lot of pesticides that are coming back,” he says.
McArt says there’s a still a lot to learn about the problem before they can figure out how to stop it.
“In the combination of those fungicides and insecticides, we don’t know a lot about how these synergisms are actually occurring. So how often these synergisms are occurring and what types of toxicities result from these synergisms. This is sort of a new area of research that pollinator health is going into right now,” he says. You can listen to our interview with Scott McArt above.
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RELATED CONTENT How you could be killing bees when you're trying to help them
By TRACY SAMILTON• AUG 16, 2016
MELISSA COOPER SARGENT / ECOLOGY CENTER
Many gardeners know that bees are in trouble, and they want to help. Sales of so-called "bee-friendly" flowering plants are on the rise.
There's just one problem, says Melissa Cooper Sargent of the Ecology Center, and it's a big one.
Sargent says it's common practice for nurseries around the country to treat the seeds of the plants, or the plants themselves, with pesticides called neonicotinoids, that are highly toxic to bees. Read more
Check out this photo and a link to a video from a testimony Scott McArt gave to the NYS Assembly last month regarding pollinator declines, the value of bees to NYS, and Cornell’s role in providing research and extension to beekeepers, growers and the public. You can even watch video of the testimony. Read more
Congratulations to Ping Wang on his promotion to Full Professor.
Jan 2, 2018
Congratulations to Ping Wang on his promotion to Full Professor.
Canadian Sophia Spencer, 8, loves bugs. A tweet her mom sent out about that made headlines and led to a paper the girl co-authored in a science journal. NPR's Ailsa Chang talks with Spencer and her co-author, scientist Morgan Jackson. [Copyright 2017 NPR] Read more
High pesticide risk to honey bees despite low focal crop pollen collection during pollination of a mass blooming crop Article by Scott McArt, Ashley Fersch, Nelson Milano, Lauren Truitt, and Katalin Boroczky. Published April 19,2017 on Scientific Reports. http://www.nature.com/articles/srep46554Read more
The university launched the Cornell Institute of Host-Microbe Interactions and Disease, an organization that connects the community of Cornell researchers studying host-microbe biology and disease. Read more
Managing agricultural pests with an incomplete understanding of the impacts that tactics have on crops, pests, and other organisms poses risks for loss of short-term profits and longer-term negative impacts, such as evolved resistance and nontarget effects. Read more