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 ( )
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.


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…