Department of
Entomology

Entomology News

Ngumbi receives AAAS award for public engagement with science

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign entomology professor Esther Ngumbi is the 2021 recipient of the Mani L. Bhaumik Award for Public Engagement with Science, an annual award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science presented to scientists and engineers in recognition of their contributions to public engagement with science.

Women in Ecology Spotlight – Alex Harmon-Threatt

As much of the United States and countries around the world shelter in place this year, the ability to be out in nature is even more precious. Access to clean open spaces should be a right for all; unfortunately, this is not always the case. Even among scientists who study the environment, there is an inequality of access to nature, especially for women, and even more so for women of color. We discussed this issue and what can be done about it with Dr. Alex Harmon-Threatt, associate professor of entomology at the University of Illinois School of Integrative Biology.

50 million-year-old fossil assassin bug has unusually well-preserved genitalia

The fossilized insect is tiny and its genital capsule, called a pygophore, is roughly the length of a grain of rice. It is remarkable, scientists say, because the bug’s physical characteristics – from the bold banding pattern on its legs to the internal features of its genitalia – are clearly visible and well-preserved. Recovered from the Green River Formation in present-day Colorado, the fossil represents a new genus and species of predatory insects known as assassin bugs. The find is reported in the journal Papers in Palaeontology.

Latch, load and release: Elastic motion makes click beetles click, study finds

Click beetles can propel themselves more than 20 body lengths into the air, and they do so without using their legs. While the jump’s motion has been studied in depth, the physical mechanisms that enable the beetles’ signature clicking maneuver have not. A new study examines the forces behind this super-fast energy release and provides guidelines for studying extreme motion, energy storage and energy release in other small animals like trap-jaw ants and mantis shrimps.

Pollinators not getting the 'buzz' they need in news coverage

A dramatic decline in bees and other pollinating insects presents a threat to the global food supply, yet it’s getting little attention in mainstream news.

That’s the conclusion of a study from researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, published this week in a special issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was based on a search of nearly 25 million news items from six prominent U.S. and global news sources, among them The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Associated Press.

Model predicts where ticks, Lyme disease will appear next in Midwest states

By drawing from decades of studies, scientists created a timeline marking the arrival of black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, in hundreds of counties across 10 Midwestern states. They used these data – along with an analysis of county-level landscape features associated with the spread of ticks – to build a model that can predict where ticks are likely to appear in future years.

Brain gene expression patterns predict behavior of individual honey bees

An unusual study that involved bar coding and tracking the behavior of thousands of individual honey bees in six queenless bee hives and analyzing gene expression in their brains offers new insights into how gene regulation contributes to social behavior. The study, reported in the journal eLife, reveals that the activity profile of regulator genes known as transcription factors in the brain strongly correlates with the behavior of honey bees, the researchers said. A single transcription factor can induce – or reduce – the expression of dozens of other genes.

Unexpected similarity between honey bee and human social life

Bees and humans are about as different organisms as one can imagine. Yet despite their many differences, surprising similarities in the ways that they interact socially have begun to be recognized in the last few years. Now, a team of researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, including Gene Robinson, are building on their earlier studies and have experimentally measured the social networks of honey bees and how they develop over time.

Professors Alison Bell and Alex Harmon-Threatt recognized for leadership and research

Four professors in the College of LAS have been named Richard and Margaret Romano Professorial Scholars for their leadership and research.

Richard Romano (BS, ’54, chemical engineering) and his wife, Margaret, established the program, which provides faculty members with $25,000 per year for their work. This year’s scholars include Alex Harmon-Threatt and Alison Bell.

Study reveals unique physical, chemical properties of cicada wings

Scientists, including entomology professor Marianne Alleyne, are exploring the structural and chemical characteristics of cicada wings. This work, in part, is supported by a grant from the U.S. Army, as mentioned in a recent interview on NPR's All Things Considered.

Biological structures sometimes have unique features that engineers would like to copy. For example, many types of insect wings shed water, kill microbes, reflect light in unusual ways and are self-cleaning.