Dr. Charles Henry Turner: An Amazing Scientist

This week we are featuring Dr. Charles Henry Turner. Before I begin my article on him, I have a personal note that I’d like to share. As Nancy stated in her blog post on Dr. Margaret S. Collins, I would like to reiterate that entomology is for everyone. Science is meant to help us increase our understanding of the world around us. Although science is meant to be free of biases, it does exist within a social construct; therefore, we should acknowledge its shortcomings. On June 1st the Entomological Society of America (ESA) posted the article Why Black Lives Matter to Entomology, addressing the fact that people of color do not often choose careers in the life sciences4 and that black entomologists make up 2.7% of ESA membership3,5. It is very sobering to see these statistics, but it is necessary to be aware of the discrepancies in order to initiate real change. Nancy, Joe, and I were extremely saddened by the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. These events displayed the extreme injustices and inequalities that people of color face. 

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Lonnie Standifer and the beginning of honeybee toxicology

Image of: Lonnie Standifer

Honeybees and humans have an ancient relationship. There’s evidence of honeybees being kept in clay pots in North Africa roughly 10,000 years ago. On Twitter, we’ve even discussed the bizarre twists and turns of how honeybees were studied up until the 1800s. We’ve never discussed how honeybees became a central part of our agricultural system, one which we take great care to work around.

Of all the topics related to honeybee biology, the one which seems to have justifiably captured the most concern is how pesticides effect honeybees-or, honeybee toxicology to put it in the language a scientist would use. Although honeybees are more or less livestock, the issues which harm them also harm the more vulnerable bees. For better or worse, honeybees are the model for bee biology (although this is quickly changing).

We’ve been studying this for years, with the USDA leading the charge of figuring out how insecticides harm honeybees. If you’re interested in the topic of bees and pesticides, it makes sense to know a little bit of the history about how we began studying honeybee toxicology.

A huge portion of this story revolves Lonnie Standifer-a black entomologist who was in charge of the Carl Hayden bee research center in Tucson Arizona in the 1970s.

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Dr. Margaret S. Collins: The Termite Lady – Featuring Black Entomologist Stories

Written By                                        Nancy Miorelli

A Note

The Ask an Entomologist Team would like to first and foremost express our heartache and anger with the recent injustices. We here believe that entomology, nature, and science are for everybody. Despite the unfortunate history of science rooted in exploitation and racism, we are breaking that narrative.

Entomology, Science, and Nature are for *everyone* to enjoy and partake.
The injustices that our black and POC communities face every day are unacceptable. We are heartbroken, angry, and ready for change.

For the month of June we will be focusing on black entomologists who not only furthered science and entomology as a whole but also fought for civil rights and equality. We are filled with gratitude for their contributions to entomology and it is with great respect, pleasure, and honor that we are sharing their stories.

Today, we will be featuring Dr. Margaret S. Collins. A self-proclaimed field biologist, termite scientist, and humans right activist.

A photo of a young African American woman by a microscope in the Science magazine. The caption reads "Studies Termites: Following the presentation of a paper on 'Differences in Toleration of Drying and Rate of Water Loss Between Species of Florida Termites' to the 125th Annual Meeting of the American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science, Dr. Margaret S. Collins, professor of Biology at Florida &M in Tallahassee, conducts experiment.
Margaret S. Collins. The Termite Lady
Herbert and Veronica Collins
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Where are we now: Joanie

Hello there! I’m Joanie Mars, or rather professionally, Joanie King. I typically prefer my alias “Mars” because “King” has always been a strange last name for me to identify with. You see, it’s not my stepfather’s last name and he’s been my dad since I can remember. Although Mars isn’t his last name, it’s a name that found me years ago (another story for another day). So, pardon me if I ever use them interchangeably. This is something I wanted to explain because it’s a point of confusion for people in my professional and personal life that discover that “Mars” isn’t actually my last name. Though, I find it amusing that some do think it’s my last name.

Whew. Glad that’s out of the way!

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The “Murder Hornets” AKA Asian Giant Hornet

Well. Thanks New York Times. 🙄🙄

Hai. I’m Nancy – I was supposed to write my “Re-introduction” this week because of our hiatus. However …

Now that every entomologist ever needs to clean up this puked up fur-ball of a mess that is the non issue of the not so murderous murder hornet, I have written you this beautiful piece of literature instead of my reintroduction.

The gist of all this is, the Asian Giant Hornet is NOT murderous, and it’s not a threat to you in the US.

But here’s the long of it.

If you want to watch the full interview I did with Jon Perry from Stated Clearly you can watch it here! It was a live video so thanks to everyone who tuned in! If you’d rather read basically all the same points, continue below after the read more tab.

Thanks Stated Clearly!
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Where are we now: Joe

Hi, I’m Joe!

For those of who are new to AaE, let me introduce myself.

I’m Joe Ballenger. I’m a single dad, and I really like to climb when I’m not working.

My background is physiology. Specifically, I’ve done a lot of genetics and physiology, and I look at the nuts and bolts of how things work. In the past, I studied insect viruses, I’ve looked for proteins which kill insects, and now I’ve changed tracks and I’m using these skills to look at how weeds hurt crops.

So how does that work?

What’s Joe Doing Now?

Shade Avoidance1

Joe’s currently studying shade avoidance. When plants are exposed to certian kinds of light reflected off other plants, they grow in a way that’s kind of bad for crops (right in both cases) because they put more resources into stems than yeild.

This year has also been a big year for me, as well. I decided to leave my job in industry, and not only go to grad school, but study a whole new group of pests.

There’s actually a lot of cool stuff going on in the field of weed science. New herbicides are hard to make, and as a result, herbicide resistance is…kind of a problem.


In the field of weed science, we’ve got to figure out how weeds work. More importantly, we’ve got to understand how plants fight each other so we can understand how weeds damage crops.

You’d think this is obvious. That yield loss due to weeds is from competition to nutrients, right?

So…it turns out that crops can never really recover from weed damage, and we don’t know why.

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We’re coming back from hiatus tomorrow!

Dear Fans and Friends,


First of all, we, the Ask an Entomologist team would like to thank you for submitting your question. Many have asked questions throughout the years, and your continued interests in insects is greatly appreciated.


The Situation and Unexpected Hiatus

We – Joe, Joanie, and Nancy would like to apologize for leaving your question(s) unanswered despite our mission and name. The truth is, Ask an Entomologist just became too much for us! We never imagined that our project would grow to the point that we were receiving hundreds of emails and messages across our platforms every week. Coupled with the surprising influx of new visitors, the three of us had major life transitions. Joe left industry to start a PhD. Joanie transitioned from her Master’s degree to a PhD. And Nancy decided to start her own entomology focused tourism business. These new endeavors left us with very little extra time to spend with our families and hobbies let alone a science communication project. Ask an Entomologist is a way for people to interact with scientists, and any career will involve difficult, stressful, and time-consuming transitions.


The Solution

This past month we decided to not only be honest with ourselves  – but to you as well. As scientists, our goal has always been to expand our community into yours, and we’d like to address you as part of our community about how we can keep answering your questions.


The first thing we have decided is that we loved producing content centered around what you’d like to know. Blog posts, videos, interviews, art, etc. However, with emails upon emails we found that we could not create the content we loved because we were busy furiously answering emails to the best of our ability. Our goal when starting this project was to offer something *new* to the science communication community. A place where questions about insect biology would be addressed  in a clear and engaging manner by actual scientists that is freely open to the public. While this aspect of the project was new, to continue answering questions, we need to make some changes.

Questions about identification or help with pest control is something that can be handled better by people with the infrastructure to respond to hundreds of emails a week with qualified specialists. Therefore, we will be only answering questions unique to insect biology, physiology, or ecology.


We have a new schedule where starting May 5th, expect to see three new posts a month! In May we we will reintroduce oursevelves, revive our social media platforms (facebook / twitter), and start our new buggy content in June. We have had lengthy conversations about how to continue Ask an Entomologist without falling down the same pitfalls so we can continue creating the content you love, and still have time to finish our PhDs, run our businesses, and engage in our hobbies. So a win for everyone!


But … my question was never answered…

Do not fear, if you submitted a question about ID requests or pest control services we recommend the following resources.


Insect Identification:

When submitting your image of your insect to any of the following resources, please include the following information

  • Where you found the insect / arthropod (Country / State)

  • A high resolution image

  • If a facebook group, please follow all the rules instituted by that group

BugGuide: (just for North American insects) www.bugguide.net

Bug ID Blog: http://www.whatsthatbug.com
The Entomology FB Group: https://web.facebook.com/groups/TheEntomologyGroup

Spider and Bug Questions With the Bug Girl: https://web.facebook.com/groups/1626262754255734

Beetles: https://web.facebook.com/groups/30749256655

Moth and Moth Watching: https://web.facebook.com/groups/137219092972521

Ants, Bees, Wasps: https://web.facebook.com/groups/HymenopteristsForum88


Pest Control:

We are prohibited from giving any pest control advice. We are not professionally trained doctors or certified pest control experts therefore we cannot legally give advice about pests. Not only does pest biology vary between states, but the laws do as well. Our community is international, and these all complicate things to a point where we cannot be qualified to answer any questions about pest control.


We highly suggest you read this post by Joe about some basic pest control tips. These will help you identify problems so when you reach out to an expert you will be prepared and have all the necessary samples and information for them.



This article by Nancy will help you assess your risk and your situation as a whole.



When you’re ready, we suggest you follow these links to find your local resources. Generally, universities have extension agents who can also help you.

Find Your Local Resources: (United States) http://npic.orst.edu/mlr.html


General  Question About Insects:

We are still happy to accept general questions about insects related to their biology, ecology, physiology, taxonomy, etc. These are the kinds of questions we set out to answer and these are what we will now be focusing on it. If you submitted a question of this nature, please RESEND your question with “General Question: – your question” as the Subject! Please give us any other further relevant details / photos / locations


Media Requests:

WE have missed many media requests because they often get lost within the swaths of identification requests. If you have a media request, please fill out THIS form.




Moving Forward

We want to answer your questions, because we know you like to learn about bugs. We love teaching people about bugs. We’re finally getting to a point where we can keep making stuff which educates, entertains, and engages you about the wonderful world of bugs!

To do this, we’ve had to simplify our systems and be honest with what we’re capable of. We’ve updated our schedule and we’re returning making the stuff you want us to create. We are excited to return from our unexpected hiatus and continue into the future with you.


Thank you so much for being here and supporting us through this journey.



The Ask an Entomologist Team


Joe, Joanie, & Nancy


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What’s putting bugs in pots on my windowsill?

Written by Joe Ballenger

Does anyone know what kind of worms these are? They were in this mudlike ball stuck to the screen (second pic after it burst open) and when I flicked it to remove it, it busted apart and these 3 worms were inside. They look like miniature alien creatures…lol. My roommate said she saw a wasp hanging around there, but the mudball didn’t look like a wasp nest. It was perfectly round, about the size of a tiny malted milk ball candy. I used the top of my lighter to see a comparison in size, but they were about an inch and a half long. And yes, they were alive.

We get a lot of ID requests, and there’s just not enough time to focus on all the cool insects that people see around them. We do, however, see some insects mentioned with some consistency.

A lot of these posts show us pictures of or mention grey pots filled with caterpillars, almost always caterpillars from the same family: Geometridae (or inchworms).

These nests are pretty easy to ID: they’re the nests of a wasp called Eumenes fraternus. The wasps build these nests out of mud, and sting caterpillars to paralyze them. The wasp’s larvae then feed on the paralyzed caterpillars, until they emerge as a wasp ready to start the cycle anew.

These wasps are also really important. If you see these gals flying around, you don’t need to worry about running into a nest because they don’t make big colonies.

However, they’re very closely related to groups which do. These wasps are the closest evolutionary relatives to paper wasps and hornets, wasps which are famous for constructing nests which house large colonies.


Image credit: Tolweb.org License info: CC BY 3.0

Posted in Behavior, Ecology, Evolution, Identification, Uncategorized | Tagged | 2 Comments

The Household Casebearer is…a little weird. It’s also one of the most common pests we get asked about.

Written by Joe Ballenger

Household casebearer

Photo of household casebearer, from AaE inbox.

We get a lot of questions about household pests, and the biology of these pests can be a bit…weird. Most live in dry areas, and have a lot of adaptations to deal with it. It’s also a good way to be preadapted to human habitation, because our dwellings tend to be very dry and typically don’t have a lot of food.

One of the more common insects we get in our inbox is the insect above, the household casebearer. It’s often confused with clothes moths, although it doesn’t feed on fabrics. It’s a different critter altogether.

The early literature on this species is actually full of misidentifications, and it’s biology isn’t very well known. However, as far as entomologists can tell, it appears this species originated in either Africa or Australia and has hopped around the globe with people. Outside of it’s habitat, wherever it’s found, it’s usually found in association with people…and it doesn’t typically dwell far outside human habitations.

In it’s native habitat-or at least what we think it’s native habitat is-it’s found in conjunction with spiders. The caterpillars tend to live under spider webs, eating the leftovers the spider tosses out when it’s done. In addition to dead insects, it also eats silk from abandoned spiderwebs, webspinners, and other silk producing insects.

From here, it’s pretty easy to understand how this insect could get into houses. There’s a number of spiders which live in houses, which include cobweb builders like Pholcus and Steatoda. In addition, most houses contain some amount of dead bugs which come in from outside and can’t quite gain a foothold.

As a result, control is pretty simple…find and get rid of any cobweb building spiders, and do some deep cleaning in those forgotten recesses. However, it’s also a pretty cool bug. It feeds off the traces other bugs leave behind, and has spread all over the world because of it’s unique lifestyle.

Works Cited

Heppner, J. B. (2005). Notes on the Plaster Bagworm, Phereoeca uterella, in Florida (Lepidoptera: Tineidae). Holarctic Lepidoptera, 10(1-2), 31-32.
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Replay of live video on Anopheles mosquitoes of Madagascar with Riley Tedrow

Hey ya’ll! We’ve been doing these neat live videos with entomologists from all different backgrounds. It’s been almost a year of doing so, but they are only posted to Facebook. From now on we’re going to provide the link to our BeLive videos here!

Replay of live video with Riley Tedrow on Thursday (July 5th) talk about Anopheles Mosquitoes of Madagascar!

Facebook link to talk with Riley Tedrow

Riley is a PhD Candidate at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He currently works on feeding behavior and malaria infection in the Anopheles mosquitoes of Madagascar. He does this by conducting field work in Madagascar – living in remote villages with a small Malagasy team that treats malaria patients as they catch local mosquitoes.

You can also check out Riley’s WordPress here

Posted in Live Video, Medical Entomology, Uncategorized | 1 Comment