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How Top Teams Hone Their Entomology Expertise for the Linnaean Games

2017 Linnaean Games match

University-sponsored teams of entomology students compete every year in the Linnaean Games, a college bowl-style game in which teams’ entomological knowledge is tested. Regional matches are hosted at Entomological Society of America Branch Meetings, and the national competition takes place at the ESA Annual Meeting. Teams headed to the 2018 national competition say a regular practice schedule and a breadth of knowledge among entomological sub-disciplines are keys to success. Shown here is a championship-round match at the 2017 competition between teams from Purdue (right) and eventual champion Texas A&M. (Photo credit: Glenn Cook/Entomological Society of America)

By Emily Justus

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth and final post in a series contributed by the Entomological Society of America’s Student Affairs Committee, with the goal of engaging entomology students and helping them prepare for Entomology 2018, the Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Societies of America, Canada, and British Columbia, November 11-14, in Vancouver. Read previous posts in the series

Also, in 2020, ESA changed the name of its student trivia competition to the “Entomology Games,” though this article retains the previous name that was in place at the time of its original publication. For more info, see the July 6, 2020, announcement, “Entomological Society of America Renames Student Quiz Competition.”

The Linnaean Games has been a staple of both regional and national Entomological Society of America meetings since 1983. This competition is a college bowl-style game in which student teams from different universities test their entomological knowledge.

Emily Justus

Emily Justus

A match in the competition is structured like so: Each team has the opportunity to answer 16 toss-up questions. These questions draw from categories such as apiculture, biological control, ecology, economic entomology, medical and veterinary entomology, physiology and biochemistry, taxonomy and toxicology. If a team answers a question correctly, it then has the opportunity to answer a bonus question that draws from any area of entomology but frequently focuses on entomological history and people both past and present. A full explanation of the games and more rules can be found on ESA’s Linnaean Games website. Or, check out video of the 2017 Linnaean Games championship match. To compete at the national meeting, a team must place in the top two spots of its respective regional competition, hosted at ESA Branch Meetings.

So, how do teams prepare for such a wide variety of topics? I talked to members of four teams that will compete at this year’s national competition: University of Georgia, University of California- Davis/Berkeley, University of Delaware, and University of Nebraska-Lincoln about their practice methods and what they thought gave them the edge to progress to the national competition.


A consistent practice schedule was a common trend for these teams. Both Georgia and Nebraska practice at least once a week, and even up to twice a week as a competition grows closer. Delaware also has a regular practice schedule; however; it is less frequent than the other two teams.

It is also common for teams to have a bank of past Linnaean Games questions to prepare for the competition. Additionally, advisor Robert Wright, Ph.D., says the Nebraska team keeps an eye on current events in entomology and shares what they find with team members. One way Georgia and Delaware cover the vast amount of information, meanwhile, is by splitting the eight sections up between teammates. The UC Davis/Berkeley, however, declined to share its practice schedule and strategy citing that their method was “a team secret.” We will see if their secret practice method stacks up at the national competition!

Gather a team with a diverse background and experience in past Games

Another common thread between teams is that they believe having a well-rounded team gives them an edge. Zach Griebenow, a member of UC Davis/Berkeley team, attributes their success to the members of his team being broadly knowledgeable, and he says he believes that all successful teams have this in common. Wright at Nebraska says that teaching and taking entomology courses gives members of his team a general sense of the science. Additionally, Nebraska team members think that their past experience in Linnaean Games competitions (the majority had participated at the North Central Branch meeting in 2017) contribute to the team’s success.

Have fun!

Georgia emphasized that, while their team tries to make practices focused, they also try to have fun. And that is what is at the heart of the games: former ESA executive director D.W. Hansen put it best: “I do want to stress one thing with these games. They are just that: enjoyable games. Please don’t go overboard and let them become cut-throat, competitive contests, because that would spoil the fun… . The most important thing is to remember the games were started to provide a new dimension to the meetings and provide camaraderie throughout the audience and teams.”

The Linnaean Games is a fun competition in which students from across the country test their entomological knowledge and is truly one of the highlights of the ESA Annual Meeting. The 2018 National Linnaean Games Competition will take place at Entomology 2018, the Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Societies of America, Canada, and British Columbia, November 11-14, in Vancouver. The preliminary round will take place Sunday, November 11, at noon, and the final round will take place Tuesday, November 13, at 5 p.m.

Emily Justus is a graduate student in the Department of Entomology at Ohio State University, specializing in integrated pest management and insect chemical ecology. She is also the North Central Branch representative to the ESA Student Affairs Committee. Email:

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