People You Should Know: Robin Pruisner
Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship State Entomologist
Robin Pruisner is the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship State Entomologist - & - Entomology and Plant Science Bureau Chief Ag Security Coordinator.
1) How much of your job is devoted to tree work specifically?
It varies with the time of year, but I’d say it averages out to about half of my time is spent on plant pests specific to trees. Between preparation for the, gypsy moth mating disruption treatments and the calls and presentation requests concerning emerald ash borer, it keeps me hopping.
2) Does the Iowa Department of Land Stewardship (IDALS to those in the know) have a public list of insects currently threatening our urban forests?
Yes … and no. The list isn’t specific to urban forests, but we do have a list in administrative rules of plant pests that we are on the lookout for in Iowa. The Iowa Plant Pest Act, Iowa Code chapter 177A, requires the state entomologist to list the ‘dangerously injurious insect pests and disease’ that ‘shall be prevented from being introduced into or disseminated with this state’. Chapter 46 of Iowa Administrative Code currently contains the following – Insect pests:
- Asian gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar dispar (Linnaeus)
- Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis)
- Blue alfalfa aphid (Acyrthosiphon kondoi)
- Emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis)
- European woodwasp (Sirex noctilio)
- Gypsy (European) moth (Lymantria dispar)
- Gypsy moth (European X Asian) (Lymantria dispar x hybrid)
- Khapra beetle (Trogoderma granarium)
- Rosy (pink) gypsy moth (Lymantria mathura)
- Viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni)
- Walnut twig beetle (Pityophthorus juglandis) Diseases:
- Black stem rust of wheat (Puccinia graminis)
- Corn late wilt or black bundle disease of corn (Harpophora (Cephalosporium) maydis)
- Oat cyst nematode (Bidera avenae)
- Golden nematode (Globodera rostochiensis)
- Corn cyst nematode (Heterodera zeae)
- Columbia root-knot nematode (Meloidogyne chitwoodi)
- Mexican corn cyst (Punctodera chalcoensis)
- Head smut of corn (Sphacelotheca reiliana)
- Sudden oak death (Phytophthora ramorum)
- Thousand cankers disease of black walnut (Geosmithia, sp.)
- White potato cyst nematode (Globodera pallida)
3) What are some insects that are beneficial to our trees that people may not know about?
There are numerous inspects that feed on soft-bodied insects such as aphids, insect eggs and even caterpillars. These good guys include lacewing larvae, syrphidae or “hover fly” larvae, and ladybird larvae. There are predators that also feed on insects, such as the damsel bug and assassin bug. Parasitoids feed on or in the tissue of other insects, consuming all or most of their host and eventually killing it. And we can’t leave out pollinators – including, but not limited to, honey bees.
4) As the state entomologist, what things are you responsible for in regards to trees?
Iowa Code chapter 177A requires the state entomologist make rules concerning the inspection of places, plants and plant products, such as nursery stock. And, supervise or cause the treatment, and if necessary, destruction of plants and plant products that are infested with the plant pests listed in the Administrative Rules. All nursery stock sold in Iowa or distributed outside of Iowa shall be inspected annually for plant pests as well as quality, size, grade, kind, species, age, maturity, viability, vigor, hardiness, etc. The state entomologist’s office has the ability to enforce the same standards on plants and plant products, such as nursery stock, that are imported into Iowa from another state. The state entomologist has the ability to issue quarantines for plant pests, and subsequent quarantine restrictions, such as ordering the movement of the infested items back to the source, treatments, or destruction. The state entomologist and authorized agents have free access to property, during reasonable hours, to carry out the duties in the Plant Pest Act. And finally, harmfully barberry is banned and the state entomologist can order destruction of such plants.
5) Do you have a favorite insect? What is it?
It’s a three-way tie between corn rootworm, cicada killer wasps and honey bees. I aware that’s an odd pair, but corn rootworm was my research focus when I was a student at Iowa State University.
- Corn rootworm woes are on the resurgence because the resistance trait that has been bred into corn is failing. I see this as proof that insects always win.
- Our flowerbeds and lawn are home to many cicada killer wasps each summer. The meticulous placement and digging of the tunnels to the roller-coaster-ride of catching an unwieldy cicada and manhandling it into the tunnel provides for hours of summer entertainment. And, I think we’ve obtained some kind of superhero status among the neighbors because the wasps fly between our legs when we’re working in the yard, and we can pick up the wasps - when the wasps are in the mood for such tomfoolery.
- And, a few years ago I took up beekeeping as a hobby, but more importantly, a learning experience. I find observing the colonies’ progress through the growing season, and how each bee carries out their assigned task, to be fascinating. And I’ve definitely learned to love the taste of honey.
6) What part of your job do you most enjoy?
I hate monotony, and monotonous is the one adjective that is not in my job description. I enjoy the opportunity to travel the state, meet many people, always learning something new and bounce between many subjects. About the time I’m growing weary with tree pests, and issue with seed export pops up and boredom is held at bay for another day. If you don't like these questions, feel free to just tell us what you'd like us to know about you. If you'd rather not be featured, let us know that too.
Address: 2230 South Ankeny Boulevard - Ankeny, Iowa 50023
Phone: 515 – 725 – 1470 office | 515 – 231 – 4481 mobile |