Friday, April 30, 2010

Bulletin Board

Hilary and I made a bulletin board outside the lab detailing the negative environmental impacts of the invasive common buckthorn. I also squeezed in a shameless plug for our Buckeye Lady Beetle Blitz T-shirt sale on the far right. Thanks for the help Hilary!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Some sights from a flagging day!

Dairy cattle basking in the morning sun (Top), A buggy ride (Middle), and Caught a train ride...more like caught at a railway crossing on a very trainy day (Bottom).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


We had a very productive day flagging sites for aphid pan trapping on Monday. We found many nice open areas, and despite one little detour in the wrong direction, navigating to our next location was relatively straightforward. We were also excited to find a few new stands of common buckthorn that we can use in our study (see March 28 and April 7 posts). And if we weren't having a great day already, these albino deer we spotted by the side of the road would have made up for it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Not Really an Insect of the Week!

The linyphiid spider: Erigone atra

Today James Harwood from the University of Kentucky visited OARDC and gave a seminar. He studies ecological interactions between generalist predators, and focuses on spiders and beetles.

The linyphiid spider is very small (a couple mm), and a very significant predator of both pests and beneficial species in agricultural settings. Dr. Harwood has done studies that have shown that these spiders actively construct their webs in areas with high prey density and that they are a valuable predator of aphids (since aphids often fall off of their host plants and are unable to escape the spider webs).

Monday, April 26, 2010

New Appointment as Adjunct Professor at CSU!

I was very excited to find out this weekend that my application for adjunct faculty status in the Department of Biological, Geological, and Environmental Sciences at Cleveland State University has been approved! This will allow me to mentor students at CSU as a graduate adviser. Our lab is working collaboratively with CSU researchers to learn more about the insect communities found within vacant urban lands. We are interested in how land-use changes in urban landscapes, such as the incorporation of farming, will influence insects and the beneficial services they provide. We are working with Dr. Michel Walton and his laboratory at CSU on this project. Dr. Walton is the director of the Northeast Ohio Ecosystem Consortium (NEOECO) a multi-institutional partnership focused on urban ecology, landscape design, urban planning, and natural resources management. He also is the principal investigator of a National Science Foundation Urban Long Term Research Area (ULTRA) planning grant. The goal or Dr. Walton and the NEOECO team is to establish an ULTRA site in the city of Cleveland.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Busy Bees

As I'm sure everyone has noticed, bees are out in full force in Ohio. I caught a few of them in the Arboretum the other day, although the wind made for some difficult photography. Just above is the underside of a honey bee (Apis mellifera) that was collecting pollen. You can see the heart-shaped head and barrel-shaped abdomen that are helpful in identifying honey bees. I think this one actually stood still for me because the wind was blowing it against the flower petal! Nonetheless, she sure has a large bundle of pollen to take back to her sisters. The top photo is a female large carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica) on a dandelion.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Field season is finally here!

An assortment of equipment for constructing traps, which will be used for catching soybean aphids.

It is that time of year when some of us (especially me) are thankful that the iron grip of winter seems to be weakening. It is also that time of year when colorful floral blooms of nature are everywhere one looks.

For use here at ALE lab, this time of year comes with a lot of excitement...the lab is abuzz with preparation for the field season. One can hear the "clanking" of tools as field structures are built, the searing sound of tape being freed from the tape dispenser, and the occasional clattering sounds of used petri-dishes being cleaned in the sink. In short, the field season is finally here!

It is open season and I can't wait to go buckthorn hunting. We also plan on setting up traps for the tiny green "winter residents" (a.k.a. soybean aphids) of buckthorn plants that love the taste of fresh and tender soybean plants.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


The crabapples at the OARDC Secrest Arboretum here in Wooster are in bloom, and boy are they beautiful! I took a stroll through for a few minutes to watch the bees gather pollen. The Arboretum has one of the largest crabapple collections in the nation!

Acoording to this release, peak bloom will be this weekend, so go take a look.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

This Area is Under Surveillance

With the help of Steve we are getting our camera systems ready to go out into the field. Our plan is to observe lady beetle egg masses, and hopefully get a better idea of what is eating them.

Our cameras also have nifty night vision (pictured above). They use infrared light so it shouldn't interfere with the insects.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ohio's First Lady Participates in Buckeye Blitz!

Our most famous Buckeye Lady Beetle Blitz volunteer is Frances Strickland, Ohio's First Lady. She is pictured with a BLBB sticky trap in the vegetable garden at the Governor's Residence. Mrs. Strickland will assist us with our research again this year!

Friday, April 16, 2010

600 LBS

Not 600 lady beetles, but 600 pounds of equipment will fit in our nifty new lab cart. It will be very helpful to carry Chelsea's camera equipment out to the field, where we will use video to monitor predators eating lady beetle eggs this summer. We're excited to find all sorts of uses for our cart, including wheeling Chelsea around the lab. Thanks for building this Alfred!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Retro Aphid Tile

I am not renovating my bathroom with this great lime colored tile, its actually used in the aphid traps that Scott blogged about in his "Aphids Watch Out" post on April 7. You put a tile like this in the aphid trap to attract the pests. Scott looked all over to find this color of tile, and it was nearly impossible. He finally found a discontinued lot in a warehouse. I guess lime green tile is not as popular as it once was!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bugs World

Bugs World is a two-day school group event which happens every year at OARDC. It consists of a series of 40 minute programs focused on insects such as: Busy Busy Bees, Insects and Plants Combat, and Who's Been Eating my Lunch. Our program was Beetle Blitz, and it was designed after our outreach program: The Buckeye Lady Beetle Blitz. We worked with the Michel Lab to develop a version of our lady beetle survey that students could do at school. From the survey they will learn about the different types of insect predators found in Ohio and be able to compare their data with other schools who participate.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fayette Master Gardeners Featured in Article

Jim Essman and seven additional Master Gardeners from Fayette County are taking part in the Buckeye Lady Beetle Blitz this year. Jim (shown above) will collect lady beetle data from the Fayette County Phenology Garden. We posted an article about the Fayette County Master Gardeners and the Buckeye Lady Beetle Blitz on our website.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Thursday, April 8, 2010

New Grant for ALE Lab!

We found out this week that a proposal we submitted to study insects in urban landscapes was selected for funding by the North Central IPM Center. This is a project I started last year that we will expand given this new funding. The study will focus on the community of beneficial insects found in community gardens and urban farms. We will study not only the diversity and abundance of species but also the biological control and pollination services they provide. We will measure how the amount and quality of green space in the surrounding landscape influences beneficial insects and their services. We will be working with several collaborators on this project including Dr. Parwinder Grewal and Kevin Power (shown above) and Dr. Michel Walton of Cleveland State University.
Working in urban gardens is a ton of fun, not only do we get to meet the gardeners and collect interesting data, but the ice cream is delivered on-site!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Aphids Watch Out!

These are some soybean aphid pan traps that we are testing out for this spring. As part of our study on the invasive shrub common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), we will be sampling for soybean aphids very soon as they migrate into soybean fields. These simple traps are made of tomato cages and food storage containers. We will fill them half way with propylene glycol and add a green tile which will attract the aphids. So far this week, these prototypes have withstood all the rain and wind Ohio can offer, so we might have a couple winners. We certainly hope so...time is of the essence!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

MYSTERY Insect of the week!

For my Insect Biodiversity/Morphology course I have been dissecting insects:

Can anyone guess what this messy looking dissection is showing?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Field season is almost here!

This is the time of year it hits me, we have A TON of work to get done this summer. Luckily we have been continuing to meet with the research teams for all our projects throughout the winter and spring, but, once it starts to get warm the pressure is on to move from plan to action!

This week we are finalizing supply lists for all our field projects, many trips to Lowes are in our near future....

We have already acquired some of the needed supplies. Above, painted bee bowls used to measure bee abundance and diversity dry on a lab table.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

New ALE Website!!

The ALE lab now has a website to go with our blog! We have all been working on the site the last couple weeks and want to thank Dave Lohnes at OARDC for helping us constantly as we figure out how to make changes to the site. On this website you will find information about our current research and outreach projects, as well as information about our current staff and any job opportunites in the lab. It is still a work in progress but we are really excited to have this site up and running!