U designs, hosts annual meeting for entomologists

Fabiana Torreao

Presenting cutting-edge information on insects, a branch of the world’s largest entomology organization had its annual meeting at the University during spring break.
“This is an opportunity for people to get together and present the research they are doing — one of the best opportunities to keep current,” said Ian MacRae, a University assistant professor at Northwest Research and Outreach in Crookston.
The four-day meeting included more than a dozen symposiums on topics such as regional risk assessment of ticks and tick-borne disease, the social impact of mosquito control and the current perceptions of safety and acceptance of genetically modified foods.
“The north central region of the United States has a lot of agricultural focus, but due to our location and metropolitan area, we felt that it was important to show other aspects that entomology gets involved, such as mosquito control and aquatic ecology,” said Mark Ascerno, chairman of the University’s entomology department.
Ascerno said there are good implications for the University to host the meeting, especially the exposure of the University to prospective graduate students.
The host university traditionally designs the meeting program. Ascerno pointed out this year’s program included a symposium especially designed for, and with the help of, teachers. This symposium focused on the use of butterflies and other insects in classroom teaching. He said teachers can use insects to teach ecology, physiology and sex education.
“(Insects) are easy tools, and kids are fascinated by them,” Ascerno said.
On Tuesday, speakers from the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District presented the implications of pesticide applications and research on people’s tolerance levels for mosquitoes.
To reach a tolerable level is a more reasonable goal than eliminating mosquitoes, said Nancy Read from the mosquito control agency. Through research, focus groups and surveys, the agency determined the tolerance level at two or less mosquito bites in five minutes.
The elimination of mosquitoes’ breeding sites is the most effective way to control mosquitoes, according to the American Mosquito Control Association Web site.
Alternate ways of adult mosquito control include the use of thermal fogs, the use of “barrier” techniques, and ultra-low volume pesticide applications that release chemicals capable of staying airborne long enough to affect mosquitoes in flight.
The 55th annual meeting was kicked off by the traditional “Linnaean games,” a jeopardy-style game in which 10 teams of graduate students from different universities are the contestants answering entomological questions.
“It’s kind of fun and informal, and it gives students an opportunity to show off what they know,” said Marlin Rice, from Iowa State’s entomology department and the branch’s Alex Trebek for the past four years.
The Entomological Society of America, founded in 1889, has more than 7,400 members in its five branches. The North Central Branch includes Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Manitoba and Ontario.

Fabiana Torreao covers the St. Paul campus and welcomes comments at [email protected]