Featured Arthropod: Gonatopus brooksi, Olmi 1984 (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae)

gonatopus-brooksiParasites are a world of wonders and parasitic wasps are no different. The larvae of the Dryinid wasps are known to parasitize leafhoppers (Andersen & Nielsen 1987). In this bizarre family we find the tiny wasp Gonatopus brooksi (Olmi, 1984; Hymenoptera: Dryinidae). The female wasp grasps leafhoppers (presumably Psammotettix lividellus (Andersen & Nielsen 1987)) with her front tarsi, which has been modified into a pair of pincers, and quickly paralyzes the insect for the egg laying process. The larvae grow on the outside of nymph and adult leafhoppers in a small sack, from where they eat the tissue of the leafhopper. The male of this wasp species is not yet known, which makes these little guys ever more fascinating (Böcher et al. 2015).

Thanks to Massimo Olmi we know that this species has only been recorded 20 times throughout the USA (16 records (Olmi unpublished)), Canada (2 records (Olmi, unpublished) and once (Olmi 1984) in Greenland (Andersen & Nielsen 1987)). This
genus, however, will be updated next year by Olmi, partly due to this year’s field work in Narsarsuaq, Greenland. During this summer 17 observations of G. brooksi were made through pitfall trapping by a couple of students of Aarhus University. When looking back, 3 individuals were also found in the material collected from pitfalls in 2014 in Narsarsuaq. Some of the specimens have been confirmed by Olmi through photos. Together these observations have doubled the amount of records of this species. If the males have not been found before next summer, it should be fairly possible to  find it during next year’s field work.

Mathias G. Skytte

References and links:

  • Böcher, J. et al. 2015. The Greenand Entomofauna: An identification Manual of Insects, Spiders and Their Allies. – Fauna entomologica Scandinavica; v. 44
  • Andersen, M. & Nielsen, P. 1987. Gonatopus brooksi Olmi 1984 found in Greenland (Hymenoptera, Dryinidae). – Ent. Med. 55:21-22.
  • Olmi, M. 1984. Revision of the Dryinidae – Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute 37:1-1913-
  • Olmi unpublished. A new revision of the Gonatopus genus is coming out in 2017.

NeAT meeting registration

Finally, we are ready with a registration form for the 1st NeAT meeting at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Aarhus University in Aarhus, Denmark on 15.-16. November 2016.

The deadline for registration and abstract submission is 1 September 2016. Please register even if you have been in contact earlier.

The registration form is available here:


We are very happy to announce, that the meeting itself will be free-of-charge. We will even be able to offer a free conference dinner on 16 November. However, participants are asked to arrange their own accommodation (see suggestions in the form) and travel to Aarhus.

We are working on organizing a special issue of Polar Biology for contributions from NeAT. Please get in contact as soon as possible if you are interested in contributing.

I hope to see many of you in Aarhus in November!

Best wishes,


More information about the conference: Toke T Høye

Summer 2016 Campaigns

  • Zackenberg, Northeast Greenland – Tomas Roslin and colleagues will be working at Zackenberg as usual, from the first days of June to August. There will be a mixed set of people coming and going (Tuomas Kankaanpää, Bernhard Eitzinger, Tea Huotari, Mikko Tiusanen, Elisabet Ottosson, and Riikka Kaartinen with her team from the UK). In particular, we will be focusing on spatial variation in interaction network structure along elevational and phenological gradients, with a special emphasis on
    plant-pollinator, plant-herbivore and predator-prey interactions. They will be working towards the Panarctic Parasitoid Project.
  • Station Nord, North Greenland – Oskar Hansen and Tobias Sandfeld from Aarhus University (AU), Denmark will sample arthropods with pitfall and malaise traps in this location in the far north and collect samples of Nysius groenlandicus for lab experiments Disko Island, West Greenland – Toke Høye, Kristian Jakobsen and Jean-Claude Kresse (AU) will do a screening project possibly leading to a new monitoring program for arthropods within the Greenland Ecosystem Monitoring programme.
  • Narsarsuaq, South Greenland – Toke Høye, Mathias Skytte, Thøger Henriksen, Maja Møholt (AU) will continue monitoring arthropods in permanent plots in combination with targeted projects on mosquitos, wolf spiders and herbivorous insects. Brent Sinclair and Susan Anthony will visit from Western University, Canada to study cold tolerance in wolf spiders at the same site.
  • Yukon – Shaun Turney (PhD student with Chris Buddle) will be at Tombstone Park in the Yukon Territory to do some experimental work on the effects of spider predators on the mesofauna living in the tundra. He will also be doing feeding trials to try to assess and quantify what spiders are eating in sub-Arctic habitats. This work will be part of Shaun’s PhD on the structure of arthropod-based food webs in the Yukon.
  • Cambridge Bay, Nunavut – Ecological monitoring of arthropods will be continuing in Cambridge Bay, headed by researchers at the Canadian High Arctic Research Station: this will be the third year of monitoring in that area. Former McGill MSc student Elyssa Cameron will be playing a role in overseeing that monitoring project.
  • Alaska – Amanda Koltz will be travelling to Toolik, Alaska to plan the implementation of an arthropod monitoring program as part of the Arctic LTER.

Featured arthropod: Gynaephora groenlandica, Hübner, 1819


If there is one charismatic Arctic invertebrate, it has to be
the Arctic woolly bear moth, Gynaephora groenlandica
(Wocke, 1874; Lepidoptera: Erebidae: Lymantriinae). G. groenlandica is one of two species in the genus
Gynaephora occurring in North America. G. groenlandica was thought to be a High-Arctic endemic
species until recently, when a new subspecies was described from alpine areas in the SW Yukon (G. g.
beringiana (Barrio et al. 2013); see also Lukhtanov and Khruleva (2015) for a taxonomic revision). Still, the Arctic woolly bear moth is one of the best examples of a cold-adapted species, with overwintering caterpillars that have served as model organisms for understanding physiological adaptations to freeze tolerance (Kukal et al 1988, 1989).

G. groenlandica has an extraordinarily extended developmental period of up to 7 years (Morewood and Ring 1998). Low temperatures constrain the feeding activities and metabolism of caterpillars during the short Arctic growing season, and biotic factors like parasitism and phenology of its host plant further confine larval activity to a brief period after snowmelt. To avoid the peak of activity of adult parasitoids (Kukal and Kevan 1987) during mid-summer, caterpillars spin silky hibernacula and become dormant until the next spring (Kukal and Dawson 1989).

-Isabel Barrio

References and links
Barrio, I. C. et al. 2013. First records of the Arctic moth Gynaephora groenlandica (Wocke) south of the Arctic Circle – a new alpine subspecies. – Arctic: 1–15.
Bennett, V. A. et al. 1999. Metabolic opportunists: feeding and temperature influence the rate and pattern of respiration in the high arctic woollybear caterpillar Gynaephora groenlandica (Lymantriidae). – J. Exp. Biol. 202: 47–53.
Kukal, O. and Kevan, P. G. 1987. The influence of parasitism on the life history of a high arctic insect, Gynaephora groenlandica (Wocke) (Lepidoptera: Lymantriidae). – Can. J. Zool. 65: 156–163.
Kukal, O. and Dawson, T. E. 1989. Temperature and food quality influences feeding behavior, assimilation efficiency and growth rate of arctic woolly-bear caterpillars. – Oecologia 79: 526–532.
Kukal, O., Duman, J.G. and Serianni, A.S. 1988. Glycerol metabolism in a freeze-tolerant arctic insect: An in vivo 13-C NMR study. – J. Comp. Physiol. B 158: 175-183.
Kukal, O., Duman, J.G. and Serianni, A.S. 1989. Cold-induced mitochondrial degradation and cryoprotectant synthesis in freezetolerant arctic caterpillars. – J. Comp. Physiol. B 158: 661-671.
Lukhtanov, V. A. and Khruleva, O. A. 2015. Taxonomic position and status of
Arctic Gynaephora and Dicallomera moths (Lepidoptera, Erebidae, Lymantriinae). – Folia Biol. (Praha). 63: 69–75.
Morewood, W. D. and Ring, R. A. 1998. Revision of the life history of the High
Arctic moth Gynaephora groenlandica (Wocke) (Lepidoptera: Lymantriidae). – Can. J. Zool. 76: 1371–1381.
Caterpillar survives frozen death

1st NeAT Meeting

Date: Tue 15 Nov Thu 17 Nov

Time: 08:00    17:00

Location: AIAS, Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Høegh-Guldbergs Gade 6B, bygning 1632

The Network for Arthropods of the Tundra (NeAT) is working towards increased international collaboration on topics related to arthropods in alpine and polar environments. Arthropods are highly sensitive to environmental change and arctic and alpine environments are changing rapidly as a consequence of global warming. It is therefore more relevant than ever to unite efforts and study tundra arthropods.

We are very happy to invite you to join the 1st NeAT meeting at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Aarhus University, Denmark. This meeting will present the latest topical research and provide a venue for informal interaction among researchers across the world.

More information about the conference: Toke T Høye

Time to grab the big picture!

Dryas octopetalaNo team can work across the entire Arctic. But maybe we do not need to, either? By breaking up bigger tasks into ‘distributed experiments’, we can achieve almost anything: By conducting the same, short protocol at as many sites as possible, we can get a grip on bigger patterns, without a major loss of time and effort for anyone. Thus, by working together, we can accomplish what our network was founded to do: answering important questions in polar ecology at a scale inaccessible to any single research group.

With this objective in mind, it is time to join forces – this time to quantify the food webs regulating insect herbivores across the Arctic. What we hope to achieve is a description of how food webs of Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) and their natural enemies (parasitoid wasps and flies) vary across the Arctic – and how this reflects into a key ecosystem service: flower damage on avens (Dryas).

The sampling routine will require no more than a few hours of work during 2 (or 3) days, spaced about a week apart.

We hope that all NeAT members will join our initiative. Together, we expect to have fun implementing the new project – and to again do important science.

For more information on the project (including how to sign up), please click here. Then keep watching these web pages as we add material and specific instructions during the winter.

Best wishes,
Tuomas Kankaanpää & Tomas Roslin

Summer 2015 Campaigns

How did the summer campaigns go? Here’s what NeAT researchers said about this summer’s work in Greenland and North America:

Northeast Greenland –Tomas Roslin (from University of Helsinki)

At Zackenberg, the summer was late, wet and snowy. To sample arthropods, we used skis until the end of June. A total of five people worked in the valley during different parts of the summer, with our main focus on fungal-plant, host-parasitoid and plant-pollinator interactions. Given the late summer, we miserably failed to implement the background herbivory project (our apologies!), but will try again next year. In the Arctic, no years are brothers…

Yukon – Shaun Turney (PhD student with Chris Buddle, from McGill University)

In July 2015, I studied Arctic arthropods along the Dempster Highway in the Yukon. The Dempster Highway makes a fascinating study system, with a huge amount of variety over a distance that can be driven easily in a day. In the north (67 deg N), the sun shone brightly at all hours, the mosquitoes swarmed, and tree stands looked like bonsai gardens. In the south (65 deg N), we experienced brief twilight nights, ground squirrels were abundant while mosquitoes were scant, and lush forests dominated some of the valleys.

South Greenland –Joe Bowden (from Aarhus University)

Toke T. Høye, myself and a number of others (Aarhus University) headed to Narsarsuaq, South Greenland over the summer in continuation and expansion of our monitoring program. It was a particularly late summer for us as snow was not melted from the mountain tops by the time I left during the final week of June. Oskar LP Hansen, who remained in Narsarsuaq for the summer noted that the rest of the summer was sunny and quite warm and much of the water that had accumulated during melt had vanished.

Alaska –Derek Sikes (from University of Alaska, Fairbanks)

Derek Sikes made short collecting trips to various places in Alaska this summer: Barrow, Galena, and Kantishna (first time for these three sites for me), and in the Aleutians to the islands of Adak, Atka, and Little Tanaga. Barrow is the northern most point in Alaska and a hotbed for climate change research. The last attempt at a comprehensive arthropod inventory of Barrow was published by Hurd in 1958.

Featured Arthropod: Aedes nigripes (Diptera: Culicidae)

Aedes nigripesAedes nigripes (Zett, 1840) is probably the most abundant Arctic mosquito (Vockeroth 1954) and is found all across the Arctic. Its larvae grow rapidly in snowmelt tundra ponds during early summer and the adult females emerge to fiercely seek blood from caribou and other wildlife. Autogeny (i.e., reproducing without a blood meal) has been documented in this species (Corbett 1964, 1967) although it is unclear if this presumed adaptation to low blood-meal density is present in all populations (Culler, pers. obs.). In Greenland, the timing of pond thaw in spring strongly predicts its emergence time, and the number of immatures that survive to the adult stage depends on pond temperature and mortality from beetle predators (Culler et al. 2015). –L. Culler

References and links:

Featured Arthropod: Pardosa glacialis

Pardosa glacialis

Photo courtesy of Oskar LP Hansen

Pardosa glacialis (Thorell, 1872) is described by Leech (1966) as being eurytopic, but at Zackenberg in northeast Greenland it is found more abundantly in mesic heath (pers. obs.) and is holarctic in distribution (World Spider Catelog Version 16). Leech described an individual’s behaviour as follows: “Mating was never observed in P. glacialis, but one male which had repeatedly been shunned by all females, began courting a large male Chironomid, which was lying on its side almost dead. The male eventually mounted the fly in the usual Pardosa manner, it then discovered the mistake and ate the fly.” Previous year’s snowmelt is a good predictor of body size variation in this species and females are more strongly affected by environmental variation (Høye et al. 2009, Høye and Hammel 2010).

References and links: