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The Spineless Times

2004. Issue 1   Winter 2003-2004

The official newsletter of the Terrestrial Invertebrate Taxon Advisory Group

Spineless Times Returns

The Spineless Times, the official newsletter of the Terrestrial Taxon Advisory Group (TITAG), is up and running. It was decided at the TITAG meeting held at the Sonoran Arthropod Studies Institute’s (SASI) Invertebrates In Captivity Conference this past summer to revive the newsletter. It is hoped that this newsletter will serve as a central resource of information valuable to all of the Captive Invertebrate Community. With that in mind, please submit information that may be of interest to our community to Bob Merz, Editor of The Spineless Times, St. Louis Zoo,
1 Government Dr., Saint Louis, MO 63110. Email submissions are preferred: Also note that the newletter will be published seasonally, four times a year - Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter - so plan appropriately if submissions are date dependent.

What Do ‘Bugzappers’ Zap?

Electric "bugzappers" are a popular pest control device with sales of about 1 million per year. Apparently a lot of people get some satisfaction from the crackling that indicates another bug has been terminated. However, their use to control mosquitoes and other biting flies, their main market, has always been very questionable. Repeated studies have consistently indicated that they have no benefit for outdoor mosquito control.

A recent article in Entomological News [107(2): 77-82] looked into exactly what was being cooked by the lights in the Newark, DE area. The abstract of this article follows:
" Our survey of insects electrocuted during routine use of electric insect traps revealed only 31 biting flies, a minute proportion (0.22%) of the 13,789 total insects counted. In contrast, species from 12 orders and more than 104 non-target insect families, including 1,868 predators and parasites (13.5%) and 6,670 non-biting aquatic insects (48.4%) were destroyed. The heavy toll on
non-target insects and the near absence of biting flies in catches suggests that electric insect traps are worthless for biting fly reduction - and probably are counterproductive - to homeowners and other consumers."

Cricket Virus Wipes Out Growers in UK & Europe
by Jon Coote

Cricket Growers in Europe and the UK have been seriously impacted by a species-specific parvovirus, presumed to be a densovirus. Commonly known in the UK as ‘cricket paralysis virus’ first appearance in the UK from mainland Europe was in early 2002. All five major commercial cricket

growers in the UK were infected before the end of 2002. This virus specifically attacks only the Common Brown or House cricket (Acheta domesticus), previously the core species in European trade, and the only species in trade in the USA.

In Europe, commercial growers regularly raise three alternative species of cricket, Banded cricket, also known as the Tropical House cricket (Gryllodes sigillatus), African Black Field cricket (Gryllus

bimaculatus), and Silent Brown cricket, also known as Jamaican
Field cricket (Gryllus similis), so the impact of loosing the Brown House cricket is not as serious as it would currently be in the USA.

Infected crickets die without any visible symptoms and at all stages of development, but death rates are heaviest at the pre-wing stage just before adult size. The effect is also cumulative. At first death rates are tolerable and many growers believe that they simply have a husbandry
(cont) See Virus Page 2
Virus (from Page 1)

problem. Within as little as six weeks death rates become catastrophic and all viable commercial production is lost. Though a few adults may still survive, they are in too low numbers to support continued commercial production.

There is no known treatment and, being a virus, probably none will be found. Prevention is the only viable solution at this time. Experiments are being conducted to try to establish the vectors of this virus. I’ve arranged for one UK grower to conduct an experiment to see if the Dermestes beetles (commonly called Fuzzy Bugs) that infest most growers’ colonies are primary vectors of this virus. Other UK growers are trying to determine if any individuals can be found that are resistant to this virus. Imported crickets from the USA have proved to be particularly susceptible.

Where this virus came from is open to speculation, but it apparently first appeared in Germany, were commercial production of this species has now effectively ended. It may ultimately prove to have mutated from a similar virus that infects Wax Moth larvae (Galeria mellonella). These larvae are routinely used in research establishments to maintain a wide variety of insect viruses injected into them that researchers want to study. So this insect species is clearly especially adept at carrying insect viruses of many types and maintaining them in a viable form. It is possible that a mutation could have occurred in this way to ultimately infect Brown House crickets.

My position in both the UK and USA reptile industry, working with T-Rex Products, provides me with a unique opportunity to be able to talk candidly to both reptile breeders and insect growers, as our products complement theirs rather than compete. As a result I was able to call a meeting of all interested parties, including most of the largest US cricket growers, last August, at Wayne Hill’s Reptile Expo in Daytona Beach. Also present was one of the principal US reptile vets and a UK cricket grower, who was able to share his direct experiences with this virus. From that meeting I’ve continued an e-mail correspondence with the group to enable them to better understand this virus and what measures are likely to prevent it impacting on the US.

I’ve been able to establish a likely protocol to clean up after an infection, if that ever occurs, and locate a UK based researcher who would be interested in studying this virus. This researcher is currently working on baculoviruses for insect pest control and is intrigued by our problem. Much of her work focuses on trying to elucidate the ecology of insect diseases (persistence, transmission, etc.) in addition to pest control, which is the sort of study that is required. No one anywhere currently works on insect parvovirus ecology and biology, which does mean that some basic biology needs to be done to start with. If it is a parvovirus, it is presumed to be a densovirus, one of which has been previously reported from the Brown House cricket in a single report in the 1970s, in Montpellier in France. This researcher considers that my idea that it might be passively dispersed by Dermestes beetles is intriguing and perhaps a good place to start, hence the experiment described above.

During my investigations into this subject I came upon another researcher who was raising pathogen-free crickets, i.e. free of bacteria, etc., in special isolator systems. This is a very costly operation producing perhaps the most expensive insects reared worldwide! It could however provide an opportunity to re-colonize with disease free crickets if effective cleanup after this virus proves to be possible. Experiments are underway.

A well known parvovirus infects dogs. Believed to have mutated from feline parvovirus, also known as feline distemper virus, it first appeared in 1978 in the USA. It soon crossed the Atlantic to infect dogs in Europe. It is hoped that strict measures are voluntarily adopted to ensure that this cricket virus does not cross the ‘pond’ in the opposite direction.

All contact with European commercially grown insects should be avoided and imports of these into the USA should cease with immediate effect. It is known that the largest commercial producer of Wax Moth larvae in the UK has shipped surplus stock to the USA in the recent past. This should no longer be considered viable. It may be wise to establish from your supplier if insects are USA home grown or not. The Brown House cricket is commercially extinct in Europe. It would currently be a tragedy if the same situation were to occur in the USA, whilst prevention remains possible.

Jon Coote is a professional herpetologist, trained at the University of Nottingham in the UK. He is Director of Research & Development for T-Rex Products Inc. He is Chairman of the Livestock Advisory Panel, of the UK’s industry association, the Pet Care Trust, and Chairman, and past President, of the International Herpetological Society.

Upcoming Events...

Invertebrate Conservation Symposium
Expanding the Ark: The Emerging Science and Practice of Invertebrate Conservation

American Museum of Natural History
New York City
March 25 and 26, 2004

One of the greatest challenges facing the conservation community today lies in identifying, managing, and conserving invertebrate biodiversity. In direct contrast to their vast numbers, rich diversity, and vital role in terrestrial, marine, and freshwater ecosystems, many invertebrate species and groups remain undescribed and underrepresented in conservation planning management, and policy strategies.

The American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, in collaboration with Conservation International, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Xerces Society, is convening a two-day symposium to examine the status of invertebrate biodiversity, as speakers from around the world consider a broad range of perspectives on how best to advance an invertebrate conservation agenda. Expanding the Ark will provide a venue to engage the scientific community, conservation practitioners, and the public in a dialogue on the fate of invertebrate biodiversity, and to map concrete approaches for future action.

Day One (March 25) will include an overview of the status of invertebrate diversity focusing mainly on both extant marine, freshwater, and terrestrial faunas, but also encompassing invertebrate extinctions; examining the factors threatening invertebrate biodiversity; and exploring the taxonomic and methodological challenges to incorporating invertebrates into mainstream conservation practices.

Day Two (March 26) will delve into practical strategies for conserving and managing invertebrate biodiversity, from single species to whole ecosystem approaches; as well as commercial harvest management, and policy matters related to endangered species regulation and listing criteria.

CALL FOR POSTERS: A limited number of posters will be accepted for presentation. Poster subjects must relate to the symposium’s themes (invertebrate science, policy, management, and restoration) but are not limited geographically. Case studies are encouraged. For details regarding abstract submission, please visit the symposium website at Submission deadline:
Friday, January 9, 2004.

For more information, please visit the symposium website: or email (information will be on the website by September 22)

Traveling Exhibit of Arthropod Photographs

Charles Hedgcock has a traveling exhibit of black and white photographs of arthropods that will be displayed at the Coyote Point Museum for Environmental Education in San Mateo CA. The show will run from Jan 10,2004 - April 25,2004

If you need more info you can look at this page of his web site:

TITAG Midyear Meeting Scheduled

Mark your calendars! TITAG midyear meeting will be held in Louisville at the AZA Eastern Regional Conference, 12-15 May. More specific information will be posted closer to the event.

New Edition Published

2nd Edition
Richard C. Brusca and Gary J. Brusca

January 2003
ISBN 0-87893-097-3, $109.95 casebound


Invertebrates, Second Edition presents a modern survey of the 34
animal phyla (plus the Protista) and serves as both a college course
text and a reference on invertebrate biology. Thorough and
up-to-date, it is organized around the themes of bauplans (body
plans) and evolution (phylogenetics). Each phylum is organized in a standardized fashion, treating the systematics, bauplan (support and movement, feeding and digestion, circulation and gas exchange, excretion and
osmoregulation, nervous system, reproduction and development), and phylogeny. Detailed classifications, phylogenetic trees, and references for all phyla are provided. Tables summarize each phylum's defining attributes. The text is accompanied by an abundance of detailed line drawings and-new to this edition-color photographs.

Other key changes from the First Edition (1990) include: … The incorporation of new developments in phylogenetics, developmental biology, and molecular biology
… Major changes at the highest levels among the invertebrates. Three phyla that appeared in the original book-Pentastomida, Pogonophora, and Vestimentifera-no longer exist, and a new phylum, Cycliophora, has been erected. Moreover, this edition discusses recent work in molecular systematics that has altered classic views on animal classification.

… A large new section on "Kingdom Protista" (replacing "Protozoa") containing new contemporary views of these organisms (arranged in 18

BFCI Hires New Coordinator

The American Association of Zoos and Aquariums announced that the Butterfly Conservation Initiative has hired a program coordinator.

Shelly Grow started in the position on 1 December. Shelly comes from the Henry A. Wallace Center for Agricultural & Environmental Policy at Winrock International in Rosslyn, VA, where she has served as a program associate for three years. Her previous experience includes work as a consultant for CITES, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. She has also served as a butterfly
breeder and tour guide at The Butterfly Farm in La Guacima de Alajuela, Costa Rica. She has a B.A. in Cross-cultural Environmental Studies from Grinnell College and an M.S. from the University of Maryland's Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology program, and has completed facilitator training at the USDA Graduate School in Washington, DC. More information on the BFCI can be found at


The NSW Scientific Committee has recommended that the native-wood feeding cockroach be added to Australia’s endangered species list says the Sydney Morning Herald
10/24. The rare roach is found only on two tiny islets off of Lord Howe Island and desperately in need of “an image overhaul in a last-ditch attempt to save it from extinction.” “This is really a nice-looking sort of cockroach” said a threatened species officer, many people do not “appreciate the need to protect the less telegenic members of the food chain” but “99% of the creatures out there are forgotten invertebrates that keep the wheels turning on the whole ecosystem.”

SASI Calls For Papers

The Sonoran Arthropod Studies Institute is asking for proposals for Papers, Posters, Workshops, Roundtable Discussions and Field Trips for the next Invertebrates in Captivity Conference. The deadline for submissions is February 1, 2004. Conference Program Topics include:

??Terrestrial, Freshwater and Marine Invertebrates
??Education Programs using Invertebrates

??Insect Zoos Butterfly Houses and other Invertebrate Exhibitions
??Invertebrate Conservation Programs and Issues
??Professional Development, Administrative and Regulatory Issues

Please submit your proposals at
The conference dates are August 4-8, 2004 at Rio Rico Arizona.

Scholarship for SASI IICC Available

This year, Ironstar Education is providing a $450 scholarship to attend and a present a paper at the IICC2004. This competitive award is restricted to an undergraduate student presenting an 18 minute submitted paper including a manuscript to be published in the Proceedings. For more details go to

Groups May Sue Over Dragonfly Habitat

A coalition of local and national environmental groups announced plans to sue the USFWS for failing to provide ESA mandated critical habitat protection for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly says the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 10/30. The dragonfly was listed in 1995 and according to the Center for Biological Diversity, the Service’s failure to designate critical habitat within a year of listing has hurt efforts to preserve the few remaining areas of Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Missouri where its spring-fed limestone stream habitat has escaped destruction from urban sprawl and agriculture.

Florida Butterfly
Now Endangered

The Miami blue butterfly, a fragile cornflower-hued insect no bigger than a thumbnail, was granted endangered species status on Wednesday by Florida officials.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, meeting in the Florida Keys, agreed to the classification that gives more formal protections to the last remaining colony in the United States. About 45 to 60 Miami blues live in Bahia Honda State Park, a lush island of swaying palms and coral rock in the Florida Keys. Protection goals there include propagating the insects, which are fenced in at a special restoration area, to increase their number to more than 250 in the next 10 years.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing the Miami blue but has not decided whether to grant federal protection, spokesman Tom MacKenzie said.

The rapid U.S. decline of the Miami blue in the last decade is attributed to Hurricane Andrew in 1992, butterfly collectors, dry environmental conditions and "human-based mortality from pesticide and herbicide spraying," according to the state's Miami Blue Management Plan. But entomologists at the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District dismissed as unfounded claims that mosquito spraying helped to kill off the Miami blue.
Changes affecting Permits explained by USDA

A letter dated October 15, 2003 was issued from the United States Department of Agriculture to PPQ Form 526 permit holders. The following is the text of that letter:

Dear Permit Holder:

This letter is to inform you that several changes have occurred that effect your valid PPQ Form 526 permit to possess and move live plat pests, biological control organisms or noxious weeds. Due to the events of September 11, 2001, and concerns raised by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) has amended the following permit policies:

Shipping Labels: If your permit authorizes you to receive organisms from foreign sources, you have received labels (PPQ Form 599) that you must send to your supplier. Your supplier must affix an original label to the exterior of each package. The label will route the package to a PPQ inspection station at the port of entry into the United States. If there is no label attached to the exterior or the label has been modified, USDA inspectors at all ports of entry have been instructed to refuse entry of the package. Do not photocopy labels. Photocopies will not be accepted and may jeopardize the shipment(s). You have received a 6-month supply of pre-printed labels, each with a unique number. You must account for each of these labels. A tracking sheet has been provided for your convenience or you may design

your own. We will introduce a new tamper-resistant label in the near future. At that time you must return all the older labels to us and submit the tracking sheet for the labels you have used. When we receive your tracking sheet and unused labels, we will issue a new label to you.

Hand Carrying: Effective November 1, 2003 importing organisms on your person, in personal baggage, or automobile under a Plant Pest Permit (PPQ Form 526) will not be allowed. All organisms authorized for importation by these methods under a USDA APHIS PPQ permit issued prior to August 1, 2003, will continue to be allowed only until November 1, 2003, if so authorized on the permit. All organisms being imported in this manner after November 1, 2003 will be seized and moved to the nearest PPQ Plant Inspection Station for destruction unless explicitly authorized on a permit issued on or after August 1, 2003. All importations of organisms under PPQ Plant Pest Permits must be by bonded carriers after November 1, 2003.

Conditions: Carefully read the conditions of your permit. These conditions were designed to prevent dissemination of the permitted organisms or contaminants that may accompany shipments. You must comply with all conditions on the permit. Take special note of specific requirements such as notifications, identifications or other documentation that must be submitted to APHIS. If you cannot or will not comply with the

conditions, immediately return the
permit to us. Failure or refusal to
comply with permit conditions will result in revocation of the permit and possible civil or criminal penalties. Additionally, please be aware that effective March 3, 2003, Plant Protection and Quarantine Permit Services Branch began requiring acknowledgement and acceptance of permit conditions prior to permit issuance. This policy applies to all permit requests including amendments and new permits.

Maintaining Permits: You are responsible for safeguarding the organisms throughout the duration of your permit. You must keep you permit valid as long as the organisms are in your possession. If you leave the institution where the organisms are held, you must either: (1) designate a qualified individual to assume responsibility for the continued maintenance of the organism and he or she must obtain a new permit prior to your departure; (2) apply for a new permit to move the organism to a new facility; or (3) destroy the organisms. In any case, you may notify APHIS to cancel the original permit.

Additional information about USDA APHIS PPQ permitting can be found on our website at or call us at (301) 734-8758.

The letter was signed by Deborah Knott, Chief, Permit Services USDA APHIS PPQ and Robert Flanders, Chief, Pest Permit Evaluations USDA APHIS PPQ.

Report from the TITAG Working Meeting
JULY 30, 2003

Recorded by Gina Phillips, Utah’s Hogle Zoo with help from Rachel Williams, Kallima Consultants, and Renee Lizotte, Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.

Jane McEvoy, Columbus Zoo
Randy Morgan, Cincinnati Zoo
Erin Sullivan, Woodland Park Zoo
Michael Miller, National Zoo
Renee Lizotte, ASDM
Julia Gregory, Tennessee Aquarium
Lou Perrotti, Roger Williams Park Zoo
Mitch Magdich, The Toledo Zoo
Ruth Allard, AZA
Mary Jo Andersen, Oregon Zoo
Gina Coffman, Woodland Park Zoo
Jim Hitchiner, Roger Williams Park Zoo
Bob Merz, Saint Louis Zoo
Jane Stevens, Saint Louis Zoo
John Fazzini, El Bosque Nuevo
Gina Phillips, Utah’s Hogel Zoo
Michael Weissmann, Kallima Consultants/IABE
Rachel Williams, Mom
Celia Stuart Whitman, Day Butterfly Center, Callaway Gardens
Madison Wehling, Daughter
Andrea Schepmann, Cincinnati Parks-Krohn Conservatory
Martin Feather, San Antonio Zoo
Wayne Wehling, USDA APHIS PPQ

Recognition was given to Ed Spevak for the tremendous amount of work he did. Best wishes to him on his current endeavors!

What is a TAG?

Must be an AZA accredited zoo (currently 212 members; 46 TAG’s)
• TAG works with taxon; consider all animals in an institution
• Networking – find partnerships to make our efforts more effective
• TAG’s serve as resources; experts
• TAG’s set recommendations for RCP and ICP

Committee Reports
Conservation Committee (Mitch Magdich)
There are small conservation grants available. Any institution can apply for them. The guidelines are in the RCP. One institution has applied.

Lou Perrotti, from Roger Williams Zoo, reported on a new project his institution is working on in Papua, New Guinea. It is a biodiversity study. Nothing is really known about the biodiversity in that region. They are currently training the local people. The local people have the “bush” knowledge, but lack the scientific training. A building can be constructed for a mere $400, but equipment is needed, (i.e.: computers, drying racks, solar panels, etc…) The goal is to collect caterpillars from the wild, raise them, and photograph them at every stages. Lou plans to return in October, hopefully to break ground on the building.

Mary Jo Anderson, from Oregon Zoo, reported on the Oregon Silverspot Butterfly. This project is in its fourth year. They are working with the Nature Conservancy, Fish and Wildlife, Woodland Park Zoo and the Lewis and Clark College. At the time of the meeting, they were in the middle of caterpillar season. The zoo has dedicated working space. A CEF grant was
obtained two years ago, and the building should be done this year.

Erin Sullivan, from Woodland Park Zoo, reported on the Partula snails. Mary Noell, formerly of Zoo Atlanta, currently at Cincinnati Zoo is the studbook keeper. Woodland Park, St. Louis Zoo, Detroit Zoo are currently involved in the project. Partula snails are currently the only invertebrate that is involved with an SSP. They have been in captivity for 15 years.

Conference Committee (Randy Morgan)
An invertebrate paper session for National AZA has been approved: Metamorphosis of an Idea; Integrating Butterfly Conservation in Your Zoo.

Spider Sub group
Tom Mason, Toronto Zoo, and Bob Wolff, University of South Carolina, are still working on spiders. The results of the Brachypelma survey will be out soon.

BFCI (Butterfly Conservation Initiative)
• 2005 Symposium on education approved. Will be held in Florida.
• Three main focal areas: Research; Recovery; Education

• Boxers at IICC – hope to sell all that are left
• Education booklet (to be updated and reprinted)
(cont) See TITAG Page 6
TITAG (from Page 6)

• CD’s: spiders, butterflies in the curriculum
• Pins with logos (to sell/trade)

• Trip to Mexico as a fundraiser; Zoo Coordinators for trips to be approached. (This suggestion is being looked into to see if it is a possibility.)
• Possible local trips
• Raffle to attend a trip and work alongside a researcher.

TITAG Listserv:
Listserv is for Steering committee, IR’s and general members. If anyone is interested in joining the listserv, or has any changes please contact Diane Barber at

Spineless times:
Bob Merz (St Louis Zoo) is the Spineless Times editor. Articles and information should be sent to him.

Web Site
Allen Peters (National Zoo) may be working on the TITAG website. The basics are up, but it needs to be updated.

Education committee
Andrea Schepman, Jane Stevens, Mitch Magdich, Lou Perrotti , Katie Remine.

The newly formed education committee is going to work on updating the current TITAG curriculum and look into making it available in electronic format.

Other business
Discussion of TITAG being a partner with SASI (non-money partner). What roll can/should the TAG play?

Regional Collection Plan (RCP)
The RCP is a working document
The previous draft of the RCP can be separated into two categories:

1. List of invertebrates on exhibit at other zoos and invertebrates of conservation interest that are either currently in collections or are being currently considered for collections.

2. Invertebrates of conservation interest, not currently in collections or being considered.

The TAG is currently setting aside #2 for the moment and focusing on #1. Not because the second half of the RCP is not important but more because it is such a daunting task that we decided to set attainable goals and once section #1 is finished we will start work on section 2. The second half of the meeting was a working meeting on the collection plan.

Action Items
1. Finish RCP (steering committee) Feb 2004.

2. Make an education fundraising opportunity (Education committee, Jane Stevens) First draft March 2004.

3. Regular printing of spineless times (Bob Merz) Quarterly, first one in January 2004

4. Production of pins (Diane Barber) Pins finished March 2004

5. Definition of TITAG roll with SASI (Steering committee) February2004

6. Update web site (Erin Sullivan) Feb 2004

TITAG Steering Committee
Erin Sullivan, Chair
Diane Barber, Vice-chair
Jane McEvoy, Treasurer
Gina Phillips, Secretary
Tom Mason, Member
Randy Morgan, Member
Mitch Magdich, Member
Andy Snider, Member

Spineless Times is the official newsletter of the Terrestrial Invertebrate Taxon Advisory Group (TITAG) of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. It is published seasonally, four times a year. Submissions should be sent to Bob Merz, Zoological Manager of Invertebrates, Saint Louis Zoo, 1 Government Dr., Saint Louis MO 63110. Email submissions are preferred. Send to

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