Illinois Natural History Survey News

Illinois Natural History Survey News

  • 10/1/2013

    Fall is the time for many insects to start making their ways indoors for the winter.  The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), Halyomorpha halys is believed to have been introduced from Asia and can be a pest on tress and crops.  

    Researchers are still trying to determine the range of the BMSB and need your help.  If you believe you have BMSB, we would be very interested in looking at it. (click image at left to enlarge) To positively confirm any insect as BMSB, we need to look at an actual specimen. Suspect stink bugs may be sent to Kelly Estes, 1816 S. Oak St., Champaign, IL 61820. Please put stink bugs in a crush-proof container (pill bottle, check box, etc).

    Illinois CAPS Blog

    Factsheet on BMSB

  • 10/1/2013

    CAPS logoThe schedule is up for the First Detector workshops for 2014.  This program, a cooperative effort between University of Illinois Plant Clinic, University of Illinois Extension, and the Illinois Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey Program (Illinois Natural History Survey, Prairie Research Institute), is a great way to learn about new pests, diseases, and plants heading into Illinois.  Last year, the trainings focused on forested ecosystems; this year the focus is on Landscape and Nursery pests.

    Objectives of the Illinois First Detector Program:

    • Improve first-detector training and invasive species awareness 
    • Reduce potential risk from pathogens and pests
    • Increase rapid and affordable plant diagnostic support to local, state, and national agriculture and green industry programs as well as other end users.

    Dates for the 2014 First Detector Workshops

    January 14     Peoria
    January 16     Collinsville
    February 20    Murphysboro
    February 27    Rockford
    March 12         Decatur
    March 27        Joliet

    Illinois CAPS website

     Download flyer

  • 9/5/2013

    timber rattlesnakeA timber rattlesnake was found dead on the road near Carrollton, Illinois, which according to INHS Herpetologist Chris Phillips was a "little bit shocking."  Timber rattlesnakes have been declining in Illinois and are classified as threatened under the Illinois Endangered Species Act.  Phillips, who has studied snakes for the past 25 years in Illinois was contacted by The Telegraph newspaper about this unusual find and said the sighting was odd, not just because of the rarity of the species, but the species is typically found along the bluffs closer to the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers.  

    The Telegraph

    Timber Rattlesnake Page

    Venomous Snakes of Illinois Page

  • 9/4/2013

    Joe SpencerINHS Behavioral Entomologist Joe Spencer is looking at rotation-resistant western corn rootworms, which are causing severe injury to crops. Crops modified to resist infestation by insects and crop rotation are some of the methods to control injurious insects, but some rootworms have developed resistance to these mechanisms. Repeated use of the modified corn year after year has given the rootworms time to adapt. Producers are encouraged to watch their fields for injury.  

    The Bulletin

    The Globe

    Investor Place

  • 9/4/2013

    cummings and tiemannOver the course of a week, 1000 endangered mussels were collected from under a bridge construction site in Pennsylvania, packed for safe transport, quarantined, marked, measured, and released into new sites in Vermilion County, Illinois.  This is the third relocation from Pennsylvania to Illinois as part of the Species Survival Plan for two endangered mussels, the northern riffleshell and the clubshell.

    News Gazette Article

    Press Release

    Inside Illinois Press Release


  • 8/26/2013

    differential grasshopperfossil differential grasshopperINHS Paleo-entomologist Sam Heads and collaborator Yinan Wang recently described the first fossil record of the differential grasshopper.  The specimen, a species which is still alive today, was found in material from the Late Pleistocene McKittrick tar pits of southern California.

    Heads Laboratory Webpage

  • 8/26/2013

    northern riffleshellINHS researchers Jeremy Tiemann, Kevin Cummings, Sarah Bales, Alison Price, and Diane Shasteen are working to reintroduce endangered northern riffleshell and clubshell mussels to sites in Vermilion County.  Approximately 1000 mussels were collected from the Alleghany River in Pennsylvania, under a bridge slated for replacement in 2018. Following quarantine and tagging, the mussels will be released at sites found to meet the requirements necessary for survival.  

    Press Release

  • 8/19/2013

    mosquitoGlencoe, Northbrook, Wilmette, Kenilworth have all had mosquitoes test positive for West Nile Virus in August.

    Winnetka-Glencoe Patch
    Northbrook Star
    Wilmette-Kenilworth Patch

    INHS Medical Entomology Lab

    Tips and information about protecting yourself and the community from West Nile Virus from North Shore Mosquito Abatement District

  • 8/16/2013

    monarchINHS Entomologist Michael Jeffords was interviewed about the current state of monarch butterflies in Illinois.  

    “Last year’s drought had a twofold effect. Fewer monarchs were produced in the Midwest, and those that were had a tough time migrating to Mexico as they had a thousand miles of virtually nectarless landscape to cross in Texas and northern Mexico," Jeffords said.

    Herald Review

    Species Spotlight on Monarch Butterflies

  • 7/12/2013

    OspreyTara banding ospreyINHS Ornithologist Tara Beveroth is assisting the Illinois Department of Natural Resources as they work to restore osprey populations in Illinois.  Five nestling osprey were brought from Langley Airforce Base in Virginia to the Illinois Raptor Center in Decatur, where they were given health assessments, fed, measured, and banded.  This it the first of a series of osprey translocations over the next ten years.

    Decatur Herald-Review Article

    Video of Osprey being fed - by Tara Beveroth

  • 7/12/2013

    mosquitoMosquito samples from Morton Grove tested positive for West Nile Virus at the INHS Medical Entomology Lab.

    Niles Morton Grove Patch

    INHS Medical Entomology Homepage

  • 7/9/2013

    samfossil insectINHS Entomologist Sam Heads is part of a collaborative effort to digitize fossil insect collections across the country.  The Fossil Insect Collaborative is a joint venture between the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH), the American Museum of Natural History, the Yale Peabody Museum, the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, the University of Colorado, the University of Illinois, and the University of Kansas. According to the Fossil Insect Collaborative, "Fossil insects provide a unique deep-time record of ecological and evolutionary response to past environmental changes and therefore are invaluable for understanding the impacts of climate change on the current biodiversity crisis."  The project officially kicked off the 1st of July, 2013.

    Fossil Insect Collaborative

    Heads Lab of Systematic Entomology & Insect Paleontology

  • 6/26/2013

    western corn rootwormUniversity of Illinois researchers, including INHS Behavioral Entomologist Dr. Joseph Spencer, found that differences in the microbial community in the gut of western corn rootworms (WCR) can change their ability to survive crop rotation.  Crop rotation, switching between corn and soybeans is used as a method to control WCR as soybean leaves are typically toxic to WCR.  Researchers have found that some WCR are able to survive long enough on soybeans to reproduce.  This study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found "significant and consistent differences in the relative abundance of various types of bacteria in the guts of rotation-resistant and nonresistant rootworms. These differences corresponded to differing activity levels of digestive enzymes in their guts and to their ability to tolerate soybean plant defenses."

    Dr. Spencer is quoted as saying, "It's not just the rootworm that we have to worry about. There's really this whole conspiracy between the rootworm and its co-conspirators in the gut that can respond fairly quickly, relatively speaking, to the assaults that they face."

    Press Release

    Read the full article in the Early Edition section of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

  • 6/19/2013

    eastern box turtleFor the past 49 years, box turtles have been collected from the wild and brought to Danville for the annual Turtle Reunion and Races, a charity event.  This has been a concern to herpetologists, including INHS Herpetologist Chris Phillips and U of I Wildlife Veterinarian Matt Allender (an INHS Affiliate), for several reasons including the possibility of spreading diseases.  The two scientists have been collaborating on a long term study of the health of box turtles in Vermilion County.  They have been testing for diseases including ranavirus, a contagious disease with high mortality that is also a threat to amphibians. Allender said ranavirus has been classified as the biggest threat to amphibian biodiversity.

    After speaking with IDNR, the president of the Turtle Club, Mike Puhr, said that they will stop the racing of live turtles because they don't want to contribute to the disease problem among the turtle population.

    News Gazette Article

  • 5/6/2013

    buffaloINHS Fisheries Research Scientist Josh Sherwood was called out by WCIA to catch and identify some large fish found in a drainage ditch.  The large fish were Bigmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus), usually found in large rivers, but spawn in tributaries.  The flooding caused by the recent heavy spring rains likely allowed the adults to swim up to these ditches where they will lay their eggs before returning downstream.


    For more information visit the Sport Fish Ecology Lab  or WCIA news video

  • 4/8/2013

    INHS Botanist John Taft and Outreach Coordinator Jen Mui were quoted in an article in the Chicago Tribune about skunk cabbage.  Skunk cabbage, Illinois' earliest flowering native plant, gets its name from the foul odor produced as it generates heat.  The heat and odor attract pollinators including flies, carrion beetles and honey bees.  A link to a video about skunk cabbage pollination produced by the Outreach Department was also included in the article.

    Chicago Tribune

    INHS YouTube channel

  • 4/5/2013

    TiemannINHS Researcher Jeremy Tiemann is part of a team working to relocate endangered mussels from a bridge construction site in Pennsylvania to Illinois rivers.  The first mussels (relocated in 2010) were given PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tags to allow monitoring and after a year and a half, approximately 80% of the relocated mussels had survived.  An additional 1200 were transplanted in 2012, and now, new locations are being sought for additional transplants.

    Enquirer Herald

    News Gazette

  • 4/5/2013

    catching waterfowlResearchers at the INHS Forbes Biological Station have banded lesser scaup over the past two seasons to examine their use of restored habitats.  Director Heath Hagy hopes to have funding to continue taking blood samples to look at metabolites and contaminants in the birds.

    “There are a lot of scaup here,” Hagy said. “We are catching 200-400 per day and we are only getting 10-20 recaptures, so there are a ton of birds out there."

    State Journal Register

  • 3/18/2013

    mateus-pinillaINHS Wildlife Epidemiologist Nohra Mateus-Pinilla has been investigating the recent beaver die off at Meadowbrook Park.  Although there is no "conclusive evidence," Mateus-Pinilla said, "but it appears that the only thing that could have caused the die-off is an outbreak of tularemia."  Toxins from run-off, and other diseases including leptospira and salmonella were ruled out and other evidence pointed to tularemia. 

    Tularemia are common bacteria.  "They are present in rabbits and squirrels," Mateus-Pinilla said. "They are part of the natural ecosystem."

    Environmental Almanac

  • 2/28/2013

    INHS researchersThe Illinois Department of Natural Resources has released a press release today that INHS researchers and their collaborators have confirmed the presence of White Nose Syndrome - a disease fatal to several of our bat species - here in Illinois.  Read more about this problem and the work our researchers are doing to understand it:

    INHS White Nose Syndrome Website


    The Southern


    State Journal Register

  • 2/5/2013

    shrimpINHS Astracologist Christopher Taylor and INHS Ichthyologist Emeritus Larry Page were  interviewed about an unusual animal found during aquatic surveys in Lake County in NE Illinois.  Lake County Forest Preserve staff turned up a "Palaemonetes kadiakensis," glass shrimp or Mississippi grass shrimp, whose range is typically further south.

    Taylor said that there are only five species of freshwater shrimp in North America and this particular species has adapted to live further north than the others.

    Page added that this species is usually found in cleaner streams, so this could be a good sign for the health of Des Plaines River.

    Chicago Tribune

    AP story in Daily Herald

    AP story in Washington Examiner

  • 2/1/2013

    steve baileyINHS Ornithologist Steve Bailey told the Chicago Tribune that Danville has "the largest winter roost of crows that we know about in the U.S. and Canada."  Christmas Bird Counts found 121,500 crows, whereas a year ago, the count was 238,000.

    INHS Affiliate Mike Ward added that the drought caused a resurgence of West Nile virus, to which crows are particularly vulnerable.

    Crows rebound well, which might be bad news for the residents of Danville who have unsuccessfully tried many things including trucks with a "cannon" booming to scare the birds. 

    Chicago Tribune

  • 11/16/2012

    yetterINHS Waterfowl Ecologist Aaron Yetter conducts weekly aerial surveys and on Nov 13 found more waterfowl than average for this time of year.
    Yetter counted 305,310 ducks along the Illinois River compared to the10-year average of 234,434 birds for this same week and 356,735 ducks on the Upper Mississippi River compared to the 10-year average of 226,801 birds.
    "It looks like we got a big push of new mallards.  We also have well above average numbers of pintails, gadwalls, lesser scaup and other species."

    Field and Stream

    Waterfowl 360

    Aerial Invetory Data

  • 11/9/2012

    INHS Herpetologist Chris Phillips was interviewed for a recent installment of Environmental Almanac.  Phillips was contacted by a photographer who captured an image of an elusive, fully aquatic amphibian known as a siren, being eaten by a Great Blue Heron in Vermilion County.  Sirens are known from southern Illinois but have never been detected by the extensive INHS herpetological surveys of Vermilion County over the past 20 years.  Phillips said "It goes to show you there are still some surprises out there for a herpetologist in the Midwest."

    Photo by Jessica Runner
    Photo by Jessica Runner

    Environmental Almanac

  • 11/9/2012

    SpyreasINHS Botanist Greg Spyreas was interviewed for a radio segment on WBEZ, a Chicago based NPR affiliate.  The host of Curious City contacted Spyreas to find out how to find the most biologically diverse place in Chicago.  His suggestion was to find large areas with a variety of habitats and indicator species, such as Powderhorn Prairie and Marsh on the southeast side of Chicago.

    According to Spyreas, "The Chicago Region probably has more habitat types and species than just about any other comparably sized area in the Midwest, due to its fortuitous geographic location, soils, topography, glacial history, lake Michigan, etc. And it is certainly one of if not the  most important in terms of biodiversity. "

    Read the full article