Monday, July 31, 2017

Beware of ticks!

We are right in the middle of the summer, which means ticks are very active! Here in Nebraska we have two species, the Lone Star tick and the American dog tick. Both spread a number of diseases, and I am one of the latest victims!

I discovered a tick bite about a week ago after being in a tick infested area about a week or so prior to that. The tick was no longer in the bite, which means it had had plenty of time to feed and spread infection. I found a red, expanding rash on the back of my neck, and had enlarged and sore lymph nodes and a headache. We do not have the black-legged tick, which is the vector for Lyme disease, here in Nebraska, but the Lone Star tick spreads a similar disease.

The treatment for any tick-borne illness is antibiotics (doxycycline or amoxicillin), and the sooner you notice symptoms and get the medication, the less complications you may experience. Many of you may be in Lyme country (such as Northern states like MN and WI), so it's very important that you keep an eye out for an expanding red rash (called a erythema migrans), especially if it shows a bulls-eye pattern, and see your doctor.

Also, use repellent (such as DEET) before entering tick-infested areas and be sure to do a thorough "tick check" afterwards. Ticks wander around the body a bit before they attach, so many times you can get rid of them before they bite you. If you see one attached, use a tweezers to remove it. Ticks usually need to be attached for at least 24 hours before they can spread a disease.

See the following good resources for more information about ticks and tick-borne disease:

Ticks (Nebraska Extension)  

Ticks and Tickborne Diseases (CDC) 

                      Lone star tick (female), which spreads a Lyme-like disease here in Nebraska called STARI.
In mid-July, UNL and Nebraska Extension held the second annual Bugmasters training camp. This training was geared towards preparing volunteers to teach youth and adult insect programs. It included presentations about basic insect biology and specific pests, and also a hands-on component where we visited the backyard farmer garden, pollinator garden, and beehives.

Read more about it, here:

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Spring has sprung, although here in Nebraska we've had a lot of cold, wet weather. But temperatures are getting better and the insects are starting to emerge.

Last spring, I raised some Cecropia (Hylephora cecropia) caterpillars. One of my colleagues found a female and she laid eggs, so he took some to raise in his lab and I raised about 10 of them in my office. This is the largest moth in North America, but they start out as tiny black caterpillars:

Throughout the summer, I fed them (they eat a number of plants, including ash, box elder, lilac, cran- apple, and maple), and they progressed through several stages, or instars.

They become vibrant green with pretty yellow and orange/red "knobs." In their final instar, they are several inches long!

Once they are this big,  it's time to pupate! They spin a cocoon among the branches/leaves of their food source, then pupate within it.

Out of my 10 caterpillars, 4 of them lived to pupate. Their growth and development occurred from about May through July. This species only has one generation per year, so the moths will not emerge until the following Spring.

I put the cocoons in the refrigerator all through the winter, as this emulates the cold months when they are in diapause. This April, I removed them and 3 weeks later, the first of the four emerged. It was a male I named Titus.

Unfortunately, I could not release him as we've had a few cold, rainy days, and it would have been certain death. The adults do not feed and only live about a week, so their main purpose is to find mates and lay eggs. I was hoping a female would emerge, and one did a couple days later. Here is Athena. She is much larger than Titus, and he was large enough!

Sadly, when I got back from the weekend, Titus had banged his wings up all around the cage, and did not have a lot of time left. I am not sure that he and Athena actually mated. I released both of them yesterday when it was warmer. I wanted to give Titus some time outside before dying, but Athena I am hoping found a chance to mate.

I still have two cocoons left and hopefully these moths will emerge as well. It was an amazing experience being able raise this insect from caterpillar to moth!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Think twice before killing that little spider you see in your house!! He's eating a lot of pest insects you don't want around! (Photo: UNL)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Hello all,

My name is Lauren and I am a currently a graduate student of Entomology here at The University of Nebraska Lincoln. I have my bachelors degree in Environmental Policy, Institutions, and Behavior from Rutgers New Brunswick with a minor in Public Health. I have always been a super environmental advocate, volunteering for NJPIRG, The Edison Wetlands Association, The Lawrence Brook Watershed Partnership, and many more. I started my career as a health inspector for a health department in NJ where they asked me to also help at their mosquito commission. I soon became their Mosquito Identification Specialist learning all about IPM, mosquito biology, control, and disease transmission. I became fascinated with mosquitoes and insects as a whole, so I decided to get my Masters in Entomology. Currently I am interested in the field of Forensic Entomology. They have a class at Montclair University in NJ over the summer that is specific to hands on forensic entomology, and I am super excited to check it out. Oh and I am totally going to go to one of those body farms this summer too. For now though I'll tell you about my career as a mosquito biologist.
I work for Camden County Mosquito Commission in NJ where we do water management to reduce mosquito larval populations (mosquito larva require water to lay their eggs in, grow, pupate, and emerge as adults). This is done by either simply dumping the container over (ex. kids toys, tarps, buckets, garbage cans, tires, literally anything that can hold water), or by treating the water with an insecticide (ex. abandoned pools, woodland pools, retention basins, etc). We also use mosquito eating fish as a biological control whenever possible (Gambusia, Sunnies, and Fathead minnows). We also do surveillance (my job!), when we collect larva in different locations and identify and monitor the species present, because different species of mosquitoes transmit different diseases. We also have several light traps throughout the county where we collect dead adult mosquitoes for the same type of species surveillance. Lastly, we have gravid traps that we set throughout the county where we collect live adult mosquitoes that I then identify, sort by species, and send to the state lab for disease testing. The field inspectors then go out and spray adulticide to kill adult mosquitoes. It has been a really fun job and I thoroughly enjoy it and am excited to learn more and more about the field of entomology!
Our Facebook page is @NJMCA if anyone is interested.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Media Short on Biocontrol of Weeds with Insects


I wanted to share this short piece of media I made for an Insects in Education class. It's not a great piece of production, but hey, I'm an entomologist not a filmmaker! (And I was able to do it for free at

Controlling Exotic Pests with their Natural Enemies: One Kind of Biological Control

Monday, December 12, 2016

Insect Ecology

Hi everyone!

I’m Stella, and I’m an undergraduate majoring in Biology here at UNL. I will soon be adding a minor in Fish & Wildlife. Once I graduate, I plan to attend grad school and focus on ecology. The intricate links between organisms and their environment is what drew me to ecology in the first place, and the sheer abundance and diversity of insects makes insect ecology especially interesting to me.

I’ve always been fond of insects, and so the decision to take Insect Ecology was an easy one. I previously took an entomology course called Management of Horticultural Crop Insects, and my positive experience with that course further drove me to take Insect Ecology.

I spent several weeks at Cedar Point Biological Station this summer, and while I was there I worked on a project with damselflies. The project involved studying factors that influence damselfly functional response, including prey type and predator size. We are currently writing up a paper on the results of this study, and I look forward to sharing it with you all once it is published.

Thanks for a great semester!