Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Insect QUESTION of the week!

Do you know which insect is a beneficial predator (preys on other arthropods), and which is a pest of many crops?


Leave your answer in the comments section!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Our Urban Farming Collaborators

The ALE lab has been studying insect communities in urban vacant lands and comparing these communities to lands converted to produce food crops for two summers now. We have had a chance to work with some great collaborators though this research and I wanted to provide some information on their efforts to produce food within the urban landscape.
Blue Pike Farm

Carl Skalak, owner of Blue Pike Farm with Mary, Chelsea and Lucia

Blue Pike Farm: Last week we held an outreach event at Blue Pike Farm. This farm is operated by Carl Skalak. Blue Pike is located on East 72nd Street north of Saint Clair in downtown Cleveland and is the first farm started in Cleveland in the 21st century. The goal of the farm is to produce a variety of produce for local sale with out the use of conventional fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. In addition to Carl the Blue Pike staff consists of a hard-working volunteer coordinator named Pat and several volunteers who help to plant, cultivate and harvest the produce. They produce a diversity of crops at Blue Pike including strawberries, raspberries, melons, squash, eggplant, asparagus, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and herbs. The farm sells produce every Thursday from June-October on-site. They also sell at local markets in Cleveland as well as direct to restaurants around town. Carl and Pat are really great to work with, we really appreciate them allowing us to collect data from Blue Pike Farm and we hope to work with them again next summer!

The Cleveland Botanical Gardens Green Corps Program

The Cleveland Botanical Gardens Green Corps Program: Our research team also worked with the Cleveland Botanical Gardens this summer, collecting data from 6 of their learning farms which are located across the city. These farms host the Green Corps program which is a work/study program founded in 1996. As part of Green Corps high school students learn job skills, leadership and environmental stewardship. Students in Green Corps plant, tend, and harvest produce that they sell at farmers markets across the city. They also produce their own bottled products called, Ripe from Downtown, including salsa and salad dressing. For more information about the Cleveland Botanical Gardens Green Corps program, check out their website at: http://www.cbgarden.org/green_corps.html

Friday, August 27, 2010

A small break

Finally a slow and relaxed day, and it's a Friday! I can't speak for everyone, but this was a much needed break from my pumpkin schedule. I can process data, back-up my hard drive and clear my head for yet another go at collecting the elusive squash bee in action next week. My parents are in town for a visit, and I'll be entertaining them for the weekend. Above is a picture of my immediate family in Las Vegas. Penn was always my parents' favorite!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

More Blue Pike Pics!

Here are some more pics from Saturday's urban garden day taken by Lucia.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Blue Pike Farm Workshop

This weekend Mary, Steve, Lucia (a graduate student from Andy Michel's lab), and I hosted an outreach workshop at Blue Pike Farm. Blue Pike Farm is an urban garden located in Cleveland run by Carl.

We started by introducing the group to beneficial insects, and explaining their importance.
We then explained the methods used for sampling, and we found a very enthusiastic young lady that Mary should really consider hiring...

...She quickly perfected the sweep sampling method and I am sure we will be getting her letter of intent and CV in the mail any day now!! :)

Carl also had a surprise for the "experts". He caught some critters for us to identify in front of everyone! Luckly Lucia and I recently took the the Biodiversity Entomology course, though we still have some learning to do since Mary identified most of the insects.
Lucia and I may have both been stumped with some of the specimens...We then talked a bit about pollinator diversity and identification.

It was a great learning experience for the participants, as well as for Lucia and I! I am looking forward to more opportunities to explain the importance of our research to the public.

Thanks to Carl for hosting us, and to all the participants!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

First pumpkin experiment!

The above photo was taken at 0500 on Thursday morning at the site of my first field experiment! I'm attached to that hovering ball of light by a headband.
The first thing we did was pick out the flowers we bagged the night before that had bloomed and assigned treatments to them. Above is a picture of one of our ambient pollinator treatments. These flowers were recorded all morning on a video system developed by Matt Grieshop, from Michigan State University. We returned in the afternoon to collect the stigmas from half of these flowers, and left the other half to develop into a full pumpkin for a seed count.
Mary waits patiently in the above photo while timing a bumblebee in a female flower. She collected the bee and the stigma so we can figure out how much pollen an individual bee species can transfer in one visit.
Got a honeybee!

We returned on Friday to do another repetition of this experiment. The frustrating part was picking flowers the night before only to find out that they weren't ready to bloom on the morning of the experiment! Next week I will be repeating this experiment again in Piketon.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

All Good Things...

Hi everyone! I’m Bethany Hunt, one of the undergraduate researchers in the lab this summer. Today was my second-to-last day here at the OARDC, but there was still plenty to keep me busy. My main objective was to catch natural enemies and pollinators and then cage them. After making a few stops at grassland fields around Wooster and an OARDC alfalfa field, I soon had collected plenty. Among my detainees were lady beetles, soldier beetles, assassin bugs, predatory stink bugs, minute pirate bugs, damsel bugs, hover flies, long-legged flies, and several spider species. These beneficial insects will be used for outreach at Blue Pike Farm, an urban garden in Cleveland, on Saturday.

Just like last year, I’ve had an awesome summer doing research here! I’m sad to see it end again, but excited to begin my senior year at Otterbein University in a few weeks. After graduation, I’ll be starting my graduate studies in entomology. I haven’t decided where to go yet, but I’m sure my two summers of research experience will prove invaluable to me. I’m very thankful to Mary for giving me these opportunities. It was great working with all the ALE members as well. Thanks everyone and enjoy the rest of the summer!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sunflowers Deployed

Sunflower Setup in Vacant Lot

Urban Garden

Our sunflower experiment is underway! After a long few months of growing sunspot variety sunflowers from seed, they are finally in bloom. We deployed 8 sunflowers at each of our Cleveland sites (8 urban garden and 8 vacant lot) for a total of 128 plants! We will leave them out for a week to measure the pollination services available to both landscapes.

As you can see from the above setup, 4 plants are grouped together, 2 with bags covering the blooms, and 2 left open. The bags prevent half of the sunflowers from being pollinated by bees. When the sunflowers set seed this fall, we will compare the seed count and weight between the bagged and unbagged flowers. This difference gives us a measure of the pollination services the bees provide.

Urban Garden

Vacant Lot

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

One fish, two fish...

Today Bethany and Ian were busy counting predatory insects on yellow sticky cards collected from community gardens across Cleveland. In addition to the many lady beetles, minute pirate bugs and hover flies found on the cards they encountered a very rare find, a goldfish cracker!

Many of the community gardens we sample are managed by the Cleveland Botanical Gardens who host Green Corps, a summer youth program.

Monday, August 16, 2010

BLBB Sampling Time is Here!

The second data collection for the Buckeye Lady Beetle Blitz is underway this week. If you are a member and did not put your yellow sticky card out yesterday you can collect data next week, beginning on August 22. Questions? Send us an email at ladybeetles@osu.edu
Thank you to all our BLBB volunteers!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What a summer!

This was one good week to be out. One downside was the humidity on some days, which felt like a one had a quilt draped all over them on a hot summer day. There was a lot of traveling as usual...with great scenery along the way.

A multicolored asian lady beetle resting side by side with a fly on a soybean leaf

I still haven't found soybean aphids our fields within the buckthorn study area. The fields are galore with lady beetles and other natural enemies though. Some of our soybean fields are already at an advanced stage of growth.

A sign welcomes visitors and travelers to Gilboa in Putnam county

Now on a different note, I'd like to let all our blog followers know that this is probably my last summer with the ALE lab group. I've had a wonderful and fun time this past year in the lab. I'm thankful to Mary for having me as an ALE group member. It was great to work with Scott, Chelsea, Ben, and all the summer assistants Nita, Jared, Kojo, Bethany, Mark, Ian, and A.J.

That is one angry bull!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Holcopasites calliopsidis - cleptoparasite

While identifying bees this week, I found this bee, Holcopasites calliopsidis, which is a cleptoparasite of...

Calliopsis andreniformis - host

...this host bee, Calliopsis andreniformis. Cleptoparasites, or cuckoo bees, are found in several bee families and throughout the world. These bees do not have the special hairs (scopa) that other bees use for carrying pollen, and do not create their own nests. Instead, the females lay eggs in the nest of a bee which DOES collect pollen and build its own nest. When the parasitic young mature, they eat the pollen left by the host bee, and possibly eat the host young! This behavior is common in other living things, including cuckoo birds.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Empty Lab

It was a wonderfully serene day in the ALE lab, as everyone save Ben and I were out doing field work. Ben worked on counting pumpkin pollen grains, and I identified the first set of bee samples from our urban gardens and vacant lots. Thankfully, we used this peaceful time to our advantage, because...

Everyone came back from the field at the same time! Oh well, I will miss everyone milling about in the Fall when it will be just me.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Parasitoid ATTACK!

From the lady beetles that Bethany collected, I managed to grab a parasitoid after it emerged from the pupa and place it in a petri dish with a convergent lady beetle. It did not take long for the parasitoid to attack the lady beetle.

We are going to keep this beetle alive for a couple weeks and then freeze it for dissection so we can find out what the larvae of the parasitoid looks like.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Long-horned bees

Since all of my pumpkin sites are blooming I have started sampling for bees. I have found many Melissodes bimaculata in our bee bowls. All black, with two whitish marks on their abdomen, a light-colored face patch and shocking white leg-hairs, they are an important pollinator of sunflower plants. They are related to the squash bee, as they are both long-horned bees with long antennae and fly early in the mornings! However, while the male squash bees sleep in safe, plush pumpkin flowers that close up around them at night, male M. bimaculata just finds a plant and hangs on all night by its mandibles and legs. I'm not totally sure, but I've heard this is how Chuck Norris sleeps, too.

Today we are saying goodbye to one of our student workers, Jared Power. He is taking a much-needed break before returning for his last year of high school. Good luck, Jared!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Summer is winding down!

Another busy week is coming to a close. The summer schedule of ALE lab is beginning to wind down...about a two weeks to a month of fieldwork is remaining. Between now and then, there are quite a few more trips to be made. On the buckthorn front, we have one more soybean sampling trip slated for next week. So far we haven't come across soybean aphids. Maybe we'll be lucky next week.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bethany Hunt's Summer Research

Bethany Hunt loves Entomology. She has been collecting, pinning and identifying insects for years and last year began working in our lab as a summer student researcher. Bethany contributes to several of the projects we have going on, including the buckeye lady beetle blitz. When volunteers send samples back to the lab, Bethany examines their sticky card and data sheet to check for errors and enters all the data. She also identifies numerous other beneficial insects on each card, in addition to the lady beetles.

This summer, Bethany also conducted a study examining parasitism rates of native and exotic lady beetles. Lady beetles are attacked by a the wasp parasitoid Dinocampus coccinellae. Bethany is examining whether parasitism rates of native lady beetles are affected by the abundance of exotic lady beetles present. She is examining this by measuring the diversity and abundance of exotic and native lady beetles in 24 grassland, soybean and alfalfa field sites across Ohio. From each site she uses a sweep net to collect lady beetles and determine their abundance. She places each lady beetle in a petri dish and monitors it for 28 days to determine if a parasitoid emerges from the beetle.
As you can see from the pictures, she has quite a collection of beetles at this point!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

First Rain Test for the Cameras!

Ben and I got rained on while packing up all the camera equipment, and I am happy to report that there doesn't seem to be any water damage to the equipment! It just might take a few days for my shoes to dry out, and the van is probably going to be a little smelly when Kojo uses it in the morning.

I have spent the first half of the week video taping egg masses in alfalfa, CRP, and soybean fields in Shelby County, and I am currently downloading all the data to our external hard drive. My next task is to get all the equipment ready to go right back into the field on Thursday!

All the video will be watched and predation on the egg masses will be documented. We better start stocking up on popcorn!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Kojo Quaye's Field Research

Kojo Quaye is a student researcher in our lab this summer. He graduated from high school this year and will be attending Princeton University in the fall, studying Chemical Engineering. This summer Kojo conducted predation studies in the Cleveland community garden and vacant lot plots we have been blogging about. He examined the activity of above ground predators by placing corn earworm eggs in two treatments (shown in picture above) an "Open" treatment where predators could consume the eggs and a "Caged" treatment that exposed the eggs to environmental conditions but excluded predators. After 48 h in the field, Kojo counted the number of eggs remaining in both treatments. He is currently analyzing this data. So far, it appears that predation increases throughout the season, particularly in gardens where very low predator activity was measured in the early summer when vegetation and the pests that attack garden plants are sparse.