Illinois Natural History Survey News

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  • Digitization efforts make wealth of INHS collections more accessible

    INHS is home to over 9 million biological specimens, including plants, insects, fish, reptiles, and fossils. Learn how we're digitizing these specimens to make them accessible to everyone.

  • INHS employee linked to a famous entomologist from the 19th century

    A staff member at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) recently learned of her family connection to a renowned amateur entomologist whose butterfly and beetle collection makes up a significant part of the 7.3 million specimen insect collection at INHS.

  • Report: Milkweed losses may not fully explain monarch butterfly declines

    Steep declines in the number of monarch butterflies reaching their wintering grounds in Mexico are not fully explained by fewer milkweeds in the northern part of their range, researchers report in a new study.

  • INHS researchers address vector borne diseases through CDC Center of Excellence

    INHS Scientists Nohra Mateus-Pinilla and Richard Lampman will partner with the College of Veterinary Medicine to conduct research for the new Upper Midwestern Center for Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The center is headquartered at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The Illinois team will develop forecasting models and statistical spatial risk maps of regionally important mosquitoes and ticks and the diseases that they cause. Using optimization algorithms, historical data on field trapping of mosquitoes and ticks, and other ecological methods, the Illinois team will also help determine the level of surveillance data required to make effective control decisions.

  • Tick-infested songbirds help spread Lyme disease

    Songbird species that carry the ticks responsible for Lyme disease and other diseases forage close to the ground in large wooded areas, according to a recently published study by Christine Parker, a graduate research assistant at the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute, Illinois Natural History Survey.

  • Cornboy vs. the Billion-Dollar Bug

    There is, despite the name, nothing urban about Piper City, Ill. It is a farm town with a skyline of grain elevators, a tidy grid of pitch-roofed houses and, a few blocks beyond, endless fields: corn, soybean, corn, soybean, corn, corn, corn, perfectly level, perfectly square, no trees, no cows, no hedgerows, no bare land. In late August of 2013, a man named Joseph Spencer followed a corn-flanked county road northwest from Piper City until his GPS advised him to leave the road altogether and turn onto a gravel track. Spencer, an entomologist who studies farm insects, was looking for a farmer named Scott Wyllie.

  • Researchers Reconstruct the Stonefly Fauna of Ohio

    The aquatic nymphs of stoneflies are indicators of water and habitat quality and quantity. Loss of this habitat is resulting in rapid decline of many species, which are at serious risk of disappearing from agricultural and urban areas of the Midwest, according to Ed DeWalt, aquatic entomologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey, Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois.

  • Moving Firewood Long Distances Can Spread Invasive Insects

    What’s in your firewood? Tree-killing insects or diseases may be hiding in or on firewood that may be transported hundreds of miles to campsites or fireplaces.

  • Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs are on the Move This Fall

    An invasive stink bug species has been found in five newly invaded Illinois counties this year, according to Kelly Estes, Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) coordinator in the Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois.

  • Threat of Zika in Illinois low, but precautions can be taken

    INHS Medical Entomologist Ephantus Muturi was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune about the threat of Zika virus in Illinois. Muturi says that Aedes aegypti, which transmits Zika, has been found in Illinois but does not thrive in our climate. The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopinctus, is found in Illinois, but has not been found to transmit Zika, though more research is needed. 

  • Smaller stoneflies may be better at colonizing islands

    INHS entomologist R. Edward DeWalt and graduate student Eric J. South of the Illinois Natural History Survey and Department of Entomology have a recently published paper on the size of stoneflies on Isle Royale in Lake Superior. Not only did their results show that there were significantly fewer species, compared to the mainland, but also that smaller stonefly species appeared to be more capable of recolonizing the island.

  • INHS Entomologist featured in video by National Park Service

    INHS Aquatic Entomologist Ed DeWalt was featured in a video put out by the National Park Service: Scientists and Citizens: Investigating Aquatic Insects in Great Lakes National Parks.

  • Planting native plants may reduce risk of west nile virus

    A recent study by INHS graduate student Allison Gardner, INHS Medical Entomologist Ephantus Juma Muturi and their colleagues found that leaf detritus in standing water can influence reproduction in mosquitoes. Leaves from invasive honeysuckle and autumn olive, yielded higher emergence of adult Culex pipiens mosquitoes (the vector for West Nile Virus). Leaves of native blackberry resulted in high numbers of eggs, but low adult emergence.

  • Monitoring for Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs

    Illinois Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey director Kelly Estes was asked about Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs, native to Asia, currently found in the eastern United States. Estes explained that BMSB are good hitchhikers, able to be transported by people and packages. This, and other species will be discussed during the Invasive Species Symposium this Thursday at University of Illinois.

  • Periodical cicadas possibly to emerge in southern Illinois this year

    INHS Entomologist Chris Dietrich was interviewed about the emergence of 13 and 17 year cicadas this spring in southern Illinois. It is uncertain how abundant they will be, as “the cicadas require forest habitats, so they are not found out in open areas or areas that have been paved, or where the trees have been removed, so they’re really going to be restricted to areas where there is natural forest.”

  • New study reveals evolutionary patterns of grasshoppers, crickets, and katydids over the past 300 million years

    INHS Orthoperterist and Paleontologist Sam Heads was co-author on a recently published study determining the evolutionary relationships of the grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets. The current study is based on genetics rather than morphological characteristics.

  • INHS Manual 14: Butterflies of Illinois: A Field Guide, now available

    The first boxes of our newest field guide, INHS Manual 14: Butterflies of Illinois, arrived late this afternoon and are now available for purchase! Stop by our publications office between 8 a.m. and noon weekdays, or visit our secure online shopsite. The book is $21.80 with tax (plus shipping if ordering online or by phone).

  • New species of leafhopper named for INHS Entomologist Chris Dietrich

    A new species of leafhopper has been named for INHS Entomologist Christopher Dietrich in recognition of his extensive work on the group. The new species, Futasujinus dietrichi, is described in a paper in the October Annals of the Entomological Society of America.

  • West Nile Virus confirmed in Evanston

    The Illinois Natural History Survey Medical Entomology Lab has reported the first positive tests for West Nile Virus this year from samples collected in Evanston. For more information, visit the Medical Entomology Program website.

  • INHS Biologist Steve Taylor in new David Attenborough documentary

    INHS Invertebrate Biologist Dr. Steven J. Taylor can be seen in the new David Attenborough documentary on the Galapagos Islands. Steve was filmed while studying the invertebrate communities in volcanic tubes. For more information visit Steve Taylor's website.

  • INHS entomologists comment on fossil stick insects

    Following the discovery of fossil stick insects by a team of Chinese and French scientists, INHS Paleontologist Sam Heads and Illinois State Entomologist Chris Dietrich were contacted by National Geographic to comment. Heads told National Geographic that the discovery of fossilized plant mimicking insects, "is yet more tantalizing evidence of early insect-plant coevolution."

  • Variation in effectiveness of RNAi treatment in western corn rootworm

    INHS Behavioral Entomologist Joseph Spencer and his colleagues in Crop Sciences and Entomology recently released a study in the journal Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology with findings that there is variation in the effectiveness of RNAi treatments on western corn rootworm (WCR), a major agricultural pest.

  • Corn rootworm management webinar

    INHS Behavioral Entomologist Joe Spencer presented a talk on "Rootworm Biology and Behavior" in the webinar "Corn rootworm Management in the Transgenic Era." Over 300 people attended this webinar, archived at the link below.

  • Master Naturalists help identify insects for collection

    Members of the Illinois Grand Prairie Master Naturalists came to the Illinois Natural History Survey to help identify some of the 2,300 insect specimens that were collected by an "amateur" entomologist and donated to INHS. The volunteers were assisted by INHS Entomologists Joe Spencer, Sam Heads, Michael Jeffords and Susan Post. Portions of the collection will stay at INHS and others will be used for educational purposes through the Master Naturalist Program and Sugar Grove Nature Center.

  • Fig wasps older than known fig trees

    INHS Paleontologist Sam Heads found an ancient fig wasp that pre-dates any known fig trees. According to Heads, “This is a tiny parasitic wasp, it's the smallest fossil wasp found in this particular deposit and it's the oldest representative of its family. More importantly, it’s possible that this wasp was fig-associated, which is interesting because it’s Early Cretaceous, about 115 to 120 million years old. That's a good 65 million years or so prior to the first occurrence of figs in the fossil record.”

  • Native birds as biological controllers of Emerald Ash Borer Beetles?

    INHS Ornithologist Chris Whelan is a co-author on a recent publication reporting that woodpeckers may be helpful in controlling Emerald Ash Borer Beetles. Their study found that bark foraging birds, such as woodpeckers, foraged more heavily on ash trees and preferred ash trees with visible canopy decline over healthy trees. "Predation by bark-foragers significantly reduced tree-level EAB densities by upwards of 85%." The authors conclude that enhancing habitat for woodpeckers and other bark foragers may help control infestations and create more resilient forests.

  • Researchers need your brown marmorated stink bugs

    Fall is the time for many insects to start making their ways indoors for the winter. The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), Halyomorpha halys is believed to have been introduced from Asia and can be a pest on tress and crops. Researchers are still trying to determine the range of the BMSB and need your help. If you believe you have BMSB, we would be very interested in looking at it.

  • First fossil of differential grasshopper described

    INHS Paleo-entomologist Sam Heads and collaborator Yinan Wang recently described the first fossil record of the differential grasshopper. The specimen, a species which is still alive today, was found in material from the Late Pleistocene McKittrick tar pits of southern California.

  • Drought takes a toll on monarchs

    INHS Entomologist Michael Jeffords was interviewed about the current state of monarch butterflies in Illinois. "Last year’s drought had a twofold effect. Fewer monarchs were produced in the Midwest, and those that were had a tough time migrating to Mexico as they had a thousand miles of virtually nectarless landscape to cross in Texas and northern Mexico," Jeffords said. For additional information on Monarchs, check out this INHS species spotlight.