A time for insects

County weed and pest professionals from around the state and environmental health specialists from F.E. Warren Air Force Base gathered at the College of Agriculture Building March 14-16 for the 13th annual University of Wyoming Entomology Short Course led by Alex Latchininsky and Scott Schell of the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management.

From big-picture concerns, such as grasshopper treatments, invasive aquatic species, and decline of native bees, to microscopic identification of insects, participants examined insects from a range of perspectives.

“The heart of the course is the identification,” said Schell, “but we always cover new topics, including ones participants request.”

Latchininsky, a professor, and Schell, a UW Extension specialist, taught insect identification, from major orders and their characteristics to specimen handling, and the use of a microscope, Peterson’s Field Guide, and Lucid keys, which can be accessed on a cell phone to “drill down” through a matrix of characteristics (wings, legs, mouthparts, body shape, etc.) until possibilities are narrowed or an identification made.

A new resource this year was the pocket-sized guide, “Wyoming’s Stream Macroinvertebrates,” published by the University of Wyoming Berry Biodiversity Institute.

Scott Schell and Marta Iwaseczko of Teton County Weed and Pest view a molted exoskeleton of a large grasshopper species. These insects grow by shedding the old exoskeleton and expanding the new one while it’s still soft.
Scott Schell shows Scott Fischer of Natrona County Weed and Pest a dried insect, which he handles by the head of the pin (not the specimen).
Alex Latchininsky (left) keeps things lively with Bobbi Haley of Big Horn County Weed and Pest and Patrick Bookout of Platte County Weed and Pest.
Matt Jolivet of Natrona County Weed and Pest examines a soft-bodied specimen under the microscope. Immature stages of insects such as moths and sawflies are submerged in a watch glass with preserving fluid for protection and clear viewing.