Research Updates

Sept 15, 2018


dsc_7757.jpgThis summer we have been exploring the pollinator community that utilizes hemp. Hemp is wind pollinated and produces copious amounts of pollen from tiny flowers on the male plants. While hemp pollen can contain both THC and CBD, insects lack receptors for these compounds.  Hemp pollen does contain protein as well as alkaloids and flavonoids, making them a potentially valuable food source for bees during a period when relatively few other flowers are blooming.  Undergraduate student, Nate Flicker, has been documenting the diversity of bees attracted to this abundant food source as part of his honors thesis.



July 18, 2018:
Celebrating the strawberry harvest with some home made strawberry milkshakes!

June 17, 2018:
We are wrapping up the strawberry season and our bumble bee colonies are going strong so we decided to move them to field tomatoes on the same farms.

There isn’t much research on pollination in field tomatoes except for this great paper by Sarah Greenleaf and Claire Kremen.  Field tomatoes seem to be much more pollinator dependent than we originally thought so maybe the bumble bees will give our fields a boost!

June 7, 2018:
Dangerous attractions in the strawberry fields…

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June 3, 2018:

Part of the goals for our spring sampling in strawberry are to develop an I2PM or Integrated Pest and Pollinator Management plan for Finger Lakes growers of all sizes. In addition to our work with managed bumble bee colonies (see below), we are evaluating various pest control strategies primarily targeting Tarnished Plant Bug (TPB) to determine their impacts on pollinators. Currently, we are sampling TPB on farms around the region now that the pollinator season is wrapping up.

May 23, 2018:  
Pollination is in progress in strawberry fields all across the Finger Lakes region of NY. This spring we are evaluating the effectiveness of managed common eastern bumble bees, Bombus impatiens, for strawberry pollination. Honey bees rarely visit cultivated strawberry. In past years they made up only 7-15% of the strawberry pollinator community, so growers are looking for other solutions to their pollination needs. Bumble bees, which fly in the cool spring weather during strawberry bloom, might be a good alternative but the cost per hive is steep. We have teamed up with the Aaron Iverson of the McArt lab and Miguel Gomez of the School of Agricultural Economics to assess the economic and ecological outcomes of bumble bee management.

May 3, 2018:  
Check out this great post from Lauren Gedlinkse of the Issacs Lab at MSU which covers our project exploring whether wildflower plantings can boost bee size in high agriculture landscapes.

April 3, 2018:  
Last spring the research crew and I placed bee nests on farms around the Finger Lakes region in NY. Bee NestAlthough occupancy was overall low during the spring and summer, by the fall we had nearly 300 nests stored safely in the lab freezer for the winter. Last week we took our nests up to the Cornell Vet School to get a peek at the bees inside!

January 9, 2018:  
Bugs on bugs (on bugs!): For a community ecologist, much of the winter is spent sorting and identifying the mountain of samples collected hastily in the summer and ferreted away in every available square inch of available freezer space. Yet, the hours spent hunched over a microscope, squinting at obscure identification characters are occasionally interrupted by the appearance of something altogether weird. This winter it’s the Meloids.

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Meloids are a genus of beetles commonly called the “oil beetles” that belong to the larger family which includes the blister beetles. But why are these little guys showing up on the backs of bees? The answer turns out to be quite sinister.

It all begins when a female beetle lays a clutch of eggs in the soil near some vegetation. As the eggs hatch, the first instar larvae, called triungulins, scramble up nearby plants in search of a ride. After locating a suitable perch, often a flower, most species take a passive sit and wait approach. Others adopt a more proactive strategy, forming aggregations and releasing the scent of female bees in order to lure in eager males, as described recently by Leslie Saul-Gershenz and Jocelyn Millar. After realizing his mistake, the male moves off in search of more productive encounters, but not without inadvertently piking up a few hitchhikers. But woe to the next real female he does encounter, as these sexually transmitted parasites jump ship and return with the female bee to her nest. There, the triungulins grow fat on the pollen provisions so tirelessly stored by the female bee for her own offspring. Often the hungry beetle larvae consume the developing bee brood as well, and by the end of the season the only things to emerge from the nest are a new generation of plump, metallic beetles.

To add insult to injury, the adult beetles continue to fatten up for winter by eating the petals, anthers, and pollen from the fall flowers. Above are some adult Meloe beetles feasting on the Silphium flowers planted in my experimental pollinator restoration habitats. At some sites, Meloids had wiped out nearly every flower!

It must have been quite a good year for them. I’m currently seeing triungulins on about 1 in every 100 bees collected during the spring of 2017 while in previous years I might have found a triungulin for every 5,000 bees I collected.

Aug 4, 2017:  
Summer is in full swing in the finger lakes! Goldenrod is blooming and corn is tasseling. Imagine my surprise when I noticed that there were hundreds of bumble bees and honey bees collecting pollen from the corn tassels in the field on our farm. The bees seemed to be singly interested in collecting corn pollen despite the plentiful goldenrod, clover and jewel weed nearby.

B. impatiens on corn

Bombus impatiens workers foraging on sweet corn at Full Circle Farm

July 15, 2017:  
Check out this highlight of our work for Pollinator Week 2017!

June 15, 2017:  
Many creatures in addition to bees love our wildflower strips! Snakes, toads, frogs, giant orb weaver and crab spiders, butterflies and even baby deer have all been spotted during our pollinator surveys. Here are a few photos I snapped over the years.

May 15, 2017:  
Field Season is underway! Our amazing undergrads have been out looking for ground beetles and bees, and enjoying the fun of fruit picking!Field Crew 2017

April 15, 2017:  
It has been a busy spring! In addition to collecting some follow up behavioral data for the apple pollinator projects, Erin and I started a bioassay with Osmia to expore interactions between fungicides and Ascosphaera. Many of the larvae are already spinning cocoons! Osmia Bioassay

April 1, 2017:  Congrats to Erin Kirchilsky on her 1st place award in the CALS undergraduate research poster competition for her honers research on fungal pathogens in Osmia!

Erin Poster Award

Finally!!  As of May 2017, I am officially a PhD! Huge thank you to my committee and everyone else for all of your help over the years. I excited to start the next chapter of my academic life as a postdoc in the Poveda lab.

Defense Talk 2017

March 15, 2017:  
Media coverage of apple-strawberry pollination paper!                                                                                                                                                                     

March 15, 2016:  
Click here to view recent media coverage of our body size project