The Ken Welch Insect Collection at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
Back in the year 2000, the late Ken Welch suggested that it would be beneficial to have a collection at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) of insects that are of specific interest to arborists and others who care for trees. This collection would be housed in the Jenkins Building of CAES, adjacent to his office, in a collection cabinet to be purchased by the CTPA.
As were most of Ken’s ideas, this one was a good one. However, in order for it to be carried out and for the insect cabinet to be filled, it needs the active participation of arborists from throughout the State of Connecticut. For this reason, CTPA has worked with the Experiment Station and with the Department of Environmental Protection to make available credit hours that arborists who contribute to the insect cabinet can use for the renewal of their arborist license.
A Brief Description
Each arborist who collects 10 insects and has them correctly identified by the CAES staff may receive 2.0 credits towards the renewal of his or her arborist license. These insects must be in good condition, tree-related and collected in Connecticut. More complete details are outlined in the “Instructions for Arborists to get Credit for Collecting Insects for Display in the CTPA Insect Cabinet“.
The primary goal is an extensive collection of tree-care related insects, housed in the CTPA insect cabinet at CAES. A secondary goal is to encourage arborists and others to make use of the resources available to them through CAES. In the process, the people who bring in samples will have the opportunity to learn more about the insects found in trees that influence tree health.
This collection will serve both as a record of tree-care related insects found in Connecticut and as an educational tool. Displays from the cabinet will be used to demonstrate insects to visitors to the insect inquiry office and also as a part of the Arboriculture 101 class. As the insects will be properly recorded and mounted by the staff at CAES, over time, this collection will also serve to document the occurrence of various insects within the State of Connecticut.
What to Collect
Any insect of importance to trees and tree care in Connecticut. Insects do not need to be pests in order to qualify for collecting – predators are also welcome. Parasites and parasitoids that affect insects of importance to tree care may also be offered to the collection.
As one of the goals of this collection effort is to encourage greater interest among tree care workers in the insects that they find in trees, individuals are encouraged to bring in any insects that they find in a tree about which they have an interest, even if that insect turns out not to be related to tree health or tree care. In this sense, it is the process of inquiry that is being given importance.
Please do not collect those invasive insects that are of special concern. Among these insects are the Asian longhorned beetle, the emerald ash borer and the Sirex wood wasp. If you think you may have found one of these insects, leave it in place and call the Experiment Station directly. Someone from the Station will visit the site in a very short period of time. Transporting an invasive insect of this sort presents a grave risk of escape that is not worth taking.
How to Collect Insects
Any standard means of collecting insects is acceptable. Insects must be brought into the Experiment Station in good condition, suitable for display. Perhaps the best way to collect and preserve most insects for transport to the station is to place them in a sealed glass jar and place the jar in the freezer.
For caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects, it may be better to place them in a jar with a small amount of vegetation to keep them moist and alive until they can be brought to the Station. Some insects, such as scales and adelgids, may be best transported left on the plant material to which they are adhering. Good judgment, reasonable care and knowledge of how long it will be before the insect is brought into one of the CAES Insect Inquiry Offices are all important.
Where to Bring the Insects
CAES has two Insect Inquiry Offices – one located in New Haven at the main CAES campus as 123 Huntington Street, the other in Windsor at the Valley Lab at 153 Cook Hill Road. Directions are available through the CAES website (www.ct.gov/caes). In New Haven, the Insect Inquiry Office is headed by Dr. Gale Ridge and Rose Hiskes. In Windsor, the Office is headed by Tom Rathier. You may also contact these individuals if you have questions.
How to Identify Insects
People who bring insects into the Insect Inquiry Office under this program are encouraged to attempt to identify the insect on their own, using such standard references as Insects that Feed on Trees and Shrubs by Johnson and Lyon. However, as it is intended that this effort contain a strong learning component, insects that are not identified or that are misidentified will not present a problem – the staff will work with the individual on the correct identification of that insect. Nonetheless, the effort to identify insects in advance is encouraged.
When the insect is brought into the Insect Inquiry Office, any supporting information that might help with the identification of this insect is welcome. This includes details regarding the species of tree on which the insect was found, the tree’s health, condition, location and surroundings, where on the tree the insect was found and any other factors that might help with narrowing down the identification process. Digital photographs can be very useful and are welcome.
Information Needed for the Collection Records
For archival purposes, insects that are collected need to have with them the name of the person who collected them, the date on which they were collected, the county in which the insect was collected and the GPS coordinates where the insect was collected. This means that careful note-taking on the part of the collector is important.
Even if one does not have a GPS unit or a camera that captures GPS coordinates, ascertaining the GPS coordinates for where an insect was collected is not difficult through the use of Google Earth. Google Earth is a free download, available through earth.google.com. In Google Earth, simply type in the address of the property where the tree is located and, once the software has brought you to the image of the property, move the cursor arrow to the approximate location of where the insect was collected. On the lower part of the screen, the full coordinates of this location will be displayed. Please use latitude and longitude! Simply record these numbers, completely and accurately.
If this sounds too daunting, do not let this stop you from collecting insects or bring them into the Station. Simply record the address at which the insect is collected and the Station staff will be able to help you with the GPS coordinates.
The program recognizes that the person who collects the insect may not be the person who brings it into the Station. For example, a climber might bring an insect down to the arborist supervising the job or a crew might bring an insect in at the end of the day, which the arborist then brings into the Station for identification and also credit. That is fine, as long as the name of the person who actually collected the insect is recorded. Also, the date needs to be the date on which the insect was collected.
The person who brings the insect into the Station must be the arborist who is seeking to receive credit.
If you are looking for a guide as to what insects to collect, you can start with the list of insects that a candidate is required to know for the arborist license. It is important that these insects in particular are well represented in the collection due to their value to those who are studying for the arborist licensing exam. Additionally, any insect that you find that is unusual or is causing notable damage is certainly worth collecting.
Insects in the collection should be represented in their various life stages. Non-pest life stages are apt to be lacking from the collection, as are a full range of the instars of damaging holometabolous insects (the various sizes of caterpillars and grubs). Beneficial insects will also be very helpful for rounding out the collection.