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Arctic Parasitoid Project

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Spatial Foodweb Ecology Group
Departmentof Agricultural Sciences
PO Box 27 (Latokartanonkaari 5)
FI-00014 University of Helsinki





Dryas based food webs across the Arctic

It is time for INTERACT stations to join forces again! Together we aim to quantify food webs across the Arctic and describe their effect on a key ecosystem service: flower damage on Dryas.

Last year, we introduced an exciting way to conduct science across the INTERACT network: a distributed experiment based on the same, short protocol implemented on as many stations as possible. The initiative turned out a major success, with samples collected from 15 different stations, and the project receiving coverage in Science. More than 23 000 insects have now been individually sequenced from this set. At present, we are writing up the results and will keep you updated.

With this project under INTERACT's belt, it is time to join forces again, taking on a related challenge: quantifying the food webs regulating insect herbivores across the Arctic. What we hope to achieve is a description of 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).

As last time, the sampling routine will require no more than a few hours of work during 2 (or 3) days, spaced about a week apart. You will use sticky traps of a simpler design than last time, combined with a simplified assay of avens phenology and level of herbivore damage.

All participants will be provided with a comprehensive, easy-to-use trapping kit and clear-cut instructions. Sampling requires no prior knowledge of entomology. All processing of the material will be handled by our team in Helsinki.

When receiving the samples, we will use state-of-the-art molecular methods to identify parasitoid insects and what they ate. This will allow us to construct a quantitative food web for each participating locality. With each station filling in with their part of the big picture, we will be ready to describe latitudinal gradients in food web structure. Finally, we will be able to relate food web structure to a new measure of ecosystem functioning: the control of herbivore populations.

We hope that your station will join our initiative. Only by working together can we accomplish what the Interact-network was originally founded to do: answering important questions in polar ecology at a scale inaccessible to any single research group. In implementing the new project, we will learn from experience and improve on anything that we had feedback on last time. Together, we expect to have fun implementing the new project – and to again do important science.

To sign up and to receive more information on the project, please send an email to Tuomas Kankaanpää (tuomas.kankaanpaa(at) with a cc: to bess.hardwick(at) with "GlobalParasitoids" in the subject field.

A) Sympistis nigrita moth larva feeding on pistils and stamens of avens.
B) Eaten flower with dark feacal pellets as an easy to spot calling card of the larvae.


A) 5cm by 5,5cm sticky trap under a "bird cage", nested within avens.
B) A catch consisting mostly of parasitoid wasps (hymenoptera: ichneumonidae, braconidae). Plastic beads enable stacking of sticky traps for easy transport.