UPM insect lab keeps participants guessing

Jim Kalisch, Nebraska Extension entomology diagnostician, will have on exhibit 90-some insects at the Urban Pest Management Conference lab in Lincoln Feb. 21-22. Photo: Bob Roselle

February 14, 2017

Lincoln, Neb. — When the insect laboratory opens during the Urban Pest Management conference in Lincoln Feb. 21-22, Jim Kalisch expects to see a few old friends and meet new acquaintances. Too, he’ll probably be introduced to a few new insects.

The 25th Nebraska Extension UPM insect lab is expected to attract around 150 pesticide applicators. This year they’ll attend the conference and lab to obtain credits for certification renewal in categories that include wood destroyers such as termites, and structural pests such as rodents and roaches.

Lab participants are invited to examine 90-some insects on display, and, in some cases, see the damage they can do. Insect crossword puzzles and guessing games also entertain participants.

“There’s a lot to explore,” Kalisch said. “The more time you spend there the more you learn.” Added the University of Nebraska Department of Entomology diagnostician: “It’s pretty unique for our region to have a lab like this. Plus, participants can get research-based information on how to treat particular problems right on the spot.”

Some participants, driven to learn, like to spend extra time in the lab. Others enjoy longtime friendships, camaraderie and access to Extension expertise. Likely all can discover something new.

“In the lab is ahigh diversity of insects that many have not encountered,” Kalisch said. Take, for example, the brown marmorated stinkbug. The relatively new-to-Nebraska insect originated in Asia and was discovered in Pennsylvania about 20 years ago. It sucks juices from many fruit and garden crops and, like boxelder bugs, takes up winter residence in homes. Not surprisingly, when squashed the stinkbug emits a strong odor.

Participants are encouraged to bring insects to the lab for identification. Kalisch routinely photographs new insects, adding them to the 8,000 original images in his photo library.

Fun exercises and top prizes again are in store this year. To entertain participants while they learn, Kalisch annually creates an insect crossword puzzle. One year participants guessed the number of pests on a sticky trap. Another year involved guessing the number of cells in a huge, 15-inch European paper wasp nest that, ironically, came from the front porch of another UNL entomologist. Kalisch didn’t count them himself – a computer program did that – but a beekeeper came very close to guessing the 1,742 cells.

For conference information, see http://nspca.org

Jim Kalisch
Department of Entomology

Author: Cheryl Alberts