Friday, December 13, 2013

The ALE lab had some fun this week!

The Entomology department had its Christmas party last night and the ALE lab represented and had a great time. We missed Chelsea, she was off learning about Hops. As Scott would say, learning is for losers!

From left to right: Scott, Cali, Andrea, Mary and Nicole

Chelsea was at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO this week representing the ALE Lab. She learned about Hops, moderated a biological control session, and caught up with Ben (ALE lab alumni) who is enjoying his career as a Michigan Extension Agent!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Ohio Hops project on facebook!

Keep updated with the Ohio Hops Project: "Like" us on facebook!

Monday, November 25, 2013

ALE update

With ESA behind us the ALE Lab is getting back into the groove. We have are very busy around here!

  • Nicole is working hard on the Cleveland project, getting the plantings arranged, making maps, and organizing educational materials.
  • Chelsea is planning a hops workshop for February, and might be visiting the local brewery every now then for "research"
  • Scott is preparing for his departmental seminar, an important step for his transition from the Master's program to the Doctorate program (good luck Scott!)
  • Andrea is identifying 100's (or 1000's??) of flies...and probably drinking large quantities of Mountain Dew.
  • Mary of course is busy advising/helping us with everything above as well various other projects!

Members of the ALE lab enjoying some beverages at ESA.
Nicole isn't pictured, but she'll be there next year!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Misunderstood spider...

Here at the ALE lab we are very interested in spiders! They are generalist predators which means: they eat many different things, especially agricultural and house hold pests! Since they hunt a variety of pests we consider them to be important biological control agents, meaning they eat pests for us so we don't have have to use as many insecticides.

Spiders may be among the most misunderstood of arthropods. Most people have heard about the brown recluse to be dangerous, however much of that information is misleading. For starters...the range of the brown recluse just barely reaches the South-western tip of Ohio, so Ohioans should not fear!

Wikipedia recently published an article regarding the poor misunderstood brown recluse..check it out!

LINK: Why You Need Not Fear the Poor, Misunderstood Brown Recluse Spider

Also...let's not forget, jumping spiders are just adorable.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

ESA presentations by the ALE lab

The ALE lab was well represented at ESA this year with three talks and two posters!


  • Pollinator diversity and pollination services provided to urban garden and turf-based vacant lot habitats - Scott

  • Can change in urban population size represent an opportunity to enhance predator biodiversity and biocontrol services in shrinking cities? - Mary

  • How are lady beetle communities shaped by patch and landscape composition? - Chelsea

  • Assessing the feasibility of small scale hop production in Ohio - Chelsea

  • Using the Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ) to quantify the impact of pesticide use on natural enemy guilds in organic and conventionally-managed agroecosystems - Andrea

Friday, November 15, 2013

The entomologists escaped from the Austin conference center... capture insects of course!

This year a couple students and I managed to find our way to a green-space on the banks of the Colorado river. There were plenty of insects populating this urban area!

We found two wild honey bee hives. Sorry...didn't take any pictures, we just avoided them. We were not very interested in finding out if the bees were aggressive or not, although it is probably safe to say they were not aggressive since it took us awhile to notice them.

There was a nice population of thread waisted wasps (not sure what species yet, Andrea might  be able to figure that out later since she collected some!).

Found only one lady beetle, and of course it was a multi-colored Asian (Harmonia axyridis) just the most common invasive lady beetle you can find around Ohio. Good thing I flew to Texas to see one!

I also found another insect common to Ohio...

...the spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata)!

Andrea also spotted a butterfly i the distance, and started the chase!

It escaped.

Andrea and Erin brought back a good number of specimens. If they are able to identify any interesting Austin based insects we'll report it here!

Dummy caterpillar experiment results!

I checked on our dummy caterpillars over the weekend and saw no action so I decided it would be best to leave them for a week to give ample time for some predation. I probably should have checked the weather before making that decision...several inches of snow later.....I collected what was left of the caterpillars this afternoon. Two sets (six caterpillars total) were on plants that died and though I tried, I could not find the caterpillars! Of the two other sets I did find, there were two caterpillars that had interesting marks. First I referenced what some common predation marks might look like:
Howe et al., 2009

Curtis et al., 2013

Then I looked at our caterpillars under the scope:
Mark found on the dorsal aspect (top) of the caterpillar.

Mark found on the lateral aspect (side) of the caterpillar.

What do you guys think? Both of these caterpillars had been secured to branches of a pine tree. I'm guessing this experiment would be a lot more interesting if it was done in the spring!

Monday, November 11, 2013

ESA: Day 1

The ALE lab arrived safely at ESA!!

Here we are hanging out with some other OSU entomologists before the opening reception.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Dummy Caterpillar Testing

As part of our vacant lot study being conducted in Cleveland, we are doing an outreach program targeting high school students in which we hope to introduce the students to natural predators through a "dummy caterpillar" experiment. There is a bit more to the program than just the experiment but the fun part for us is that we get to test out the experiment before preparing the teaching materials that will be used for the outreach program. If you can't find the caterpillars, you can click the photo for a larger image.
Our "caterpillars". We made three different shades of green by combining green, white and brown plasticine.

I'll be checking the caterpillars over the weekend to look for signs of predation and will collect them all on Monday. We'll check them out under the microscope and try to identify any marks (if present). We'll keep you posted as to how the mini-experiment goes so check back for more information.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Scott wins travel award!

The Ohio State University Entomology department held it's DeLong award competition yesterday. This competition takes place every year before our national meeting (ESA). It  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, Scott Prajzner, won one of the two awards! The other award went to Travis Calkins.

Congratulations Scott and Travis!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How should hops be prepped for winter?

Here and the ALE Lab we just carried out some final plant maintenance to get the hop yard prepped for winter.

We had left some vegetation in the field after harvesting back in August-September. We figured since we have first year plants this would be beneficial as the plants need their leaves to photosynthesize (create energy) to build up their roots systems.

Before we cut the plants down the field looked like this:

We cut the bines down to about 1-2 inches above ground level.

...I didn't take us too long to get the hop yard all cleared out!

Due to the presence of downy mildew we trucked all of the vegetation out of the field, and sent it to be composted.

Many growers will cover their hop plants with mulch or compost after cutting them back.  This is supposed to help protect the crowns from freezes. We decided to go mulch free to find out how that method would work for Ohio hop growers.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Finished my first week!

     Hey everyone! I figured since I have survived my first week in the ALE lab, it was time to introduce myself. My name is Nicole and in the attached picture is Cody. So what's my story? I was in the Navy for a bit, which is how I ended up with Cody. I was stationed in Italy first, then Spain and in Spain we had a kennel on base. It was love at first sight. Cody was about four or five months old when I got him and he's been with me ever since. I moved to North Carolina when I got out of the Navy and there I attended Queens University of Charlotte where I received my BS in biology. I am all set to graduate from Winthrop University, which is in Rock Hill, SC, in December with my MS in biology. If I had to throw a label on myself, it would be molecular ecologist. I really enjoy having a molecular component to my studies. My thesis research involved sampling amphibian populations at a local state park and testing them for the presence of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). Bd is a chtyrid fungus that infects the skin of amphibians and can cause the disease chytridiomycosis, which can be fatal in some species. I enjoyed my research and was very grateful to have picked up the skill sets I did, especially all the molecular work, while doing it as this was key to my being chosen as the new research assistant for the ALE lab.

     So what will I be doing here anyways? I was hired on to help with what we're calling the vacant lot study, which is the project Mary recently received an amazing grant for. I am very excited to be a part of this research and am looking forward to getting started on the project. The molecular aspect of the study will involve determining what some of the predators are eating. I hope to start testing protocols for that this winter so that we'll be ready when it's time to start collecting the selected specie and begin testing them. Working with arthropods is new for me and this roughly translates to reading, reading and more reading. Thankfully I actually enjoy learning about anything ecology related.

     Even though my first official work day was Monday, I attended the Stinner Summit last Friday with Mary, Chelsea, Andrea and Carol. It was a great introduction to the area and I loved the concept of the summit. The attendees work together to come up with projects that involve healthy agroecosystems and sustainable communities. There are numerous sessions in which attendees break off into groups to develop and explore an idea for a project by coming up with a mini-proposal that is then pitched to the other attendees and, at the end of the day, the attendees donate "Stinner bucks" as well as IOU's (can be for labor, expertise, money, etc.) to the projects they would like to support. The bucks are turned into funding through the Ben Stinner endowment. It was such a cool experience to see so many different groups of people come together and I think at the end of the day there were about six projects that received funding. My time this week has involved learning where to find things in the lab, learning pinning from Chelsea and Cali and yesterday I took my first trip into Cleveland to help Chelsea get soil samples for another project the lab is collaborating on. It's been a fun week and I am truly thankful that the opportunity to be a part of a lab with such a great group of people presented itself to me. I have had nothing but good feelings and excitement since I received the email from Mary saying that I had gotten the job and I know this will continue throughout my time here.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Polygonia interrogationis on hops

Among the many pests we discovered in our hop yard this year was the Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis). As late instar larvae they managed to completely defoliate an entire plant!

Of course since we are entomologists we saved the larvae in the lab to rear them into adults. The larvae are dark with bright yellow spikes

Herbert A. 'Joe' Pase III,
The pupae are brown except for silver spots which can vary in size, but there are usually eight of them. They attach themselves to leaves with silk and hang there until adults emerge

Herbert A. 'Joe' Pase III,
On the adult, the upperside of the forewing is red-orange with black spots. The underside is light brown and a pearly white question mark in center is often located in the center of the hindwing.

If this pest becomes a serious problem applications of Bt will control them. Please read and follow any pesticide label carefully.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Wooster Hops Production Field Day

Our Hops Production Field Day was featured by Farm and Dairy: Hops Article

Earlier this month we had a successful field day with about 80 participants! The excitement surrounding hop production in Ohio is growing and our job is to help growers obtain the knowledge needed to produce hops.