The coconut rhinoceros beetle (CRB) was first detected on Guam at Tumon Bay in 2007. Despite eradication efforts, by 2010 CRB had spread island-wide. In 2013 a single CRB was found on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in a red palm weevil trap near Hickam Air Field which is jointly operated with Honolulu International Airport. I still vividly remember, as natural resources manager of the base, getting the call from my friend at the State Department of Agriculture just before Christmas and the craziness that ensued in the following months. That is a story worth telling some other time, but for now I just want to share some photos from Guam that show how destructive this invasive species and pest of palm trees can be.
In 2014 I had the incredibly awesome opportunity to attend the USGS Brown Tree Snake Rapid Response Training Course. It was one of the most fun things I’ve done in a very long time. Perhaps it was because I don’t get the chance to go to Guam any more, or maybe it was just that I love searching for and catching snakes, but I really had a good time. I knew that CRB had hit Guam particularly hard, and also I knew that most folks in Hawaii didn’t realize that we could potentially experience the same effects, so I decided the trip would be a good opportunity to get some photos of CRB damage. Furthermore, I thought it would be cool if I could find some pics on the internet of pre-CRB areas or early CRB areas with healthy coconut palms, then I could recreate the photos in 2014 to show how the trees had changed. It didn’t quite turn out as I had hoped, but nevertheless here are the photos.
From these pictures alone the damage over the years does not seem to be catastrophic, although it does look like the trees overall area thinner and less full in 2014. There were some areas of the Asan Beach Memorial that were being hit very hard. The following are some pics of some of the CRB damage that was more obvious. These were all taken in 2014. I’ve got my fingers crossed that I will go back to Guam this year for BTS refresher training. If that is the case I hope to replicate these photos again.
Recently there was an article in ESA’s Entomology Today about the habits of a successful entomologist (Ten Habits of Highly Successful Entomologists). I’ve actually sort of pondered this question before. It never fails that whenever I am talking with colleagues and other various bug folk of entomological origin that I have gotten to know over the years we usually start reminiscing or catching up not the latest news regarding mutual acquaintances. When this happens there is always someone referred to as being a “good entomologist.” For example, it goes something like…”Hey did you hear about Julie? Yeah, she got David’s old job at the State Department of Ag. Yeah, she’s a good entomologist.” Or maybe something like…”Wow, did you hear about Steve? He got lost doing field work and had to eat his fly bait for a few days. He’s a little crazy, but he’s an awesome entomologist.” What does that really mean? Why do some entos frequently get those props and others not so much? (full disclosure – I am in the latter category).
Getting back to the Ten Habits article, I have to say I was a little disappointed. I mean, it was a good story and I agree with all ten of those habits, but they apply to pretty much any profession. If you do those things you’re going to be the bomb at whatever you’ve chosen to do. Meditation, exercise, relationships, organization, etc., yes, all those things are great, but what specifically makes your peers consider you a good entomologist? Not even necessarily your peers but what also stimulates the layperson to heap entomological praise on you?
I can’t write much more tonight so I am just going to get to the point. For me I think it is really simple. A good entomologist is someone who, when called upon at any time and in any circumstance, can ID an insect solely from drawing upon the library of information they have accumulated in their brain. We all know these people, those who can quickly give the species name of any fly, beetle, or bug that is presented to them. But really it isn’t only about the ID, the good entomologist can also tell you a little bit about the biology of the species, and the really great ones will talk for 30 minutes and then want to spend another 2 hours to collect a series.
Mediocre entomologists like me can usually fool non-entomologists. You just have to spout a family name or even an order name (anything sounding important) and give a few basic facts and you’ve already surpassed the average person’s knowledge of insects and earned their admiration. Pretty soon, as word gets around and you keep answering people’s questions about insects, you then get a moniker like buggirl or bugman (I guess it is sexist, but bugwoman and bugboy are more rare). That is all fine and good (and no offense to all the bug-people out there – heck, I had to give myself the nickname “entophile”), but it is the walking, talking catalogues of Insecta that I label “good entomologists.” If they are lacking certain social skills they can sometimes be a little annoying, but that usually doesn’t lessen the respect they garner from other entomologists. By default these are usually folks that do a lot of taxonomy, that work in museums and work with collections, or that do a lot of field work. Most of the good entomologists I know are older, but there are some young ones too. I love being around good entomologist because I have great admiration for their skill and I am envious and probably hope they will somehow rub off on me.
No doubt there are entomology icons that have achieved amazing accomplishments that don’t necessarily fit in this category, and I am not taking anything away from them. I simply think a good entomologist is some one that can ID an obscure weevil or nondescript moth without warning and then give an impromptu lecture on its biology if the situation requires it. However simple or old school that sounds, that is my definition of a successful entomologist.
After a long break I’ve decided to start trying to write in my blog again. Not sure exactly where I came off the rails, but I need to start to doing some creative things again. Unfortunately it has been so long since I’ve done this that I don’t really remember how to post in WordPress anymore, so I am just going to start simple and see what happens.
I had the great fortune last weekend and this week to attend a couple days of the IUCN World Congress held in Honolulu. As usual my employer registered me at the very last moment so I didn’t realize that I had to sign up in advance for many of the workshops. The National Geographic Storytelling Workshop was really the main thing I wanted to go to, but I couldn’t get in.
The sting of getting shut of by Nat Geo was lessened a little bit when I happened to almost cross paths with E.O. Wilson…
Since I couldn’t get into the workshops I spent most of my time in the exhibit hall, which was kind of fun since I was able to chat with a few friends and catch up with some folks I don’t normally get to see. Here are few shots from the exhibit hall…
A few weeks ago I was secretly checking out my neighbors invasive looking vine (which I now believe to be Thunbergia grandiflora or blue trumpet vine) when I noticed this unusual looking fly with with an orange abdomen and what appeared to be coreid style leaf feet. I ran in and grabbed my camera and was able to get a few pics, but could never get it to look directly at me – also was worried that my neighbor might get a little suspicious.
I did a little internet sleuthing and found a Hawaiian Ent Soc reference stating: “Trichopoda pennipes pilipes Fabricius was introduced into Hawaii from Trinidad in 1962 to combat the southern green stink bug, Nezara viridula (Fabricius) (Davis and Krauss, 1963; Davis, 1964).”
Unfortunately it parasitizes some other bugs as well…”In Hawaii, T. p. pilipes has been reared from the scutellerid Coleotichus blackburni White and the pentatomids Thyanta accera (McAtee) and Plautia stali Scott, in addition to N. viridula.”
The Bishop Museum’s Hawaii Biological Survey site says this in regard to the Koa Bug and T. pennipes:
“Unfortunately, a fly that was introduced to help get rid of the pest stink bugs (which have been causing problems with some of Hawaii’s agricultural crops) does not know the difference between the bad bug and the “good” koa bug. By going after the “wrong guy” it has had a impact on the reduction of its populations on most islands.
The koa bug is still around, but in very low numbers on most Hawaiian islands. There are only a few areas left on the Big Island where it is common. Hopefully our HBS field staff will find evidence on Maui that it is making a comeback.”
Mohammad S. and J. W. Beardsley, Jr. 1975. Egg Viability and Larval Penetration in Trichopoda pennipes pilipes Fabricius (Diptera: Tachinidae). Proc. Hawaiian Entomol. Soc. 22: 133-136.
I discovered some more cool insect art today – I guess maybe you could call it “ant art.” Photographer/artist Andrey (Antrey) Pavlov from St Petersburg, Russia creates a window in into the secret life of the ants. Below are a few of my favorites, but you can find the gallery with the rest of his work here .
A couple of weeks ago I was back up in Lualualei Valley checking on another species of Abutilon, Abutilon sandwicense. These plants were higher up in the mountains in a portion of the valley we refer to as the Halona Management Area. I don’t have much experience with Abutilon, but from the plants we have in Lualualei, A. sandwicense seems to grow much differently from A. menziesii – it grows tall and lanky, and it is not very bushy like menziesii. There were no flowers, but they seemed to be doing OK.
While I was there, I did some poking around on a nearby Sapindus tree that usually hides some nice little treasures. On the leaves I found Hyposmocoma, and, to my surprise, one appeared to have a parasitoid wasp lurking around its case. This same small tree also had some interesting Tetragnatha spiders, some cool Salticids (ant mimics?), and some kind of beetle larvae (I think?).
I had seen these Salticids on this same tree back in 2010, and at the time I inquiredabout them to the friendly entomologists at the Bishop Museum. I’m not sure he would want me quoting him, but in Frank Howarth’s words, “It’s a male Siler sp. [Salticidae] and apparently still undetermined. I’ve seen a specimen from Makua Valley. It was recorded from Hawaii by J. Proszynski 2002. (Remarks on Salticidae (Aranei) from Hawaii, with description of Havaika – gen. nov. Arthropoda Selecta ,vol. 10 (3): 225-241, f 81.) from a damaged specimen collected in 1974 by Wayne Gagne in the Waianae Mts.”
The Entomology staff at the Bishop Museum is awesome – Mahalo to Frank and Neal.
There are two areas within the Navy Radio Telecommunications Facility and Munitions Storage Area where federally listed endangered Abutilon menziesii occur. Every month we go out and check on them, and this month they were flowering. I also noticed some interesting insect damage: feeding on the leaves, which I believe is from the Chinese Rose Beetle, Adoretus sinicus, a bore hole in a flower bud, and ants tending some kind of Homoptera (I didn’t collect any of the ants but they look like the white footed ant, Technomyrmex difficilis – not sure about the Homoptera either, at first I thought aphids but now I am thinking leafhoppers ).