Missouri State University
Biology Blog

Cooperate not combat

A bee on a flower

When you hear the word “bug” you might think of a creepy, crawly critter that does more harm than good. Unfortunately, this misconception creates problems for the many insects which do good, including pollinators like butterflies and bees.

“Most kinds of flowering plants are completely dependent on pollination by insects to produce fruit and seeds,” said Dr. Chris Barnhart, distinguished professor of biology at Missouri State University.

“Overuse and unnecessary use of pesticides damages beneficial insect populations and potentially harms human health as well. Besides being beautiful and useful pollinators, insects are essential food for birds and other animals, which people are more inclined to appreciate.”

Dispelling myth

Barnhart is the volunteer curator of the Bill Roston Native Butterfly House at the Springfield Botanical Center. From May to October, volunteers maintain a net house containing plants and native butterflies and moths in all of their life stages.

“One of our central messages at the Butterfly House and the Botanical Center is the importance of insects in the balance of nature,” said Barnhart. “There are many insects that we should welcome and cooperate with as opposed to combatting them.”

Helping butterflies flourish

Butterflies hibernate during the cold months and emerge when temperatures and day length rise in the spring. Some butterflies overwinter further south and migrate north in during this time of year. Both types of butterflies have already been spotted earlier than usual thanks to a mild winter.

“Butterflies are attracted to flowers that provide nectar. But to grow butterflies, we must plant the native host plants, the ones that are food for the caterpillar stage,” said Barnhart. “Each kind of butterfly has particular native host plants that its caterpillars can eat. In that way we produce not only butterflies, but essential bird food as well.”

There are extensive online resources for those interested in helping grow the local butterfly population:

Volunteer training for the Roston Butterfly House is April 22 and 26, with opening day May 12. The 2017 annual Butterfly Festival will be held June 14. For more information on the Roston Butterfly House or to volunteer, contact the Friends of the Garden at 417-874-2952.

For more information, contact Barnhart at 417-836-5166.

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Giving back through nature

Dr. Barnhart with a student

Dr. Chris Barnhart from Missouri State University recently received the Missouri Department of Conservation Outreach and Education 2016 External Partnership Award for his work at the Springfield Nature Center.

At the Nature Center, Barnhart, a distinguished professor of biology, provides lectures and other resources for interpretive programs about insect and pollination biology, endangered species and invasive species.

“I’m very grateful to be part of a community that values wildlife and conservation,” said Barnhart. “The Department of Conservation provides great opportunities for collaboration in research and education.”

Dr. Barnhart with his award
Dr. Barnhart and Joanie Straub, Outreach and Education Division Chief.

Linda Chorice, manager of the Nature Center, had this to say about Barnhart’s contributions:

“We are so happy to have such a great working relationship with Chris. We respect and admire him immensely.”

This isn’t the only award Barnhart has received for his conservation efforts. In 2010 Barnhart received the Collaborator of the Year award from the Department of Conservation, Resource Science Division “for outstanding collaboration with the Missouri Department of Conservation to further the conservation of freshwater mussels and other natural resources in Missouri.”

For more information, contact Barnhart at 417-836-5166.

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Feeling ferocious facial pain? 

Jaw soreness and facial pain: These symptoms are frequently talked about and diagnosed as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ or TMD). But neurologists and biologists are looking at another painful condition involving the trigeminal nerve: Trigeminal neuralgia (TN).

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Next Generation Grapevines: Applied Biology for Better Wine Drinking

Wine corks with a wine glass and wine bottles in the background.Dr. Peter Cousins, grape breeder at E. & J. Gallo Winery in California, will lecture on grapevine research as a part of the biology department’s seminar series. Cousins’ presentation will focus on the application of modern biotechnology to the sustainable cultivation of grapevine at E. & J. Gallo Winery. He will also discuss internship and job opportunities for science majors at the world’s largest grape and wine company.

The lecture will take place Dec. 2 at 4 p.m. in Temple Hall, Room 003.

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