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NMSU entomology professor Scott Bundy to appear on the Weather Channel

How is a bug?s life affected by weather? New Mexico State University entomology professor Scott Bundy may answer this question on the Weather Channel?s ?Strangest Weather on Earth? program Sunday, Oct. 11. Three one-hour episodes begin at 5 p.m. Mountain time. Bundy also appeared on the Sept. 13 and Sept. 20 episodes.


Man sitting outdoors on rocks collecting samples.
NMSU entomology professor Scott Bundy collects insect samples. (Courtesy photo)
Close-up of man holding grasshopper.
NMSU entomology professor Scott Bundy holds the type of grasshopper involved in swarming in Albuquerque. (NMSU photo by Kristie Garcia)

Strange weather events are discussed on the program, video is shown and experts explain why certain events occur.

?In this case, they want an entomologist to talk about weather events that affect the way insects work,? Bundy said. ?Sometimes the weather has a strong impact on how insects conduct their day-to-day activities, or they do bizarre things depending on certain types of weather events.?

On the season premiere, Bundy ? who is the NMSU arthropod museum director ? was asked about the red imported fire ant, which is native to Brazil and similar locations where flooding is common.

?Here?s a weather event that?s affecting the red ants, because the water flows so much that it floods them out of where they live,? Bundy explained. ?The ants get together as a group and actually form a raft with their bodies. They put the queen and all her babies on top of the raft, and they float around until they can find a place to land. Then they?ll start all over again. It?s an interesting adaptation.?

Another topic for which Bundy provided expert advice was ?bug-nadoes,? a term the television show used for swarms of insects. He explained how weather affects these swarms.

?I talk about how swarming works and what?s actually going on,? he said. ?It?s not random; there is something going on that?s causing that to happen.? He said swarms are common in the Las Cruces area. ?As you walk across campus, you?ll see a group of tiny gnats flying all over the place.?

He also will explain grasshopper swarms, such as those present in Albuquerque in recent years.

?There were so many grasshoppers that they were actually visible on radar,? Bundy said.

Bundy will be one of several experts the Weather Channel features on its hour-long program.

Jerry Sims, department head for entomology, plant pathology and weed sciences, said Bundy?s appearance on the Weather Channel speaks volumes about NMSU.

?It showcases the fact that we have faculty who have a national impact,? Sims said.

While he has never appeared on the Weather Channel before, Bundy has helped with a movie trailer in which the scene included wrangling a scorpion.

?We spent a few hours outside trying to get the scorpion to walk over a certain path, a certain way,? he said.

Despite the movie trailers and television programs, Bundy?s future is probably not in Hollywood. When listening to him speak, it is obvious that his true passions are teaching and conducting research.

Having earned a doctorate in entomology from the University of Georgia, Bundy has had quite an impact on the NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Sims said Bundy plays a major role in the department?s academic program.

?He is an important adviser of undergraduate students,? Sims said. ?He not only teaches courses for those students, but he does a very good job of it, as evident by earning various teaching awards.? Bundy has received both the university?s Donald C. Roush Award for Teaching Excellence and the college?s Kringle the Cat Distinguished Teaching Award.

Bundy?s role as an educator reaches beyond the NMSU classroom. In September, he ? along with arthropod museum curator Jennifer Shaughney ? taught people of all ages about insects and arachnids at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park BioBlitz. Hosted by the Asombro Institute for Science Education, the purpose of the event was to help attendees discover the various plants and animals that live in the Chihuahuan Desert.

?The idea of the BioBlitz is to go out and try to see what kind of diversity of different organisms are in the park,? Bundy said. ?It?s a way to get people out there to help the park by finding different species in that area.?

Bundy said that by actually seeing an insect or plant, it becomes a little more personal. It also helps the nature park, because there is a possibility attendees may find something that is uncommon or even endangered.

Sims adds that Bundy?s involvement in such outreach events is important for several reasons.

?It helps bring science to the community and helps build the relationship between the community and NMSU,? Sims said. ?It also provides visibility to our department and the program itself.?

Bundy?s career also includes extensive research regarding integrated pest management of arthropods impacting field crops in New Mexico.

Right now he is researching a stink bug called a bagrada bug.

?This particular stink bug is invasive,? Bundy said. ?It showed up in California a few years ago, and it?s a major pest of crops like broccoli. It?s been moving east, and we?ve found it here. Our lab just released an important paper on its biology and what it does in New Mexico. We describe what the immature stages look like.?

Bundy and his lab discovered something interesting about this bug. While most stink bugs lay their eggs in big groups on the actual plants themselves, the bagrada bug is the only one they have ever found that does not do so.

?The bagrada bug lays its eggs singly, buries them in the ground and covers them up,? Bundy explained. ?We couldn?t figure out where the eggs were and what was happening. Entomologically speaking, that?s very uncommon. There are about 5,000 species of stink bug, and this is the only one we know of that actually buries its eggs and actively covers them. It?s never been known world wide, but we found it here in our lab.?

Why does this matter, and how does it affect agriculture in New Mexico? According to Bundy, this discovery affects how people manage, find and control these pests.

?While some stink bugs may be beneficial to crops or plants, this bug is not. It feeds on the plant and can kill it,? Bundy said.

Bundy has taught at NMSU for 15 years. He currently teaches general entomology and a course on insects, humans and the environment. Every few years he teaches a tropical insect ecology course, for which he and students travel to Belize to study insect diversity in the tropics.