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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Insect activity beginning in the research hop yard

Caterpillars feeding on a hops leaf at the Lake Wheeler Field Laboratory. Photo: HJB

Yesterday, undergraduate intern Mandi Harding and I visited the research hop yard at the NC State Lake Wheeler Field Laboratory to check the traps we placed last week, collect mite & aphid samples, and observe any insect activity. The plants are just starting to reach to the top of the trellis, so I didn't necessarily expect large insect populations. I was correct in that there was minimal activity, but we did see some notable insects eating hops or eating other insects that were eating hops. Several plants had recently hatched caterpillars (see above) present, and they all appeared to be the same species. Rather than collecting these larvae and rearing them in lab, we are going to keep an eye on them in the field and collect them when they are closer to pupation.

There were also plenty of beneficial arthropods (insects and mites) present, including lady beetles, predatory mites, minute pirate bugs, and lightning bugs (which are actually beetles and are one of my favorite things about living east of the Mississippi). Thrips were clearly visible crawling on leaves and inside cones. Thrips are potential pests of hops in the southeast, and I am always amazed at the sheer number of thrips present in the early summer in North Carolina. I am even more impressed when I talk to cooperators on research projects in the Pacific Northwest who catch on the order of 10-15 thrips per trap, and we catch 0ver 300 in the same time period. Thrips seem to thrive here, for better or worse. Also thriving are thrips predators, like the lightning bug (beetle) below.

A lighting bug feeding on thrips on a hop leaf. Click here to enlarge this image for a better view of the distinctively striped soybean thrips highlighted. Photo: HJB

We'll be collecting samples and observing insect populations in the hops yard throughout the summer and will post updates when interesting insects appear.

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