Ugly bugs compete in 'Wild West' showdown

October 28, 2011

A posse of newcomers is riding into town to take over from a lawless assassin. These little hombres – contenders in the 2011 Ugly Bug Contest – suck blood, hatch deadly parasitic larvae, and eat dung, making them rougher and tougher than the average Hollywood western outlaw. Critters in this gang are squirming to become the most wanted. The one that ropes the most votes will be crowned “ugliest bug,” taking the title away from last year’s winner, the Assassin Bug.

Designed to have fun with science, the 2011 competition marks the fourth year of Arizona State University’s involvement with the Ugly Bug Contest. Begun in 1997 by Northern Arizona University’s Marilee Sellers, the contest was local to Flagstaff for the first decade of its existence. In 2008, after visiting her laboratory and seeing posters for the contest, ASU’s Charles Kazilek, a senior research professional in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences who sports the moniker "Dr. Biology," began working with Sellers to bring the contest to the Web. Colorized image of a flower beetle Download Full Image

Each year since, the interest, and the number of votes, has grown. In 2010, the Ugly Bug Contest received an unprecedented number of ballots with some 37,400 bug fans showing support for their favorite creature. Entire schools participated in the selection process.

Voters in this year’s contest have until Dec. 15 to choose the most intriguing, heartwarming or stomach-turning bug.

For 2011, a classic western theme inspired the title “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Bug Contest.” the contestants earn all three parts of this year’s title, since the nefarious characteristics of the competitors are often balanced by beneficial functions that the different bugs serve. For example, the Ichneumon Wasp, which lays parasitic larvae that kill their hosts, is also used to control species that could harm plants. Even the vile seeming Dung Beetle returns nutrients to the soil as it feeds.

The roster of ugly bug candidates for the 2011 competition also includes the Bed Bug, Damsel Bug, Flea Beetle, Flower Beetle, Green Lacewing, Ladybug, Plant Bug and Seed Beetle. This year’s Ugly Bug video is online at

The annual contest is part of the “Ask A Biologist” website, a science portal for children in ASU’s School of Life Sciences developed by Kazilek. The “Ask A Biologist” site and the Ugly Bug contest in particular are intended to be both fun and educational for students, according to Kazilek.

“First, we want people to have fun with the voting and the video, but closely linked to the playful event is real science. The idea of classifying living things, taxonomy, is a large part of the Ugly Bug Contest. Beyond that, we want people to just take some time to learn about insects, how incredibly amazing they look and what they do,” said Kazilek.

The “Ask A Biologist” website houses a number of features such as downloadable wallpapers, coloring pages and puzzles. There are also biology related articles and quizzes to teach visitors of the website about the science. Other features of “Ask A Biologist” include experiments and how-to guides that are available through the activities section of the site. A new feature of the site that is still under development is “Body Depot,” presented in collaboration with the Arizona Science Center. The site serves as a gateway to the field of biology for young students.

New to the Ugly Bug Contest this year is the article “Six-Legged Recipes,” contributed by Mary Liz Jameson, an evolutionary biologist at Wichita State University. The article includes several tasty recipes such as “Bug Bars” and “Spicy Bug Crunch” made of meal worms, and “Chocolate Covered Crispies” and “Yummy Hummers” made with bees. The article details the nutritional value of insects, the environmental benefits of eating insects, and the role that insects play in the cuisines of other countries. There is also a companion audio podcast for the article titled “Been There Dung That,” a reference to Jameson’s study of dung beetles.

Pictures of each of the 10 Ugly Bug contestants are included on the website, and each is paired with a listing of information such as the size of the bug, its Latin name and its habitat along with other interesting facts.

A scanning electron microscope was used to the capture vivid, highly magnified images of each bug in the contest. Along with the bright, colorized versions of the images of the bugs, the original black and white scans are also available on the site. The microscope images allow viewers to see details of the bugs that are too miniscule for the unaided eye.

The current frontrunner in the contest with over 1,571 votes is the Flower Beetle. Also known as Collops vittatus, Flower Beetles feed on soft bodied insects and are important to controlling whitefly populations in cotton fields.

Close behind the Flower Beetle in votes are the Dung Beetle and the Ladybug. Sneaking up in fourth place is the Seed Beetle, with more than 1,000 votes as well. With voting open until Dec. 15, there is still plenty of time for a new leader to emerge. Votes may be cast at

Kazilek is fond of all of the competitors this year, but his favorite bug in the competition is the Ladybug. “They are very beneficial insects that provide a natural pest control for plants. Also, they have cool colors and patterns,” says Kazilek. “What's not to love about that?”

While these endorsements of the Ladybug are compelling, it is up to the public to learn about these crawling contestants and ultimately decide which one deserves the title of Ugliest Bug.

Written by Evan Lewis.

Carol Hughes,

Lindor named executive vice provost of Health Solutions

October 28, 2011

Keith D. Lindor is leaving his position as dean of Mayo Medical School Rochester, Minn., and professor of medicine at the College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, to become executive vice provost of Health Solutions, effective Jan. 3, 2012. 

In his new position at Arizona State University, Lindor will lead all of ASU’s health related activities and will have responsibility for developing the new School of the Science of Health Care Delivery and working with others to develop the ASU’s master’s degree in the Science of Health Care Delivery that will be embedded in the curriculum of the Mayo Medical School in Arizona. Download Full Image

The School of Nutrition and Health Promotion will report to him, as will the Department of Biomedical Informatics. The College of Nursing and Health Innovation is part of Health Solutions, and other related units include the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering and numerous research centers and programs including the Center for Health Innovation & Clinical Trials, the Center for Health Information and Research, the Center for World Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, The Health Care Delivery and Policy Program and the Healthcare Transformation Institute.  

“At ASU we are focused on challenges, and improving health care is at the top of our challenge list,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “Better health care will require new models for education and research and new kinds of collaborations. That is why ASU has reconfigured all of the university’s health related schools and centers, and entered into a variety of collaborations with our partner, Mayo Clinic.

“Keith Lindor has already undertaken an innovative approach to improving health care in helping to conceptualize the Mayo Medical School – Arizona Campus, which includes a key collaboration with ASU. He will be responsible for bringing together all relevant academic personnel at ASU to coordinate with Mayo in our desire to transform health care and produce health care professionals who are prepared to lead in the medical profession of the future.”

“Dr. Lindor is exceptionally creative and innovative and an ideal person to lead our programs that will produce the health care professionals who will transform health care in the future,” said Elizabeth D. Capaldi, executive vice president and provost of ASU.

“I took this position because of the opportunity to link the resources of two great institutions, Mayo and ASU, to improve health care outcomes,” Lindor said. “I can’t imagine that there is a better place to pursue that challenge.”

Mayo Clinic recently announced the expansion of Mayo Medical School in Rochester to Arizona, and a major differentiating feature at this new branch of Mayo Medical School is that all students will complete a specialized master’s degree in the Science of Health Care Delivery granted by ASU, concurrently with their medical degree from Mayo Medical School. Mayo is believed to be the first medical school to offer such a program.

Over the past nine years, ASU has worked strategically to establish a comprehensive educational and research relationship with the Mayo Clinic aimed at improving health outcomes for the people of Arizona and the nation. The resulting multi-faceted Mayo-ASU collaboration is based at Mayo Clinic Arizona, but also extends across the Mayo Clinic system to its medical practice and research groups in Rochester, Minn., and Jacksonville, Fla.

The Mayo Clinic/ASU partnership has produced innovative degree programs, such as dual degrees in medicine and law, medicine and business administration, and medicine and biomedical engineering. It also has produced exceptional research initiatives that are addressing some of today’s most important health care issues, such as in metabolic and vascular biology, cancer, personalized medicine, bioengineering, intestinal microecology and health care innovation.

Lindor received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (1975) and a medical degree from the Mayo Medical School (1979), and did a residency in internal medicine at Bowman Gray School of Medicine (1979-82). He is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM).

His honors include being named a MacMillan Management Scholar, Internal Named Professor in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine, and Caro M. Gatton Professor of Digestive Disease Research, all at Mayo Clinic.

He began his career at Mayo in 1983 after serving a year as general medical officer, Indian Health Services, Sells, Ariz.

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library