Protecting Pollinators in Your Lawn

Bumblebee

Bumblebee

Managed lawns, especially golf courses or other sport turf get insect damage that must be controlled. Homeowners who want a picture perfect lawn may treat as well. However, treatments that kill insect pests may also kill beneficial insects including pollinators. A group of scientists* have published recommendations for acceptable pest control that minimizes harm to pollinators. Some of the suggestions are:
Wait until after the early season pollinators get established before treating.
Consider using granular formulations of insecticides, to avoid contamination of flowering portions of plants in bloom.
Use grass varieties with pest resistance.
Maximize the mowing height. Taller grass has deeper root systems that better tolerate pest injury.
Consider using biological control agents that are specific to the pest insect
Establishing nearby plots of pollinator-friendly plants. Flowering plants on the borders can give the turf a more pleasing appearance while providing pollinators needed resources for growth and development.

Incorporating these practices may take more time and planning, especially at first, but the results can be beneficial to both pollinators and turf management.

*Jonathan L. Larson, Adam Dale, David Held, Benjamin McGraw, Douglas S. Richmond, Kyle Wickings, R. Chris Williamson; Optimizing Pest Management Practices to Conserve Pollinators in Turf Landscapes: Current Practices and Future Research Needs. J Integr Pest Manag 2017; 8 (1): 18.
doi: 10.1093/jipm/pmx012

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Ants Endanger Butterflies

Schaus Swallowtail

Schaus Swallowtail

The Schaus swallowtail butterfly, Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus, is an endangered species of butterfly in Florida with critically low numbers. Habitat loss is an important component in its decline, but exotic species are having a detrimental effect. .

Clayborn and Koptur* excluded ants from interacting with the caterpillars and found decreased survival when ants are not excluded. The most problematic species was Pseudomyrmex gracilis the Elongate twig ant, an exotic species from Mexico and not native to Florida. These ant predators were the most aggressive toward Schaus Swallowtail caterpillars of any of the ant species observed. The threat to endangered butterflies is one more reason to guard against transport of exotic species.

*Jaeson Clayborn & Suzanne Koptur. 2017. Mortal combat between ants and caterpillars: an ominous threat to the endangered Schaus swallowtail butterfly in the Florida Keys, USA. Journal of Insect Conservation. pp 1–14. First Online: 14 July 2017

Posted in by jjneal, Endangered Species, Invasive Species | 1 Comment

Living With The Golden Sun Moth

Golden Sun Moth

Golden Sun Moth

The Golden Sun Moth has beautiful yellow hind wings that resemble a “golden sun”. This moth is threatened due to development and fragmentation of its grassland habitat. Unlike most Lepidoptera, the Golden Sun Moth feeds on the roots of grasses. Its natural habitat is grasslands in Australia that are grazed by Wallabies.

In the Canberra, Australia area, a planned building by the Bangladesh High Commission was delayed because the Golden Sun Moth was found on the site. The site is being evaluated in further detail to determine if the construction would harm the moth populations. The Canberra building plan sites foreign embassies in this area which happens to be habitat for the Golden Sun Moth. The moth may force a change in plans as diplomacy gets trumped by conservation.

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Insect Pest Photography

Mosquito

Yellow Fever Mosquito, Aedes aegypti
Photo: James Gathany

Institutions that provide information on pest insects often use photos to communicate with the public. Go to any Cooperative Extension website and you will find photographs of pests. The public is often clueless when the name of an insect is mentioned, but show them a picture and the response is more often, “I’ve seen one of those.” Scientific information, no matter how good, is only useful if it can be communicated adequately. Photography has been a critical component of the communication efforts of many institutions.

Institutions often have a photographer or someone trained in photography on staff. The Centers For Disease Control is no exception. James Gathany has been a photographer with CDC for 30 years. His photographs, especially of mosquitos are widely distributed and used such as the photo at left. Gathany uses an artists touch to make his images compelling and aesthetically pleasing. The CDC honored his work with an exhibit in the CDC Museum. The Atlantic Magazine has an article featuring James Gathany that includes some of his photographs.  Check out the article to learn more about his career, techniques and see some awesome photos.

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Eastern Tailed Blue

Eastern Tailed Blue

Eastern Tailed Blue

The Eastern Tailed Blue, Cupido comyntas, is a common butterfly in Indiana summers. The Eastern Tailed blue feeds on a variety of legumes including clovers. The larvae often feed on the flowers and seeds of their host plant. Flowers and seeds typically contain more protein than the foliage.

The Eastern Tailed Blue has adapted to feed on many plants not native to North America. It has a wide geographic range and is found in many disturbed sites. Like many of the butterflies in the family Lycaenidae, the larvae may at times be tended and protected by ants.

The adults of the Eastern Tailed Blue have similar size and color pattern to the Summer Azure. The “tails’ on the hind wings of the Eastern Tailed Blue can be damaged over time. However, Eastern Tailed Blues can be readily distinguished from the Summer Azure by the orange spot on its hind wing.

We hope to see many during our Butterfly Encounter, Saturday, July 15 at 10:30 am

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2017 Tippecanoe Butterfly Encounter

This Saturday July 15, 2017, we will conduct our annual counts of butterflies at the Evonic Corporation Nature Center.  We will meet at 10:30 am, Count from 11am to 12:30 and tabulate and discuss the results between 12:30 and 1.  More information: https://extension.entm.purdue.edu/butterflycount/

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The Eyes Have It

Buckeye

Buckeye butterfly Insets: Close up of some of the eyespots.

Many species of butterfly, especially in the family Nymphalidae have markings on the wings that resemble eyes. For humans, eyes, or images resembling eyes attract the attention of our brains. Movements of the face and eyes are important visual cues in human communications and interactions. Since eyes and eyespots draw our attention, it is not surprising that the subject of eyespots on the wings of butterflies has the attention of scientists.

Speculation about a “function” for eyespots dates back at least to the 1890 book edited by EB Poulton, The Colours of Animals. The book contains the speculative chapter, “Colors and markings which direct the attention of an enemy to some non-vital part, but which are not attended by unpleasant qualities”. Poulton suggested that eyespots on the wings of butterflies and on other animals could redirect the attack of predators away from vital parts (such as the head an body of a butterfly) and toward the eyespots present on non-vital portions of the wings.

Other speculations suggest that the eyespots are a form of mimicry, the eyespots “intimidating” predators because of their resemblance to the eyes of animals that are much larger and more dangerous. In some species, the eyespots are hidden during rest and flashed at a predator when the insect is disturbed. This has been interpreted as a potential defense to “startle” a predator to give the prey time to escape. Yet other evidence finds a role for eyespots in mate recognition. Perhaps eyespots have little to do with repelling predators and more to do with attracting mates?

Eyespots come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and numbers. It is quite possible that eyespots have a range of functions that is context dependent. Perhaps the effect is large on some predators but not others. Perhaps small eyespots are better at redirecting the attack and large eyespots are better at intimidating the predator? The speculation is endless and experimentation with predators and fast flying prey is difficult to conduct. Sorting out the many speculations is likely to be a long process.

This year, 2107  buckeyes can be commonly found.  Look for them on flowers or collecting at puddles or wet spots on wood chip trails.

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