Insect collector finds species new to ArkansasFeb. 21, 2011
Jessica Hartshorn, Department of Entomology
Howell Medders, Division of Agriculture Communications
VIDEO: Jessica Hartshorn turned her fear of bugs into a passion for entomology
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — An insect not previously recorded in Arkansas was collected recently by Jessica Hartshorn, a University of Arkansas graduate student in Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences and an avid insect collector.
Hartshorn collected the Acanthocephala declivis specimen, a species of what are commonly called leaf footed bugs, from the brick wall of her house in north Fayetteville. “I recognized it because my undergraduate advisor at Southern Illinois University (in Carbondale) was doing research on the genus,” Hartshorn said.
Other species of leaf footed bugs are common in Arkansas, and Hartshorn has a few in her own collection of several hundred insects. Her former advisor, Professor J.E. McPherson, is studying the range of the genus, which is most common in states further south and southwest. He and colleagues have now recorded the A. declivis species as far north as Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Virginia, as well as Arkansas, which suggests that it may be extending its range to the north.
Hartshorn “caught the bug” for insect collecting, and decided on a future career, when she took a course in invertebrate biology. “I was a pre-vet major and hated bugs. My dad thinks it is hilarious because I used to scream if a bug came anywhere near me.”
Hartshorn said she grew to appreciate the beauty, diversity and vast numbers of insects as well as their importance in nature and interactions with humans. “The world would come to a screeching halt if we didn’t have bugs,” she said.
Arthropod species (insects and other bugs) outnumber all other species of plants and animals combined. There are some 40,000 known species of insects in Arkansas, and unnamed species are found fairly often, according to the website for the University of Arkansas Arthropod Museum. The collector of an unnamed species gets to name it.
“Collecting is a great hobby. Insects are just so beautiful; that’s the main thing for me,” Hartshorn said.
“Most members of the Isley-Baerg Entomology Club are collectors, and we go on collecting outings and trips,” Hartshorn said. Members are mostly graduate students, but undergraduates and others are welcome. Contact the entomology department office for information.
Hartshorn is a graduate assistant to University Professor Fred Stephen, a University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture entomologist who specializes in forest insects. She plans to purse a career in that field. She is helping Stephen conduct a study of wood wasps in Arkansas.
Native wood wasps are beneficial because they eat the wood of dead and dying trees, Hartshorn said. However, a species that kills pine trees has been found in New York and neighboring states and could eventually make it to Arkansas, she said. Studying native wood wasps will help entomologists respond more effectively to a possible invasion of the damaging species.