Alfalfa Weevil Infestations from a Landscape Perspective

IMG_0177Alfalfa weevil (Hypera postica) is the most problematic pest in Wyoming alfalfa fields. One of the reasons this pest is so tricky for producers to manage, is because infestations  can be highly variable and difficult to predict. They can be very problematic in some years and fields, and not at all in others.  As a result, producers have the difficult task of deciding if, how, and when to manage for weevil. Continue reading

Flower Power

cosmoIncorporating flowers in agricultural landscapes has been an area of increasing interest recently. As scientists and farmers try to find new ways to make food production more sustainable, an emergent idea has been to increase the functions (See Farm Meets Function for some WY examples!) that agricultural lands provide. One way to do this is to add diversity to the types of habitats found on agricultural lands. Continue reading

Seeking Grad Student!

WYOThe Plant Sciences department at the University of Wyoming is recruiting a graduate student to conduct research exploring ecological interactions involving pests in cropping systems, beginning Summer 2016. Possible topics include biological pest control by natural enemies, farmer decision-making strategies, and the role of non-crop habitats in agricultural landscapes, depending on student interest and background. The student will serve as a teaching assistant for both face-to-face classes as well as distance-based online education in the department. This assistantship specifically supports under-represented domestic minority students, specifically American-born or naturalized citizens of African-American, Hispanic/Latino, American-Indian/Alaskan native, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Asian-American decent and women, who are traditionally under-represented in agronomy. The student will be mentored in the areas of research, teaching, public outreach, and career development. More broadly, support and community are present at the University through Multicultural Affairs, including the Multicultural Resource Center and a suite of student organizations, and the Women in Math, Science & Engineering (WiMSE) program.

Required qualifications are a BS in biology, ecology, agronomy, or a related field, independent research experience, demonstrated excellence in oral and wr itten communication, and a valid driver’s license, given necessary research travel throughout the state. Preferred qualifications are experience and interest in working with insects and agricultural systems, and interest in innovative teaching strategies. Interested applicants should contact Dr. Randa Jabbour with any questions or for information on how to apply (, 307-766-3439). Applications are due on February 1, 2016. Continue reading

What I’ve Learned

Hello again! Jemma here. Looking back I have done more than I could ever imagine I would do this summer. I transcribed interviews, reared weevils, sweep sampled IMG_1084many fields, entered/checked data, sat in on farmer interviews, drove to Lingle and Powell, sorted insects, counted thousands upon thousands of insects, planted/transplanted and watered flowers, weeded the flowers, counted blooms and I even used Instagram. Now it may be that strolling through alfalfa fields, picking through frozen insects and alfalfa and attempting to capture live weevil larvae and lygus nymphs with out losing your cool isn’t ones idea of how they would want to spend the summer- but I’m so glad that this is how I got to spend mine. Continue reading

I Dream of Weevils Part 2!

IMG_4979Randa here! I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts from my group this summer. It’s taken me a while, but I’m finally back to add my 2 cents. A few weeks ago, Jemma shared her weevil dreams with you all. I asked her to title it “Part 1” because I knew I had more to add on this topic. I’ve dreamt of my work for as long as I can remember. The different stages of my academic career are defined by whether Collembola were floating by when I closed my eyelids or whether it was squirming Colorado Potato Beetle. So, it came as no surprise when my interns shyly mentioned that they’d been dreaming of alfalfa weevil. Continue reading

How Important is Honeydew?

ant1Allison speaking. The relationship between aphids and parasitoid wasps has been of a lot of interest to us here, as the wasps that kill weevils by using them as hosts for their young to eat (from the inside out!) may benefit from having aphids around for the honeydew they provide. It can be an important sugary food source to many bees, ants and wasps in the order Hymenoptera. Another hypothesis we have is that flower nectar may also play an important role in a parasitic wasp’s diet. But how important to successful weevil parasitism is wasp nutrition? Would the size of aphid populations have any effect on the size of weevil populations through this indirect relationship?

Continue reading

What about Aphids in Alfalfa?

Lady Beetle Adult 2009 Susan A BeebeBesides alfalfa weevil, alfalfa producers deal with a number of other pest insects like lygus (stay tuned for more on these critters!) and aphids. In focus groups conducted with Wyoming alfalfa growers over the past two years, it became clear that there was some confusion about what sort of damage aphids can cause to alfalfa, the types of aphids found in WY alfalfa fields, and how to manage them.

As a result we decided to put together a fact sheet with some information about aphids in alfalfa.  Continue reading

I Dream of Weevils Part 1

weevil handJemma here! So picture this. You’ve just started a summer internship and everything is going well. You get back from a long day of collecting and looking through samples of insects and the only thing on your mind is sweet, blissful sleep. So you start to wind down, maybe watch an episode or two of your favorite show on Netflix, jump in the shower, throw on some comfy pajamas, brush your teeth and then you finally get into bed. Now that you finally have the chance to relax you start to give in to the welcoming arms of sleep and close your eyes……..and all you see are weevils! Your eyelids become the backdrop to a sea of green worm like creatures wiggling around in your mind and despite your best efforts you can’t find the pause button to this haunting showing of insects.

Continue reading

Hotel Room Science

A view of Heart Mountain from an alfalfa field in Powell, Wyoming.

After 6.5 hours driving the desolate highways of Wyoming, zig-zagging through dramatically changing landscapes, passing what seems like hundreds of semi-trucks, and persevering through the limited number of rest stops along the way, we finally pull into tourist laden Cody, Wyoming. Albeit beautiful, this time of year Cody is a widely sought after destination for cross-country road trips and a reasonable stop for families visiting Yellowstone National Park. As we begin to unload our field gear into our hotel room, smiling and saying hello to our hotel neighbors, I think to myself- the experience we are about to have in the Big Horn Basin is wildly different than that of all the traveling families sharing this hotel roof. Continue reading

Methods matter?

IMG_4893Alanna Speaking. I have a confession to make. When I read a scientific paper, I (almost always) skip the “Methods” section. Those seven letters are a signal to flip the page, an introduction to the driest, least impactful part of the paper, necessary to writers and publishers, but certainly not to me.

During the week we spent sampling in the Bighorn Basin, Zoe and I found ourselves transported into Methods. Every decision we made, every stroke of the sweep net, photograph and weather call had the potential to affect the results. Continue reading