Summer isn’t over yet for farmers and extension staff doing field experiments!
Labor Day weekend may be viewed by some as the end of summer, but farmers know that the summer growing (and harvesting!) season is far from over. Similarly, the field projects I’m involved with this summer (read more
here and here) are still running. Over the fall and winter I’ll be analyzing data and sharing results (on this blog, and at winter meetings). In the meantime, here’s a pictorial summary of my summer projects (so far).
Golden alexanders (Zizia aurea) was our earliest-blooming wildflower in our beneficial insect habitat plots around the Christmas trees. It was blooming on May 16 in Geneva, NY.
Some of us may not like them in our lawns, but starting in the first week of May (Geneva, NY) dandelions were providing food for beneficial insects like this bee.
This shy lady beetle was finding food in the flowers of this weedy mustard plant in mid-May (Geneva, NY).
After expert training from Cornell entomologist Jason Dombroskie (pictured here during our training session in late April), we’ve been using a sweep net to catch insects that fly or perch on the wildflowers in the habitat plots we started last summer. We sampled this way once every month.
Starting the week of May 20th, we set out pan traps (blue and yellow plastic bowls filled with soapy water and weighed down with rocks) approximately every other week. These traps catch insects flying through our plots, especially those that are attracted to the colors blue and yellow. This includes many bee species.
Also during the week of May 20th, we started setting pitfall traps once each month. Insects walking along the ground fall into these deli cups filled with a drowning solution. We put rain covers over them (made out of clear plastic dinner plates and wire from old flags) to prevent a heavy rain from flooding the deli cups during the 3 days the traps are set.
We caught and saw so many insects (and non-insects, like spiders) this summer! This seven-spotted lady beetle was a frequent visitor to our plots.
Many flies are important pollinators, like this one that resembles a bee at first glance. Many flies are also important natural enemies of pests (either as adults, or as worm-like larvae).
This minute pirate bug may be tiny (it’s magnified 20X), but it is an important natural enemy of pests.
We caught so many different kinds of bees and wasps!
Plenty of caterpillars (like these monarchs) enjoyed munching on the foliage of our wildflowers.
And in late July, we started seeing adult butterflies visiting the flowers like the viceroy butterfly on these purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea).
I learned that these are tiger beetles. They are fast-moving ground predators, and we caught a lot in our pitfall traps.
Different wildflowers bloomed at different times, like these purple catmint (Nepeta faassinii) and tall white beard tongue (Penstemon digitalis) in June.
White boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) and pale purple wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) were blooming in late July.
And now the rudbeckia (two different species, but Rudbeckia fulgida var. fulgida is pictured here) and deep magenta NY ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) are in full bloom. But the asters and goldenrod haven’t started, yet.
And the Christmas trees planted around these beneficial insect habitat plots keep growing!
I couldn’t have done this without the help of my great co-workers, Betsy Lamb, Deb Marvin, and Brian Eshenaur! They were still smiling after a morning of weeding the wildflowers by hand!
A student from a local college helped me a lot with insect collection!
Meanwhile, field trials with biofungicides are ongoing, targeting cucurbit powdery mildew on winter squash and white mold on snap beans and tomatoes (not pictured). This project is funded by the New York Farm Viability Institute.
Elizabeth Buck (left) and Crystal Stewart (right) are running the trials in western NY and eastern NY, respectively. This project is funded by the New York Farm Viability Institute.
Meg McGrath (left) is running the trial on Long Island, but we all got together at a twilight meeting in eastern NY last week. This project is funded by the New York Farm Viability Institute.
So far, it’s been a good summer! I’ve really enjoyed working with great colleagues and learning new things!
The field projects I’ve just described will be wrapping up in September. Check back to learn about the results. Better yet, click the green “Subscribe” button towards the top and right of this page, and you’ll receive an email when a new post is available!
In the meantime, there will still be at least a few more weeks of pictures posted regularly on Twitter (@AmaraDunn) and Instagram (@biocontrol.nysipm).