Dirt Cred

Buckeye Farm Beat

The recent realignment of the department of Entomology at OSU has special meaning for this graduate.

Published on: March 9, 2010

As a graduate student in entomology at The Ohio State University, I never really worried too much about which college my degree was associated with.  I was too concerned about the hourly monitoring the status of the Wyomia smithii larvae I had swimming happily in their growth chambers. It was all part of my research on the light and temperature signals that trigger over wintering in the mosquito species.


Wyomia smithii is of interest because it spends its juvenile days as wriggling larvae in the tube of the pitcher plant commonly found in sphagnum bogs like the one at Cranberry bog. As winter arrives the water in the plant’s pitcher gets colder and the days get shorter and the larvae go into diapause. When the weather gets really cold the pitcher freezes solid and the larvae’s development is suspended until the frozen nursery thaws -- at which time the larvae begin wriggling around again.


The easiest way to raise the larvae was in ice cube trays. These are plastic or aluminum containers that people used to make ice cubes in before they figured out how to make the cubes pop out of the front of the refrigerator. In the growth chambers the mosquitoes went from long light periods with warm water to short light periods with colder and finally frozen water.


Of course it was always fun to offer my fellow students a drink that was chilled with a mosquito larvae laced ice cube. As the cube melted the tiny larvae would begin wriggling around and everyone would go yuck and get a good laugh. It was especially funny if the individuals involved were other entomology students because they were far less likely to fling the iced drink my way.


With all this frivolity it didn’t really matter much to us grad students of the 1970s whether our field of study was a part of the College of Biology or the College of Agriculture as it was known then. I do recall some of the entomology professors referring to Dean Roy M. Kottman and the “other side of the river” as if it was a place far far away. Although we occasionally took field trips to Wooster to learn about the pursuits of entomologists who did their work at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, we never much ventured over to the ag campus.


You see at the time entomology was split – some faculty had appointments with the College of Biological Sciences and some with the College of Agriculture. Since we were housed in the Botany and Zoology Building, I suppose most of us never really thought about who was overseeing us.


It wasn’t until I took a job in agriculture that I realized the advantage that I was missing by not being a graduate of what is now the College of Food Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Bad enough that I was one of the first farm journalists not raised on a farm, but I also didn’t have my degree from a college of agriculture.


At last that has all changed. “Split between two colleges for 42 years, Ohio State University’s Department of Entomology has come home," reads a recent news release from the CFAES.

Due to a recent restructuring within the
College of Biological Sciences and a desire among CFAES administration to solely house entomology, the department is now back where it originated.

“Both colleges wanted the department’s full complement of time and attention and it became clear that we could not serve two masters. Over time it became clear that our future would be much brighter if we severed the ties with Biological Sciences and fully invested with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences,” according to Susan Fisher, chair of the Department of Entomology. “Plus the move back to CFAES makes so much sense. We fit in well with the college’s strategic mission.”

So now when I am asked where the home farm is, I can say we live on 80 acres near Bremen and when people want to know where I got my degree I can tell them I was an old school graduate of OSU’s College of Agriculture. Call it dirt credibility.