Minutes of the first quadrennial meeting of the International Heteropterist' Society, New York (1998)

The first meeting of the International Heteropterists' Society occurred at the American Museum of Natural History in New York July 14-18, 1998. The following report outlines the business outcomes of the meeting and an account of the scientific presentations of the attending members. 

The broad objectives of the Society were identified by the founding member's as 1) the promotion of systematic, biogeographic and biological studies of Heteroptera, and 2) the cultivation of cooperative research among heteropterists throughout the world. It was envisaged that the Society would act in a similar fashion to existing taxon-based societies, such as the Coleopterist's Society. 

It can be safely reported that the meeting provided the foundation for achieving the Society's objectives. The meeting brought together 55 people from 20 countries, all with a common dedication to the study of the true bugs. This was not only expressed in the formal presentations, but also in the many informal meetings, establishment of contacts, enhancement of existing associations, and the uniform recognition for the need for consolidation of existing information about Heteroptera. The study of the true bugs will undoubtedly be advanced by the collective will of the members of the Society. On a lighter note, it was a great opportunity to place a face to a name, and make new friends. In this regard Toby Schuh (and the Museum and his staff) must be given special thanks for providing a casual atmosphere where all the participants were (or at least appeared to be) relaxed. Michael Schwartz applied his knowledge of the venue in offering invaluable assistance to make the meeting a success. It was encouraging that there was a substantial attendance by students, and the "old guard" of heteropterology (I refrain from naming them for fear of being accused of ageism). 

The founding group of the Society, Toby Schuh, Tom Henry, Wenjun Bu, John Polhemus and Gerry Cassis, met on July 14 to discuss the business objectives of the meeting and to establish the processes by which these objectives could best be achieved. The primary business objectives were to 1) endorse the formation of the Society by the members, 2) endorse the Societies' bylaws 2) elect the Societies' officers, and to 3) organise the next international meeting of the Society. The founding group acted as a steering committee which established an open democratic process. 

The meeting commenced on July 15 with an introduction of the key business issues by the founding group. Toby Schuh offered a brief historical treatment of how the concept of the Society came together, what were the goals, and a proposition of the Society's by-laws. The founding group had established a draft set of by-laws. Tom Henry needs special recognition for his efforts in this regard. The by-laws were presented to the member's for their consideration, so that they could be emended and ratified during the meeting. John Polhemus, who prior to the meeting, had acted as the defacto Treasurer, reported on the financial position of the Society. He reported that the Society held income, from membership dues, of $US3,300 and that expenditure was $US400. John was already on the investment trail and the Society's finances will no doubt be in great hands. John successfully pried life membership dues from your Secretary - so I warn you beware of the entrepreneurial skills of your Treasurer! The nomination and election processes of the officers and executive of the Society were also outlined, and their role and responsibilities are given in the by-laws. There was also a call for nominations for the location of the second meeting. Tom Henry rounded off the business meeting by outlining some of the immediate goals of the Society, again as conceived by the founding group, which were 1) to develop a Bulletin Board available through e-mail, 2) to create a world list of Heteropterists, including addresses, interests, and certain biographical information, and 3) to further expand, improve, and maintain the International Heteropterists' Society Homepage on the World Wide Web. The opportunities for integration and consolidation of existing information have never been greater, and it was envisaged that the Society would be best served by establishing products and services on the Internet. Tom Henry, through considerable effort, and a significant in-kind contribution from the US Department of Agriculture, was able to present the makings of the Society website to the assembled members. At the time of the meeting this included 1) an introduction and goals of the Society, 2) Membership and Member's List, 3) the schedule of the first meeting, 4) the Heteroptera Bibliography, and 5) Links. Like all websites, it will ultimately judged by its content, and here the onus falls on the membership. The website will reside on the USDA server, and Tom Henry and George Venable are thanked by the membership for their grand efforts. 

At the conclusion of the meeting the following business outcomes were achieved. Firstly, the bylaws were amended and ratified by the membership. Thanks are given to Ernst Heiss and Izya Kerzhner for their careful reading and suggestions in this regard. The by-laws as endorsed by the membership are available on the International Heteropterists's Society website (http://entomology.si.edu/entomology/ihs/minutes.html). Secondly, the following officers were elected: Dr R T Schuh - President, Dr J Gracia - President-Elect, Dr J T Polhemus - Treasurer, Dr T J Henry - Editor, Dr G Cassis - Secretary, Dr I Kerzhner -2002 Program Chair, Dr Wenjun Bu - Assistant Program Chair. There were two nominations for the second meeting of the Society in 2002, Tianjin, China, and St Petersburg, Russia. The latter was supported by the membership as the site of the second meeting. Wenjun Bu and Professor Zheng are thanked by the membership for their offer of holding the second meeting. It was a difficult decision and there is no doubt that one day China will host the world's heteropterists, as it did so successfully during the 1992 International Congress of Entomology in Beijing. Many of us still fondly remember our Chinese colleagues wonderful generosity - who can forget the "eat-a-bug" restaurant we attended during the Congress! We thank Dr Kerzhner for his nomination and hope that our second meeting achieves even greater heights than the New York meeting. See you in St Petersburg! 

An important business item emerged from the meeting that came from the membership and requires special mention. The heteropterists of the world have for a long time been served by Professor Carl Schaefer of the University of Connecticut, who has labored to our advantage on the Heteropterists' Newsletter for many years. In many ways his efforts are a precursor to some of the aims of the Society, and a vote of thanks was offered. Paula Mitchell and Jane O'Donnel put together the following words which were endorsed by the membership. The Executive Committee would like to thank the member's for these appropriate sentiments and hope that Carl will see the establishment of the Society as a natural progression of his original ideas.

   Whereas, the Heteropterists' Newsletter has, for many years, fostered
   communication and camaraderie among heteropterists the world over;

   and whereas, the community of heteropterists thus formed has expanded
   to become the International Heteropterists Society;

   THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED: That the society recognizes and
   appreciates the efforts of Carl Schaefer in editing and producing the
   Heteropterists' Newsletter.

Ultimately the Society will succeed on the basis of the exchange and development of scientific ideas. The presentations at the first meeting underscored this point and were overall of an excellent standard, as could be judged by the high attendance of the member's throughout all the sessions. The seminars were grouped into four areas, 1) behaviour and ecology, 2) faunistics and biogeography, 3) phylogenetic analyses, and 4) morphology and classification. 

The first full day of the conference included eight talks on behaviour and ecology. Jeff Aldrich set the bar high by opening the proceedings with a superb presentation on the chemical ecology of the pheromones of milkweed bugs. The Heteroptera are characterised by complex glandular structures, and Aldrich has led the way in our understanding of how true bug pheromones work. Doug Tallamy and E. L. Monaco gave a detailed account on egg dumping in the tingid species, Gargaphia solani. These workers reported on aspects of maternal care in relation to juvenille hormone titres. The first session ended with an informative overview of parental care in Heteroptera by Rogelia Macias-Ordonez, with examples from the Belostomatidae, Reduviidae and Coreidae. Matija Gogala, is to sound communication what Jeff Aldrich it to chemical communication in true bugs, and he gave many of us insights into "bug-speak", in his review of vibrational songs of terrestrial bugs. His talk was not only filled with plectra and stridulitra, but also into various behavioural ecological aspects. Patrick de Clercq gave an excellent presentation on the predatory behaviour of Podisus maculiventris and its value as a biocontrol agent, proving once again that the Heteroptera contribute positively to humankind's agricultural endeavours. Paula Mitchell (and Eric Paysen) gave an overview of parasitism and predation of eggs of Coreidae, which highlighted the coreids as a group of significant biological interest. 

The early morning of the second day of lectures (July 16) provided a conclusion of the sessions on behaviour and ecology. Undoubtedly, the lectures on the biology of the Heteroptera, proved the need for the Society to include all aspects of Heteropterology. For the systematists amongst us it showed the true bugs are more than a collection of "hooks, barbs and knobs," me to observing "our" animals. One of the Society's objectives is to promote cross-fertilization of ideas and disciplines, and as the biologists require a historical context for their comparative work, systematists need to incorporate behavioural/ecological information in their decision-making. We still have a considerable way to go in understanding the classification of the true bugs, and their biology is even more obscure. The above lectures indicated a great deal of sophistication in terms of techniques and interpretation of biological information. It is hoped that at the second meeting of the Society and in the ensuing years that there is more integration between these disciplines. 

The second theme of the conference was on faunistics and biogeography of the Heteroptera. The session opened with a compelling argument about insular biogeography of Hawaiian Nabidae by Dan Polhemus. Aside from the fascinating account of the radiation of the Nabidae (why the Nabidae?) on this intriguing archipelago, Dan was able to offer credible earth history explanations for the restricted distributions of Nabis, a genus that elsewhere is unremarkable and somewhat homogeneous. Wenjun Bu gave an account of the Anthocoridae of China, and at the same time showed that at least someone in the world understands this very difficult taxon. The flower bugs of China are very diverse and Wenjun gave us some insights into the hidden habitats of his country. John Polhemus gave an informative account of the Gerromorpha of New Guinea, and using cladistic biogeographic techniques, was able to give explanations that offer broader understanding into the zoogeography of a complex bioregion. Marie-Claude Lariviere, under duress (and at an rescheduled time), gave a detailed overview of the Heteropteran fauna of New Zealand. Although disharmonic, the kiwi true bug fauna is of great interest biogeographically, and Marie-Claude has done a great service in cataloguing it. We await her interpretation of its origins and new taxonomic discoveries. The study of biogeography is hampered by a lack of knowledge about the "true" distribution of species and the methodologies for analyzing data are still in development. Undoubtedly, the descriptive phases are essential precursors, but it is hoped that heteropterists take a cladistic approach, or at least offer testable hypotheses. Ad hoc explanations about the distribution of taxa are no longer profitable, so go forth and make cladograms and suffer through messy data. 

The third theme was on phylogenetic analyses of Heteroptera. Steve Keffer's talk on the phylogeny of Nepidae was a test case for how to conduct comparative morphological studies. His account of the male genitalia of the water scorpions was enough in itself, but he was also able to interpret his observations within a phylogenetic framework. It will be of great interest to see how congruent his data are with other character systems. Christian Fischer gave an enthusiastic and detailed account of the phylogeny of the Acanthosomatidae, a group that his received little attention since Kumar's seminal work. It was encouraging to see phylogenetic procedures applied to taxonomic groups that have had no previous cladistic treatment in the literature. 

The last day of the conference (July 17) included four more talks on phylogeny. Jocelia Grazia gave us a long needed treatment (why have they been so neglected in the past?) of the phylogeny of the Pentatomoidea. For so long the relationships of the pentatomoid families have been poorly understand, and apart from the novel but somewhat flawed methodological approaches of Gapud, no modern works of consequence exist. Jocelia proved beyond a doubt that there is plenty of data to work with. Toby Schuh provided his usual high standards in unpacking the family-group relationships of the Lygaeoidea based on DNA sequences and morphology. Tom Henry recently revolutionized our understanding and classification of the Pentatomomorpha, particularly the Lygaeoidea, and although based on an incomplete dataset, Toby was able to lend considerable support to some of Tom's conclusions. We await with great interest the final result as the Lygaeidae sensu lato lays in ruins. Gerry Cassis gave an account of the scent-gland morphology of the Miridae and its bearing on the supra-generic classification, concluding that modifications are needed to the currently used classification. Paul Tinerella (and David Rider) gave an account of wing-coupling in the Heteroptera. Although, this presentation was chiefly concerned with their observations, many of which were novel, they were only able to point to implications of their work. Again we await the completion of their study. 

The fourth and final theme of the conference was on morphology and classification. Jane O'Donnell opened the session with a species-level review of the rhyparochromid genus Paradema. The presentation was polished and gave the "non-lygaeid" workers an understanding of the little known Antillocorini. Wanzhi Cai showed considerable promise as a student at the International Congress of Entomology in Beijing, and his talk in New York, suggests that he has not put down the tools of his trade since then. Our understanding of the classification of the Reduviidae is one of the "sore-spots" in Heteropterology, and the work of Cai offers hope. His talk was a highlight. Izya Kerzhner (and Fydor Konstantinov) like Gerry Cassis, applied the interpretation (or reinterpretation) of a new character system, the male genitalia, to the suprageneric classification of the Miridae. Izya proved that a good story doesn't need a PowerPoint presentation, and on "butcher-paper" he highlighted the seemingly correct homologies for this complex character system, and that it had significant classificatory implications. Are the Miridae about to make sense? Harry Brailovsky gave a summary of his revision of the coreid subfamily Meropachydinae. Aside from alerting us to the ridiculous morphology of these bugs, Harry showed that he is the world expert on this group. Mohammad Jahavery outlined the egg morphology of some of the terrestrial bugs and gave some novel assessments in relation to classification. Again, such data need to be tested against other character systems. 

There were seven posters presented, most of which were either morphological or taxonomic in nature. Christian Fischer presented support for a sister-group relationship of the Coleorrhyncha and Heteroptera, based on wing-coupling mechanisms. This is one more piece of evidence that supports the prising of the mossbugs from the "Homoptera." Christian presented a second poster on the morphology of the spermatheca and classification of the Pentatomoidea. Manuela Oppenrieder and Christian Fischer presented a poster on midgut morphology and the classification of the Pentatomoidea. I think we should limit Christain to only five presentations in St Petersburg. Seriously, great effort Christian! Michael Schwartz gave a poster on Lygus. Michael deserves an award for an even attempting to solve the problem of Lygus, let alone coming up with a solution. So few of us are capable of tackling species-complexes, where the characters all seem to integrade. Silvia Mazzucconi presented a poster on the taxonomy of the notonectid subgenus Notonecta (Bichromonecta), again a commendable effort, for a difficult taxonomic group. E. Infiesta and Marta Goula's poster on Aelia and Eurygaster outlined the bionomics of these wheat pests in Spain. Eva Ribes, Marta Goula, and E. Mateos gave a faunistic account of the Heteroptera of a metropolitan park in Spain. Their poster indicates that in species richness terms, the Heteroptera have been underestimated in their contribution to total biodiversity. 

A special lecture was given by Professor James Slater, on July 16. Professor Slater must be considered one of the most influential heteropterists, at least of this century. He could be superficially labeled as a specialist of the Lygaeidae, but he has brought much more to the discipline of Heteropterology. He was one of the first heteropterists to adopt modern approaches, such as phylogenetic methodologies. He routinely searched for new characters, which was a repeated theme in the conference. And he has influenced and trained many heteropterists who have adopted his approach. Curiously, he spoke about other heteropterists. It was a riveting presentation because for many in the audience, his targets were heteropterists who were known to them by name (and their work) alone. By providing insights into the nature of these people he revealed another aspect to their work. It was a "who's who" with pictures. Cobben, Carvalho, Leston, China, amongst others, came to life. Some heteropterists in the room were revealed as young men and women. Aside from the human interest, it also revealed that today's heteropterists are preceded by a group of dedicated and talented people. Hopefully, the member's of the Society, will remember that and pass their knowledge to future students. Maybe we should have the China Prize for the best student presentation at the 2002 conference, or the Leston Prize for the craziest idea! Somehow, I think Jim was giving us a foundation stone for the Society. An edited version of his talk is available on the International Heteropterists' Society website. 

In terms of quality of the scientific presentations at the first meeting of the Society the overall assessment must be positive. Considering the size of the society, and that it is the first meeting, the mix of papers was broad and informative. It was particularly pleasing that the meeting was attended by students. They must be promoted if Heteropterology is to be further advanced. The Society will undoubtedly retain a strong systematics flavour but it is hoped that biological aspects will be at least maintained if not enhanced at the next meeting. It must be remembered that one of the key objectives of the Society is to provide a clearing house and integration of information on the Heteroptera. It is hoped that the St Petersburg meeting will contain accounts of how we are progressing on this score. In terms of the business objectives of the Society the member's attending the New York meeting have laid the other cornerstones. May we succeed. 

Gerasimos Cassis, Secretary

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