What do entomologists actually do?

In Class 6 this term I planned a role play where half the characters had ‘problems’ and the others pretended to be entomologists who could help solve these problems. Prior to this we did the ‘minimum spanning tree’ activity described in my last post, and we talked about what organisations might employ entomologists.

Problem scenarios Experts who could offer a solution
Tomato plants not fruiting. They need buzz pollination.

“Tomato scanned” by David Besa from Sonoma, USA – Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tomato_scanned.jpg#/media/File:Tomato_scanned.jpg


Don Griffiths, from the UK: You can introduce bumblebees (non native), with specially designed hives to keep the queens from escaping.

Ken Walker from the Museum of Victoria: You can use flowers to attract native bees.

Citrus plants affected by spined citrus bug

Spined citrus bug, Biprorulus bibax. Photo by Jason Green on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/j_green/5255778117
Adrian Nicholas, Senior Entomologist for the NSW Government, Department of Primary Industries. Use an aggregating pheromone to attract all the adult bugs to one place, then remove them. Many other insects can be used to remove the spined citrus bug, so it’s not a good idea to use a wide-spectrum insecticide like pyrethrin.
Vehicle routes for Coles delivery trucks. Tanya Latty, from the University of Sydney: Use studies of ants, who have very small brains but as a group are good at finding the shortest (or most efficient) route.
Maintenance schedule for Hydro Tasmania Wai Kuan Foong (computer scientist): Use ant colony optimization.

The role plays worked well in one group, but not so well in the other. I had given the children cards with quite a bit of text about each of their characters and the background to the issue. I think if I repeat this activity I will split them into groups and spend more time discussing the issue. Then I might have a pre-written script for the children to read out rather than expecting them to adlib (although some of the scenes were pretty funny).