We have put together a special page for pollinator specific resources! This page points farmers, other scientists, and anyone interested in pollinator protection to a collection of resources available both online, and in text that can help YOU protect our bees!
Check out the nice article that the GLBRC Communications folks put together regarding a recent Gratton Lab paper about ecosystem service tradeoffs that come with working perennial energy crops into agricultural landscapes.
Gratton lab member Rachel Mallinger has created an online WI Wild Bee Guide for native bee species commonly found in the spring and early summer. The guide allows users to identify bee species using picture matching or a dichotomous key.
The guide’s purpose is two-fold: allow people to identify bees themselves and act as a citizen-science tool to collect more data about bee abundance and distribution statewide. At the end of a successful bee identification, the site prompts you to fill out a quick form where you can submit your identification and the time and place you saw the bee.
The guide’s easy-to-use format is aimed for everyone from farmers to gardeners to students to curious citizens. With over 500 species of bees in the state, the guide helps users narrow in on the bee family or genus, if not to species.
Landowners and farmers may be able to use the identification tool to understand what kind of bees are abundant on their land and use that information to plant nectar and pollen resources and manage habitat in a way beneficial to bees.
Here is a nicely done piece by Eleanor Nelson of WPR and QuestScience on some of the bee work we do in the lab.
This was accompanied by a lovely video as well.
I am sure we will be getting emails and calls about an iPhone app for bee identifications! Although this is where we’d like to go with the project, it is really just in it’s infancy and a long ways from ready for the public. But I hope you will stay tuned!
Posted by Claudio
This past week was the 2013 Wisconsin State Fair. It had near record high attendance, with over million visitors over 11 days (eating a total of 387,000 cream puffs!). One of them was me (Kaitlin), and it was my first time at any state or county fair. It was great, and I already can’t wait to go back next year. The above photo is me toasting the Wisconsin Agricultural Ambassador with a choice locally produced beverage.
While my favorite part of the day was seeing a woman show her Holstein in a Bovine Beauty contest while wearing a camo-print ballgown, highlights also included the ag education stations and kids’ activity books focused on some of the crops that the Gratton lab works in — cranberries (Hannah), apples (Rachel), berries and grapes (Emma), and soybeans (Kaitlin). McDonalds had even built a fake cranberry bog for kids to practice harvesting in! It’s exciting to know that we’re investigating interesting and critical ecological questions in agroecosystems important to the state we live and work in.
The snow is slowly but surely melting and we are starting to think about the upcoming field season. Here in the Gratton Lab, we do most of our field work in agricultural settings. One crop we work in is corn. For those of you who didn’t grow up on a farm, you might not have had the opportunity to run through a corn field. We want to share that experience with you. This short video gives you a glimpse into a day in the field with the Gratton Lab.
If you noticed higher prices or fewer raspberries at your local farmer’s market this fall, you’re not alone. Wisconsin raspberries faced a new pest, Spotted Wing Drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) this year and the big question is: where is it now and will it return?
Native to Southeast Asia, Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) is a fruit fly with a sclerotized ovipositor capable of piercing the skin and successfully laying eggs in ripening fruits. The fly was first described in Japan in 1916 and detected in Hawaii in 1980. By the mid-2000s, SWD was in central California & spread rapidly throughout the Pacific Northwest and Florida. In 2010, SWD was in the Southeastern US, Michigan, and Wisconsin, but no significant crop damage was reported in Wisconsin until August 2012 when it was detected by raspberry growers in 17 counties.
While other fruit flies rely on fermenting or damaged fruit, SWD’s ability to attack ripening fruits can cause total crop loss, making it a potential pest for raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, grapes, strawberries and cherries in Wisconsin. Other fruit varieties at risk (e.g. elderberry, aronia) have been gaining popularity, especially in the Driftless area where growers are trending towards higher value perennial crops to increase sustainability and income. Wineries, farm stands, and value-added products are major tourism draws to the Driftless area, as well as other fruit growing regions in Wisconsin such as the southern shore of Lake Superior and Door County, and these customers tend to have a zero to low tolerance for insect larvae in fruit, so minimizing infestations are critical.
SWD are generalists which means they can jump from host-to-host throughout the year depending on ripening fruit availability. As many Wisconsin vineyards and small fruit operations are part of diversified farms, they offer the perfect season-long availability of food. Together, these characteristics may create ideal conditions for high local population growth and significant crop damage in the Upper Midwest. Current recommendations are limited to culling fruit and heavy season-long pesticide sprays, which simply are not options for the many growers who use organic, IPM or no-spray practices.
How did Spotted Wing Drosophila reach Wisconsin? The two main theories are 1) summer winds blow the flies in from southern locales 2) local overwintering. Field monitoring and laboratory tests have confirmed that SWD can overwinter in California and the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. While Wisconsin winters are usually much harsher than the Pacific Northwest’s, the ability of small protected populations to survive (in thicker-skinned wild fruits, leaf litter, soil, heated buildings) may be enough to cause or supplement annual outbreaks.
To help answer the overwintering question, the new fruit crop entomologist, Christelle Guedot and I have constructed 21 apple cider vinegar traps at 5 locations in Dane County with confirmed infestations at small fruit farms, natural areas, and raspberry high-tunnels. We will continue monitoring traps throughout the winter months to detect any flying adult presence which indicates overwintering in Southern Wisconsin. If adults are overwintering, they may fly on warm, sunny winter days, so although our traps are few, they may be one of the only attractive ‘fruits’ available in the dead of winter. Our first month of trapping (mid-December thru mid-January) only trapped two male SWD in a fall-infested high-tunnel; high-tunnels may be especially at risk for infestation due to their controlled mild temperatures and weather protection. Our second month (mid-Jan thru mid-Feb) trapped no SWD. Starting in April, in a partnership with DATCP, we will be coordinating a farmer-based monitoring program at 15+ farms statewide to track population trends.
So will we see SWD this year? We suspect a combination of benign overwintering conditions, 2012 infestation status and landscape effects will determine if any particular county or raspberry patch will face infestation. Monitoring this year will show if SWD is overwintering and help growers make early management decisions.
During the past week, the Gratton Lab members attended the annual Entomological Society of America national conference in Knoxville, TN. We had two car loads drive the 12 hours down to TN , with both presenters and non-presenters in attendance. This was the first time some of us (Maddy, Emma, Kaitlin) had been to this particular conference and thus did not present. However, it was a valuable experience simply to gauge how things worked and to see what makes a successful, and sometimes unsuccessful, presentation of science. Communicating science to a broad audience can be very difficult, and we were able to pick up some pointers by listening to the vast diversity of presentations (in addition to learning about some cool new research!)
The Gratton Lab was well represented- Claudio, Jamin, Hannah and Rachel gave talks, and Julia presented her poster. Everyone did a great job. Below are the titles of their presentations:
Claudio: To what extent do native pollinators contribute to fruit production in Wisconsin?
Hannah: Assessing the pollination requirements of a perennial crop
Rachel: Impacts of local and broad-scale landscape structure on the diversity of pollinators in Wisconsin agroecosystems
Jamin: Aquatic insects have positive indirect effects on terrestrial prey
Julia: Species-specific physiological response of common Coccinellidae to the impact of landscape composition
Heidi, David, and Erica were also at the conference, which was a nice reunion for the Gratton lab. Another benefit of going to these national conferences is to catch up with past lab members and friends. We were able to have an alumni dinner together on Tuesday night, enjoying each other’s company and the beautiful surroundings of Knoxville. All in all this was a successful conference for everyone who came! Below are some of the few photos we took…
Check out the Huffington Post article on biological control that features research by Tim and Claudio.