Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Arthropod in the Spotlight (IN SPACE!)

Female Phidippus johnsoni  (Wikipedia)
The first jumping spider to survive a 100 day stay on the International Space Station died on December 3rd at the Smithsonian. The species chosen to make the trip was Phidippus johnsoni (The red-backed jumping spider), which is a species commonly found in Western North America. The spider was launched into space as part of a student experiment to study its adaptability to the weightlessness of space. The spider was able to account for the effects of zero-gravity and catch it's prey. Upon it's return to earth in October it was able to readjust to gravity. The spider lived 10 months, which was the normal lifespan. Two other spiders have been to space, where they became the first spiders to spin webs in space in 1973 on Skylab, the United State's first space station.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

ESA is over.

ESA has ended and we are back at our offices to a pile of unanswered emails, papers to be written, and plans to be made for future projects.

We are very excited and proud of the FIVE graduate students from the Entomology Department at Ohio State University for awards they earned in their sections!

Lawrence Long: 1st place  (Emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) induced tree mortality alters forest bird communities)
Priya Rajarapu: 1st place (Midgut-specific profiles of the emerald ash borer larvae (Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire)
Doug Sponsler: 1st place (Influence of urbanization on the survival and productivity of honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies in an agricultural region)
Jake Wenger: 2nd place (Origins of virulence: A molecular investigation of the genetic relationship among avirulent and virulent soybean aphid biotypes)
Nathan Baker: 1st place (Histopathological effects of the cyanobacterial toxin, Microcystin-LR on the exposed epithelial tissues of the amberwing spreadwing damselfly, Lestes eurinus, and the bloodworm, Chironomus riparius.)

Ohio State tied with Penn State, Texas A&M, and Nebraska for the most awards. Please be sure to congratulate these students if you see them.

Four members of the ALE lab also presented research. (listed below):

Mary Gardiner: Lessons from lady beetles: Accuracy of monitoring data from US and UK citizen science programs
Caitlin Burkman: Land use change affects spider community structure in the urban ecosystem of Cleveland, Ohio
Ben Phillips: Quantifying the influence of landscape composition on the pollination service supplied to pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo) in Ohio
Chelsea Smith: Predator guilds attacking coccinellid eggs vary among egg mass species and across foraging habitats

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

ESA still happening.

We are still having a great time at ESA! The students are selling goods to raise funds for themselves....

Some OSU men manning the EGSA booth
Scott, MSU student Brett, and Caitlin are ready to stop selling t-shirts

The Ohio State Entomology Department has a great mixer where we could visit each other  talk to alumni, and spend time with friends!

Emily and Scott at OSU mixer
Yuting, Erin, Priya, and Samuel at OSU mixer

Monday, November 12, 2012

ESA adventures.

We are all staying busy viewing posters, watching presentations, and networking!

Scott questions a Penn State student about her bumble bee research
We are also finding time for the occasional adult beverage.

Emily, Ben, and Scott enjoying a beverage (or 2)

Sunday, November 11, 2012


We have arrived in Knoxville for the Annual Entomological Society Conference. There is much to do! Mary is speaking today and the students have their talks tomorrow.

Best of luck to all the OSU graduate students who are competing in the student competition!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ben Phillips Wins DeLong Award!

The Ohio State University Entomology department held it's DeLong award competition yesterday afternoon, an event that takes place every year before our national meeting (ESA). It not gives the students a chance to practice their presentations for ESA, and provides travel money to the winners! 

Today we found out that an ALE lab graduate student, Ben Phillips, won the first place award! 

The judges were very pleased with the quality of the student presentations, and could not decide on second place. The second award was split equally between Jacob Wenger (Michel Lab) and Larry Long (Herms Lab).

Congratulations Ben, Jake, and Larry!!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sample sorting

Field season has come and gone, leaving us graduate students with many samples to sort and identify. We also have a few undergraduates helping us out, possibly reconsidering their life choices as they do so.

I collect spiders in my field sites primarily with pitfall traps.

Soapy water breaks the surface tension, drowning anything that falls in :(
After leaving those out for 7 days and collecting oftentimes an obscene amount of arthropods, we store the samples for later sorting.

Next, the spiders need to be sorted out from the rest of the gunk. To reduce the amount of such debris, I recommend using some sort of trap cover while it's in the field.

Spiders, ants, beetles, etc. set aside on the left.
The use of a microscope is necessary for spiders - some are surprisingly tiny!

Camera pic, apologies for the blur.
Those little blobs to the left of the big orange spider? Yup, each a spider. Ants are on the right side of the photo for size reference. The big orange one by the way is Dysdera crocata: The Woodlouse Hunter (my future movie title), an exotic species from Europe which has made its way around much of the world.

Finally, I can actually identify the specimens. It takes time and repeated efforts to learn how to identify a spider to even just family, but I'm now pretty quick at identifying to genus. In the future, I may write a post about how to identify spiders, but for now here are some good links:



Friday, September 21, 2012

Insect in the Spotlight: Beech Blight Aphid

The beech blight aphid (Grylloprociphilus imbricator) can be commonly seen this time of year on American beech trees. This species of woolly aphid forms dense colonies on the branches and leaves of the trees. Last weekend they were very noticeable at Wooster Memorial Park where we were hiking. At the time I was not sure what species of aphid they were and we kept ourselves amused for some time poking and shaking the branches to watch the aphids "dance". What we were actually observing was defensive behavior in which they raise their abdomen and sway from side to side when disturbed.

(c) Joe Boggs ( http://bygl.osu.edu/content/return-engagement-boogie-woogie-aphid-0 )
Check out the video posted below (source: YouTube):

These aphids are not a significant risk to the health of the tree, and often deposits of sooty mold will form where the aphids have left honeydew behind.

Sources: bygl.osu.eduextension.umass.eduwikipedia.org

Friday, September 14, 2012

Insect in the spotlight: Agenioideus nigricornis

Australians have a tiny wasp to thank for keeping the population of a dangerous spider in check. The redback spider hunting wasp (Agenioideus nigricornis) attacks...wait for it...redback spiders. Bites by redback spiders, which are closely related to black widows, cause severe pain, sweating, weakness, vomiting, and in rare cases can result in death.

A redback spider-hunting wasp dragging its paralyzed prey back to its nest. Photo by Florian and Peter Irwin.
The wasp, described in 1775, had only been known by it's scientific name until just recently when a 9 year old boy (budding entomologist perhaps??) observed a wasp dragging a redback spider to it's nest. The boy's father photographed the event, collected the organisms and sent them off to be analysed. The wasps sting and paralyze their prey then drag the spider back to it's nest where it lays an egg on the live spider. The egg soon hatches and the larvae feeds on the spider (watch Alien if you would like another example of this behavior with other species) This newly discovered behavior led to the common name of the wasp, and has also been very interesting to entomologists. The redback spiders have spread from Australia to Japan and New Zealand, and perhaps these wasps could be introduced to control the populations of the spiders in those areas. Though I am sure there is MUCH research to be done before those options can be considered.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Done with fieldwork...

The ALE lab is done collecting data for the summer and fall is almost here!

The end of summer doesn't mean we get to slow down though! It's time to sort our samples, run statistical analyses, and complete everything we have be putting to the side for the past four months. There is much to do!

Keep checking our blog for updates about our findings, conferences we attend, news about current and future projects, and anything else the ALE lab wants to share with you!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

New student!

Hello all!  I’d like to introduce myself as the newest member of the ALE Lab!  My name is Andrea Kautz and I am excited to be a part of this wonderful group of entomologists.  I am a Master’s student with specific interest in biocontrol.  Originally from the small town of Monroeville, Ohio, I grew up on a farm catching insects as a favorite hobby.  I completed my undergraduate career here at OSU with a B.S. in Zoology and a minor in Entomology. 

Now I am not entirely new to the lab necessarily; I was hired on about a year ago as an undergrad to help sort through last season’s data for Ben… and Caitlin… and Scott….. and Chelsea of course!  So needless to say, I am pretty familiar with the current research going on in the lab.  I guess I did an okay job as an undergrad assistant because Mary decided to take me on as her new student.  Ben even elected me to be his right-hand (wo)man this summer with his pumpkin project!  It was a busy and fast summer, but I definitely learned a great deal about all of the effort that goes into a successful field season.

This first semester, the plan is to come up with a sweet project idea and plan PLAN PLAN for the 2013 field season!  Details to come…

Friday, August 31, 2012

Humulus lupulus research at OSU!

I got some good news yesterday from the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The grant titled: "Hop production to enhance economic opportunities for farms and brewers" I submitted a few months ago with  Brad Bergefurd was funded!  

The goal of our project is to develop a new Ohio industry for commercial hops production to capture the estimated $4 million dollars in hops and related jobs currently sourced out of state. Ohio supports an expanding brewing industry with over 70 licensed beer manufacturers and this number is increasing yearly. Historically hops were produced in Ohio; however disease and insect pressure shifted production to the Pacific Northwest by the 1920s. With better knowledge and tools to manage these threats, Ohio is poised to re-claim this high-value crop. Recently, a survey of Ohio and Northeastern states found that over two-thirds of brewers reported interest in buying regionally-produced hops. Respondents were also willing to pay up to 10% more for locally-grown hops. 

Our project will evaluate both the production and marketing of hops by Ohio specialty crop growers. We have three main objectives: 1) Evaluate the production and quality of commercially viable hop cultivars under Ohio growing conditions to develop a best-practices production protocol for growers, 2) Conduct a marketing analysis and expand marketing tools and programs for fresh and processed Ohio hops to improve grower profits, and 3) Provide training on all aspects of hop production through field days, development of an extension bulletin, and a project website.

Our project will begin this fall with the construction of hop trellises at both the OSU South Centers in Piketon, OH and the Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster OH.In the spring we will plant hop rhizomes and begin research to address our objectives.

We have some great collaborators who supported our application including Valley Vineyards, Great Lakes Brewing Company, and The Ohio Brewers Guild. We look forward to working with these stakeholders and others who are interested in growing hops or brewing with Ohio hops over the next two years! 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Semi-great Pumpkin Harvest!

Ben and I spent the past two days counting and harvesting his pumpkins...

If you need some pumpkins counted give us a call. We are experts.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

ALE Lab Research in the SEEDS Progress Report

SEEDS: The OARDC Research Enhancement Competitive Grants Program supports projects that are managed by both Faculty and Students. SEEDS give scientists an opportunity to collect preliminary data needed to compete for larger national grants.

The ALE lab has received funding from SEEDS for many of our projects. Recently our lady beetle work was in the SEEDS annual progress report. (Click the picture to zoom in)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Late summer pumpkin flowers

This morning was one of the last days in the field for me and Chelsea came to help. I am laying in the strip of alyssum flowers that I started in the greenhouse and transplanted to the field. We thought they were going to die in the heat and drought this summer, but we watered them often. Look at them now! Above my head are female pumpkin flowers, which I collect at 4 different times throughout the morning bloom to determine pollen deposition. However, the mornings have been getting cooler and squash bees are reaching the end of their short and active lives. Once they're gone bumble bees and honeybees will be the main pollinators until the plants die. The summer goes by fast!
Ever been to a you-pick pumpkin farm for an autumn trip with the family? In the coming weeks, Chelsea and I will visit 14 separate sites around the state to count and pick some pumpkins for an economic analysis.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Enjoying the nice weather!

It's not so unbearably hot anymore and Ben found some great lab space in Wooster!

He's enjoying the weather and washing pollen off his pumpkin flowers for a measurement of pollination services.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Congratulations to Chelsea!

 Last Sunday, August 12 the ALE LAB graduated its first student!!  Chelsea Smith received her M.S. in Entomology at the Ohio State University Summer Commencement. Chelsea did an amazing job in all aspects of her M.S. program. Her research focused on the decline of the native Convergent Lady Beetle. Chelsea examined whether exotic lady beetles were contributing to this decline by consuming native lady beetle eggs. She found that native lady beetles do incur significant egg predation in the field, but surprisingly this was not due to feeding by exotic lady beetles. Instead, a diversity of predators including harvestmen, slugs, and grasshoppers fed on the eggs of the native lady beetle. Chelsea has presented her work at multiple state and national meetings. At the 2011 Entomological Society of America Annual Meeting she was awarded runner up in the Student Competition for the Presidents Prize for her talk titled "Evidence refuting the interference competition hypothesis for native lady beetle decline".

Chelsea has also contributed significantly to undergraduate teaching here at OSU. She worked as a teaching assistant for the Center for Life Sciences where she taught Biology 101 for three quarters. She has also advised undergraduate students who have successfully completed research projects in the lab. She has also been very active in Extension, developing and presenting at multiple meetings and field days throughout her graduate career.

Chelsea has accepted a position as our Laboratory Technician so you will continue to see her blog posts in the future!  Congrats Chelsea, you should be very proud of all you have accomplished!!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bug Mania at Blue Pike Farm

This past Saturday the ALE lab presented a workshop at the Blue Pike Farm in Cleveland (bluepikefarm.com). We talked about beneficial arthropods and cucurbits (melons, squash, cucumbers, etc), and then Scott and Caitlin discussed the research they have been conducting in Cleveland.

Thanks for letting us present Carl!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lab day!

Today is the last day of work for a majority of our undergrads, and they are keeping busy in the lab!

Paul is busy pinning bees...
 Andrea and Alec are sorting samples...
And Shawn got stuck with washing the dishes.
Someone's gotta do the dirty work...Thanks Shawn!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012