SOMETHING BUGGIN' YOU?
For two-legged creatures, winter usually means more time spent indoors.
Unfortunately, several species of six-legged creatures prefer to winter within the warmer climate of their two-legged hosts.
In his office at the Ag Service Center in Island City, Oregon Department of Agriculture Entomologist Helmuth Rogg, Ph.D., is examining one such warmth-seeking six-legged critter. Now deceased, it was discovered crawling up a bedroom wall in Cove.
About five-eighths of an inch long, colored in mottled earth tones, the insect resembles the shield-shaped brown marmorated stink bug for which the ODA has issued an invasive species alert.
"That's one ugly bug," a woman peering over his shoulder observes.
Rogg patiently reminds her that for entomologists, "there are no ugly bugs out there."
Indeed, he seems quite at ease while intently examining the creature from all angles. He gently turns it over.
"See that line along here?" Rogg runs an index finger down the length of the bug's underside. "This is its mouth it's like a tube. When it feeds, the tube comes up and out."
He explains that a long, narrow tube design indicates the mouth is meant for sucking juices out of soft-surfaced plant leaves and stems. A shorter, stouter tube design would enable the bug to attack harder surfaces like ... another bug.
Within minutes, the woman peering over Rogg's shoulder has learned a lot about this bug. Rogg does not believe this guy is the marmorated stink bug, but it will be examined under a microscope later to make sure. He graciously thanks her for bringing it in to his office.
Rogg has made the bug world seem interesting. Now the woman finds herself feeling guilty for letting this one freeze to death in a zip-locked sandwich bag.
This is the Rogg family's second winter in Union County. They arrived in the middle of winter last year straight from the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador, where the German-born Rogg worked for the Charles Darwin Foundation. He speaks German, Spanish and English but has forgotten most of his French.
How have the Roggs handled the change from tropical days and nights to the oft times cold and snow-filled clime of Northeast Oregon?
"We love it," says Rogg's wife, Ginger, enthusiastically. She is from North Carolina. When the couple decided to move to the U.S., they purposely looked for job opportunities in the West.
"It's beautiful here. It was not good in the Galapagos everything is political. The environment is being destroyed. Fifteen years ago there were 10,000 people living there. Now there are 30,000. Tourists have increased from 100,000 to 125,000 every year. All the people coming in are ruining it. It is much better for our children here," Helmuth says.
The couple has two children 5-year-old Sebastian and little Isabel, whom they adopted while in the Galapagos Islands. She has just turned 2. The family has settled into La Grande and Rogg has settled into his office, already crowded with file cabinets, manuals, papers, books a couple of which he has written insect traps, computers with a little room left over for Rogg and an extra chair for a visitor.
He has undertaken several projects since joining the team at the Ag Service Center in Island City. His main focus is conducting grasshopper surveys for Eastern Oregon.
"Grasshoppers compete with cattle for pasture," he explains.
But he has also been charged with trapping and surveying for exotic, or invasive, species.
Throughout Eastern Oregon, Rogg set more than 1,200 traps in 2005 61 of them in La Grande. He is looking for Asian and European gypsy moths, the Japanese and oriental beetles, exotic fruit moths, leek moths, the apple and blueberry maggots and an old but recently discovered pest, the potato tuber moth.
"They've been in the U.S. for a long time, but they first discovered them in Oregon in the Columbia Basin in 2002 up near Hermiston," Rogg says.
Because the potato tuber moth comes from South America, Rogg says some have mistakenly thought they would winter kill in the Pacific Northwest.
But the potato tuber moth originated in the high elevations of Bolivia and have adapted to the cold.
In 2005, Rogg conducted a statewide survey to determine how far into the potato-growing regions of Oregon the potato worm had gone. Traps were placed at 53 sites throughout the state, and the moths were found in 10 counties.
Already planning ahead, Rogg says, "Next year, we're going to do more testing set more traps. Right now we're looking at some biological control options."
His mission in Union County along with the rest of ODA's Insect Pest Prevention and Management team is to protect Oregon agriculture, horticulture and the environment from insect damage. Each season he spends studying the insect life here in Northeast Oregon, the more he learns and the better he can do his job. The more bugs he sees, the more knowledge he gains.
So, the next time you're tempted to squish that unusual (ugly) bug take a moment and consider grabbing a plastic baggy. Then call the bug doctor. You'll be glad you did.