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John van der Linden, Contributor
Full name:
John van der Linden
Please first contact me using the email address above if you would like to reproduce information and/or image(s) from my BugGuide posts. See below for my full statement on this matter.
City, state, country:
Iowa, USA

I am a naturalist and citizen scientist with an interest in discovering, documenting, and sharing information about specific associations between plants and insects. In my BugGuide work, I focus on little-known and previously undocumented stem miners, stem borers, leaf mines, and galls. Most of the insects I work with are moths and flies, and lately I have a particular fondness for the flies, but I also spend time with beetles and wasps. In my adult life I reared my first poorly-known wild insect as a seed collection intern on a remnant sand prairie in Minnesota in 2010, thanks largely to the goading of my friend, colleague, and mentor MJ Hatfield. I began collecting (live, from the wild) and rearing insects in earnest in 2016, inspired originally by mysterious forces combined with a seminal paper on stem fauna written by Wisconsin entomologist Andrew Williams. I have continued this work every year since (some years much moreso than others).

Gallmakers are insects (but also sometimes fungi, mites, and other living things) whose particular relationship with their host plant results in distinctive swellings or other unique growths in which the larvae feed, shelter, and develop. In many cases, details of gall morphology can be used to identify the insect that is or was present. Successful rearing of galls may require precise timing of collection and careful regulation of moisture in the rearing container (not to mention luck!), but it is not always difficult. Galls often host animals other than the gallmaker, including predators, parasitoids, and residents known as inquilines. A large family of insects that includes many gallformers (and in which I am particularly interested) is the Cecidomyiidae, or gall midges. Intriguingly, some plant-feeding cecidomyiids do not form galls, but are hidden away cryptically in "normal-looking" stems, leaves, flowers, and other plant parts, awaiting discovery by a keen eye.

Leaf miners create trails as they feed inside leaves. They are primarily moths, beetles, flies, and sawflies. My colleague Charley Eiseman is spearheading a leafminer renaissance in North America, in part through his effort to create a comprehensive guide to all such mines that may be found on the continent. His self-published eBook is well over a thousand pages long...and counting.

Stem miners travel just beneath the epidermis (outer skin) of an herbaceous plant stem, leaving a visible feeding trail. Sometimes the trail is raised, like a molehill winding through a lawn or a vein bulging under human skin. Other times the stem epidermis does not lift or bulge much and the miner's trail is simply discolored relative to the ground color of the stem. Bark miners occupy the equivalent niche in woody stems. Common stem and bark miners include agromyzid flies in the genus Ophiomyia ("snake fly") and moths in the genus Marmara, but other creatures are involved too.

Stem borers, like stem miners, may do some feeding right under the epidermis -- but their activities are not restricted to this region. Instead, they are often found deeper inside the stem, tunneling vertically through the ground tissue (such as the pith) and/or the vascular tissue. Sometimes nearly all of the stem interior is consumed, leaving little more than a flimsy collar of epidermis (at which point the plant may fall over!). More often, a stem borer's tunnel occupies only part of the stem in cross-section, and enough interior stem tissue remains for the plant to do its thing more or less normally. Affected stems sometimes discolor or swell, and lepidopteran or coleopteran borer larvae often drill holes in the epidermis through which they enter, exit, or expel frass. It is also common for there to be little or no external sign of a stem borer's presence. The agromyzid genus Melanagromyza is an example of a speciose grouping of mostly stem-boring flies (including the recently described M. vanderlindeni!) with which I have some familiarity, but stem borers are a diverse lot of insects from at least three different orders -- see below.

What follows is a sampling of some of the stem borers I have encountered in my insect investigations. Here, I group stem borers by order and include genus names of hosts along with thumbnails. I also lump petiole borers in with the stem borers.


Phlox: Verbena: Andropogon: Polymnia:

Parthenocissus: Elymus: Gentiana: Arnoglossum:

Xerophyllum: Hieracium: Veronica: Equisetum:

Prenanthes: Urtica (two species): Pedicularis:

Cirsium: Achillea: Eutrochium: Lactuca:

Sanicula: Zizia: Scrophularia: Angelica:


Solidago: Hydrophyllum: Artemisia (two species): Lactuca:

Robinia: Zizia: Cirsium: Veronica:

Yucca: Ambrosia: Verbena: Lysichiton:

Scrophularia: Impatiens: Bidens: Nelumbo:

Juglans: Heracleum: Aesculus: Prunus (two species):

My BugGuide posts are not simply my own. Yes, they are a direct product of my own labor; but more fully and truthfully, they result also from all the contributions of others to my life and my work, through mentorship, inspiration, loaned or donated equipment (including, as of 2021, my main camera, my computer, and the automobile I drive), financial gifts, moral support, and more. BugGuide users add comments, move images, and keep the website running. Off-Web collaborators dissect specimens, make identifications, write up results, and even travel long distances to join me on excursions into woods and fields. Still others present their biophilic work freely and wholeheartedly via personal websites and blogs, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, open access journals, eBooks, and other platforms. (A few especially generous people in my life do several of these things!) We are seeing the widespread lack of awareness about our planet's miraculous diversity of invertebrate life, and we are choosing to craft something more cognizant and loving — together.

Since “it takes a village,” I don't like the idea of calling myself the exclusive owner or single originator of the information I offer. But then I think about the thrust of my particular life energy that I have expended in learning and sharing about bugs. And I recall the many insect-plant associations I have documented that have gone mostly or even entirely unseen by humans for at least one hundred and fifty years — and which have apparently never before been written about or photographed. When I consider those things I do feel a sense of ownership or sweat equity. In fact, I am profoundly invested in my work, and, when others wish to spread the information that I play a central role in generating, I get excited (‘Someone else cares!’) but also apprehensive (‘What if I don’t get acknowledged as the source?’). I can work to feel more self-secure, to give that acknowledgment to myself, but to also ask it from others is to engage in human community in a way that helps us connect with and support one another. And, crucially, when I am recognized by others, it encourages me to give credit in turn — to all of the people who have helped me do what I do and learn what I learn. Finally, full citation enables others to track me down in case they have questions or want to look at a specimen.

All of this is to say, I want the information and images I post on BugGuide to be seen widely, and I also would like to know when my work is being shared and to be clearly and explicitly credited as the primary author and photographer. Here’s what I ask:

(1) If you wish to reproduce text or image(s) from my BugGuide posts in your own work, please contact me first (see email address above). In most cases, in return for the use of the text or image, I will ask for a full citation to be made that includes my name, the date the information or image was published on BugGuide, the title of the BugGuide post, and a hyperlink or (for print media) typed-out URL to the BugGuide post. I also may request a copy of the work you've done that includes my work in it. That said, I'd like to do this on a case-by-case basis, so please get in touch before reproducing what I post.

(2) If you wish to share information from my BugGuide posts, but you won’t be quoting text or reproducing images, I still want to be cited in a direct and upfront way. I hope you will do as I was trained to do and make it clear whence the information originates. I would love to hear what you’re up to that involves my work, but being contacted about it is not as important to me as it is in the event of (1) above.

Thank you for respecting my requests on this matter.

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