Thursday, September 30, 2010

Backyard Beekeeping

Seeing as I don't have any data to analyze and am just beginning a literature review, I will instead highlight various aspects of urban ecology and insects for the next few weeks (until I can think of something else). I'll piggyback on last week's entry and discuss backyard beekeeping.

Indicative of the times (or maybe just my generation), the first thing I did to find information was Google "backyard beekeeping." I had no idea this topic was so hot! The hobby is booming, no doubt partially due to increasing public interest in organic produce and Colony Collapse Disorder. The White House kitchens even caved this summer and started their own hive.

Beekeeping regulations differ by state and county, but Ohio appears fairly lax with 41 beekeeper's associations. New groups are still forming, including the Greater Cleveland Beekeepers Association established in 2008. The organization is utilized by suburbanites and city-dwellers of the area, but why would your average Joe want a backyard beehive? The obvious reason is to have your own honey, but pollination services are also important. Not only will your (and your neighbor's) garden benefit, but surrounding parks can, too. Bees will fly up to 2 miles to find flowers and it takes about 2 million flowers to make 1 pound of honey. Backyard beekeepers are a real benefit to their community.

This does raise some questions about the landscape where the bees forage. An upcoming ALE lab study aims to examine how the surrounding landscape structure along an urban-to-rural gradient influences bee pollinators due to differing pesticide exposures. How are stressors different in a commercial apple orchard versus a suburb where many homeowners apply Roundup?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How does the Biology 101 classroom work these days?

While science is always changing, the way we teach it changes too!

At a university, such as Ohio State, the lecturer might be teaching 600-700 students at one time! In the past this might have been a professor standing in front of everyone lecturing, and maybe writing on the chalk board.

As technologies have been invented, the lecturer now has the ability to interact with the class (even 600 of them!) and know instantly if they are understanding the information or using Clickers!

The professor that teaches one of the Biology 101 sections really gets a good use of this technology. A multiple choice question can be shown on a PowerPoint, and after everyone answers using the remote (that they are all required to purchase), the professor gets instant feedback and can address confusing topics.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Favorite photo of the summer

Class started on Wednesday in Columbus, and the Gardiner lab has hurdled the week with ease and grace. I put together a powerpoint presentation for the Pollinator Partnership in San Francisco, CA to explain all the goings on in Ohio over the summer. Looking back on the summer was fun, and I surprised myself by how much was accomplished. Next year will be much busier, and while I'm here in Columbus I will be synthesizing that experience with future goals in a research proposal. Here is my favorite photo of the summer: pumpkin stigmas soaking in soapy water for processing pollen counts.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New member in the ALE lab

Hello readers! My name is Caitlin Burkman and I am yet another new graduate student in Mary's lab. I'm starting here in Columbus and yesterday was the first day of classes, made complete with our own tornado warnings (luckily no damage!). I won't be TAing, so I'm taking 3 classes: introductory GIS, insect ecology, and statistics.

I graduated this past May from Case Western Reserve University with a Biology B.S. I studied moth and cockroach behavior, but am looking forward to delving into ecology. My thesis project isn't defined yet, but I plan on examining disturbance within urban environments and its influence on insect communities. I'm happy that this work will largely be in Cleveland; having spent the last 4 years there, I hope to play some part in its revitalization efforts by understanding what's going on in its vacant lots, urban gardens, and elsewhere.

One really cool aspect of urban insects is backyard beekeeping. My boyfriend's dad has 3 hives in his backyard. Can't wait for the honey harvesting next season!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How well do you know your lady beetles?

Are there any BLBB volunteers out there? Here is a good time to show off your knowledge of lady beetle identification!

Can anyone identify these?



Sunday, September 19, 2010

Major damage to OARDC left by tornado

As Ben said on Friday, Wooster OH experienced severe weather on Thursday September 16. Our campus, The Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center experienced major damage. This includes damage to some of our campus buildings and our greenhouses. As a campus community we are so thankful that nobody was hurt during the storm. We have been asked to stay off campus while buildings are inspected and hazards are removed.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rough Weather in Wooster

The state of Ohio experienced some foul weather yesterday. In Columbus the tornado sirens sounded three times around 3 o'clock, and by 5:30 the same fast-moving storm system had zipped up to the OARDC in Wooster. No one has been hurt, and the Wayne County Fair continued to operate throughout the evening. However, there has been a substantial amount of property damage, and both a gas and electrical power outage has resulted in headaches for many scientists who rely on refrigeration for their samples. For more information and pictures, follow this link.

Wooster was lucky compared to Athens, which also got hit pretty hard.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

First Report From Columbus!

I am finally getting all settled into my new home in Columbus! So far everything has been going very well. While I miss the lab in Wooster, I am excited to learn about a new place and have already been meeting other students.

The past two days have been spent at orientation for teaching, and we have one more day of that. Biology 101 lab will be my first experience with teaching, and I understand that I'll be learning just as much as my students. It will be interesting since there are more students enrolled in Biology 101 at Ohio State than the entire student body of the college I went to for my undergraduate degree. This city is certainly nothing like Wooster, but I am getting used to it!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Aphidophaga 11 Conference

This Friday (Sept 17) I am leaving for Perugia Italy to attend the Aphidophaga Conference. Aphidophaga are aphid-eating insects, and this conference will include speakers discussing a range of interesting topics including: lady beetle ecology, interactions between lady beetles and other aphid predators, aphid parasitoids, biological control of invasive aphids, and fungal diseases of aphid predators.

I am really excited about the opportunity to meet researchers from around the world who are studying aphid predators and parasitoids as well as catch up with corroborators of the ALE laboratory who will be attending. Watch for highlights from the conference and photos of Italy!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Seed mixing

This week the gang and I mixed my perennial native plant seeds with sawdust! This dilutes the seeds and allows us to more evenly broadcast the seed by hand. We will plant this at six of my pumpkin growers' farms in October and let the seeds lay dormant over winter. Next year my growers will keep the plot mowed to allow the perennials to develop their root systems. By the summer of 2012 we will let them grow to witness the types of insects they attract to the pumpkins.
We mixed our sawdust and seed on a tarp and mixed it well with shovels. Ian and I had fun, while Chelsea took the pictures and Scott drank coffee...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Back to Campus

Graduate students Ben Phillips and Chelsea Smith are leaving Wooster this week to begin Fall Quarter in Columbus, OH. The Ohio State University is gearing up for the new school year which gets underway the week of September 20. Both Chelsea and Ben will be busy this fall, teaching laboratory sessions of Biology 101 and taking graduate courses. Both of them are in my Insect Ecology class so at least I will get to see them a couple times a week!

We also have a new graduate student joining us this fall, Caitlin Burkman. Welcome to the lab Caitlin!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Garden Club of Ohio

Today I gave a presentation at the Garden Club of Ohio's annual meeting. This group "supports endeavors in every aspect of gardening through educational programs, horticulture, and floriculture." The club had a great turnout today, with 100 people attending the presentations and lunch. I really enjoyed meeting with the Garden Club members, and I hope we get some great insect questions for future blog posts!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Found in the Garden

Lately the ALE Lab blog has received some interesting insect photos from gardeners. The top picture was sent in by Sarah Vradenburg. It's a swamp milkweed beetle (Labidomera clvicollis). This leaf-feeding beetle looks a lot like a lady beetle, and can be found on milkweeds in the garden. The bottom image was sent by Sally Francis, its a Colorado potato beetle. This beetle is a major potato pest, feeding on plant leaves and stems as a larva and adult. If you find an "insect of mystery" send it to us at!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Lazy Friday

All is quiet in the lab this Friday. Everyone is feeling sick or has a visitor or is traveling, except me! I'm here processing the final bee bowls, copying my data sheets and cutting open a knucklehead pumpkin I received as a gift from one of my growers to practice seed counting. This is my opportunity to play music that no one else likes!

Before Chelsea and I move to Columbus we have a large list of things to take care of to winterize the lab. There are drawers and cupboards for everything and pieces of equipment that need to be gathered and grouped. It reminds me of when I used to volunteer at a volunteer bike shop. We would start each day with a 30 minute "find and bind" where we would gather up loose pedals, shifters and various matching parts that belong together and zip-tie them for storage in the part bins. It also gave us the chance to find junk that we didn't need, and an opportunity for new storage space.

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

BLBB August Sample

Volunteer Cathy Roe's garden
The Men's Garden Club of Youngstown Youth Garden
Wilson Garden Wonder

The buckeye lady beetle blitz has two sampling periods, one in June and one in August. During both sampling periods our 200+ volunteers survey Ohio's lady beetles in their home gardens. Above are some images of the August data collection that just finished up. Thank you to all who participated!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Yeah Bethany!!!!

We received some great news today. As many of you know who follow the ALE blog, undergraduate researcher Bethany Hunt has been studying lady beetle decline as part of our lab for the past two summers. This summer, Bethany presented her research as part of an undergraduate research symposium held at the OSU Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Her presentation earned her a FIRST PLACE Research Award for her outstanding research and presentation. Bethany will travel to San Diego this winter to present her work at the Entomological Society of America conference. Way to Go Bethany!!

Bethany in the ALE lab and working hard in the field!