Aphid Improvements

It’s been quite a while so there is lots of good news on the aphid front! First of all, aphid casualties have decreased substantially thanks to improved transfer methods. We have now been using a paint brush to gently disturb and brush the aphids into a petri dish (upon the suggestion of Dr. George E Heimpel). This is far less traumatizing for the aphids and survival has skyrocketed from 20% to around 50%!
Also, fortunately for us, apparently all aphids at this time of the year are gravid, so we only need to select mature individuals for transferring. This was an exciting discovery since we spent a while with a microscope trying to figure out which ones were gravid before this revelation. We also officially decided to use two founders for each transfer to improve chances of survival.
Hillary and I are looking forward to checking out the preliminary data soon!

An update on aphids

So the weekend is upon us, summer is already beginning to slip away, and aphid abundance is on the rise.

Mine and Lauren’s aphid specialization experiment is still being tweaked to perfection. We set up 5 preliminary aphid transfers on B genotype plants (the offspring of between site echinacea crosses) in order to practice appropriate aphid transfer methods and make sure that we can get aphid establishment on plants that we know aphids are found on (aka to ensure that our transfer methods do not result in aphid squashing and death). This proved perhaps more difficult than expected. I single-handedly destroyed the greater part of several aphid colonies before determining that trying to remove aphids from their leafy homes with a tooth pick was just not going to work. Eventually I settled on disturbing the leaf/gently poking at one aphid (which, it turns out, causes some species of aphid to release an alarm pheromone so all the other aphids on the leaf stop sucking phloem, withdraw their stylets and start moving around). Apparently many Aphis species do not have this alarm pheromone, but when I starting messing with the aphids/the aphids’ leaf they started running around in frantic disarray, so whether or not they release a pheromone, poking them seems to work. After instigating a mass aphid exodus, I attempted to herd several confused individuals onto the flat side of a twist tie. This was also more difficult than you might expect it to be, and was rather time consuming. When we set up our actual experiment we will knock the disturbed aphids into a petri dish, which will be a much more efficient method and will probably result in a significantly less aphid mortality.

We had initially planned on using a single alate (winged) aphid as our population founder, because these are the individuals that would colonize new plants. However, this particular aphid morphology is not nearly as common as the apterous aphids (lacking wings). After conferring with Dave Andow, an entomologist from the U of M, we determined that using apterous aphids is fine, as we are testing plant suitability rather than aphid preference (ie CAN aphids colonize a certain plant, not which plant would a aphid PREFER. And anyway, preference will probably manifest itself somewhat in the form of population success and growth rate). We also discussed the important question of one founder aphid or two. If we can have lots of replicates we could have only one founder. If we are worried about aphid success rate and have fewer replicates, Dave suggested that we have two founders and just record whether one or both birth their aphid babies within the first one or two days of the experiment. Dear readers: Comments or suggestions about aphid founders are encouraged!

One problem: whatever sort of aphid we use, we need to introduce gravid ones to our plants or there will be no population growth whatsoever and our experiment will fail epically. Thus it is now necessary for Lauren and I to be able to identify gravid aphids. Hmm. Apparently this is possible, and this is something we are going to have to figure out before our actual experiment can start. Again: comments or suggestion are encouraged!

I think that covers most of the updates in the glorious and exciting world of me, Lauren, and aphids.

Over and out!

Aphid Abundance Project Proposal! WOOOOOOO!

Hi I’m Lauren Hobbs. I am from a town in Wisconsin almost as small as K-town (aka Williams Bay). I attend UVA and am a psych major. Hence I am learning a lot already!! Fortunately, I found a friend here to work with!

Hi! My name is Hillary Lyons and I am from Olympia, WA. I am a biology major from Carleton College. I really like muskoxen.


Aphid and ant presentation

As per a request from Daniel, here is a presentation I gave to Team Echinacea way back at the beginning of the summer. Enjoy reliving the magic!

Aphids and ants.ppt

Aphid Search Data

So, I know I have been missing from the flog lately, but that is only because I was saving up all my flog posts to make one huge, wonderful one! But this is not that post. First of all,
Here is the aphid search data for the past 6 weeks. Each plant has a unique RecordID that identifies it though all three tables. The UnitID field, while it might seem repetitive, is just from the format used on the Hjelm house computer. We have found 263 plants so far, but about 20 of them were can’t finds in following weeks.

This still lacks the transect searches that we will do next week, at which time I shal post an updated version. Note that even though this says Final version, this is just where I save all the final versions of my tables, as opposed to the working versions I use to sort out the tables.

Life with Team Echinacea

Hello all!

This is Daniel with another update on what team Echinacea has been up to in the past week. Allegra, Stuart and I have become what I like to call the “Staffanson Crew”, and we are responsible for doing phenology at Staffanson every other day. Today we got the time down to about 2 hours and 20 minutes, from 3.5 hours originally. The process was made a lot more efficient by splitting up sections and giving everyone a separate checklist. Of course, the temperature was almost 40 below, so that was slightly unpleasant. Add the wind and the fact that I was only wearing 2 thin layers, and you have a recipe for hypothermia. However, I persevered, thinking of my avocado and sausage sandwiches waiting for me at the Hjelm house.

The pollinator project has been going along well, with Kate, Amanda and Mimi hard at working sorting out the oodles of data they have obtained. Greg and Kate are based in what I like to call the “Basement of Oppression”, working on making slides and taking pollen photos. Amanda is pinning bees and creating agar slides with the different pollen loads, then photographing them. Finally, Mimi is working on sorting out all the different types of flowering plants found at each sites. Meanwhile, who knows what Amy and Caroline are up to? Reviewing papers and entering data most likely, tasks far beyond the comprehension of we undergrads.

In my case, I have been searching for the different plants in the common garden that we identified as having spittle. I spent all afternoon in the common garden yesterday, and it was a ton of fun, especially since I saw so many interesting things. The most interesting thing of all though, was watching a bunch of ants pick up and move an aphid that was sitting on a leaf. The aphid may have been dead or alive (alive would be so cool!), but since I was silly enough to forget my camera, I guess I’ll never know.

Most of the plants I looked at have aphids on them, but I will need to wait until I finish looking at them all before I draw any conclusions. Meanwhile, our transect searches are done until next week. However, I have found aphids on many of the plants I saw during our Staffanson searches, so I remain hopeful!

Form Outline for Search

Here is an outline of the form needed for doing the aphid searches:

Rosette Count

Leaf Count

Length of Longest leaf – cm

Ant Presence – Yes/No

Size of Aphid Infestation (Required Field) – Categories 0, 1, 2-10, 11-80, >80

Count of Leaves with Aphids

Spittlebug Presence – Yes/No

Distance from Plant to Spittlebug – 0 if on the Echinacea Plant itself

Sampling Sites

So, in an attempt to fit as many sampling needs as possible, here are the sites that we will be sampling for aphids, juvenile plants, and some tissue samples, along with the sampling strategies:
Large and Less Isolated
Nessman (Ness)
East Riley (Eri)
Steven’s Approach (Stevens)
Northwest of Landfill (NWLF)
East of Town Hall (ETH)

We will use a couple different sampling strategies for the different remnants in order to try and randomize them as much as possible. These should accomodate Daniel’s, Amy’s and a portion of Jennifer’s project. Note: All belt transects are 1/2 m unless otherwise noted.

Staffanson – Select 3 random locations in both the burned and unburned plots using randomly selected ULM coordinates, and find them using the Trimble GPS. Then, choose a random compass direction and run the belt transect roughly 10 m in that direction.

Landfill – Choose 3 random locations on the East Hill (Trimble again), choose a random direction, and do a 3-5 m belt transect in that direction. If more plants are needed, go a little further

KJ’s – Choose 3 random locations, choose a random direction, and do a 3-5 m belt transect. Go further if needed.

Nessman – Since this is a roadside remnant, choose 5 random points along the road edge, and extend the belt perpendicular from the road to the cornfield.

East Riley – choose 5 random points along the road edge, and extend the belt perpendicular from the road to the edge of the remnant

Steven’s Approach – Choose a bunch of random points along the road, and inspect to see if there are plants present. If not, go to the next point.

Northwest of Landfill – choose 5 random points along the road edge, and extend the belt perpendicular from the road to the edge of the remnant.

Randt – Choose a bunch of random points along the road, and inspect to see if there are plants present. If not, go to the next point.

East of Town Hall – Select random points used for seedling search, and look for plants there.

find spittlebug spittle masses

This file lists places to look for spittlebug spittle masses in the CG. At the top there are rows in the 99 garden and the 99S garden sorted randomly. Then all bigbatch rows (noted with end positions) are listed in a random order.

Enjoy your search!

Remnants Being Searched

So, *drum roll please*
Here are the possible candidates for the remnants that I will be looking at this summer.
In no particular order, I will pick 7 out of:

NW of Landfill
East of Town Hall
Yellow Orchard Hill

Depending on what Amy needs for her seedling searches, I can adjust accordingly, but these sites should give a good cross-section of isolated prairie remnants and well populated ones. Tomorrow, we will spend another hour searching for spittlebugs in the common garden, and hopefully enough will be found for a sufficient sample size. Phenology has also started in the common garden, and we have 4 plants that are flowering so far, with hopefully more by tomorrow.

We went out to the Glacial Lakes reserve today for a hike, and it was incredibly beautiful. We took lunch and hiked all afternoon, seeing some flowering Echinacea, noticing a bumblebee on one of the flowering Echinacea, and stopping every 5 minutes to look at a new plant. We even did a few seedling searches! (Stuart has trained us well….)