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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Another reason to appreciate bees & wasps in grapes

At last Friday's vineyard tour, one of the most common insect questions I get from grape growers again came up. "What can I do about wasps and (less commonly) bees in my grapes?"

My feelings are clear on this subject. I think there is little to be gained from using insecticides against these mostly beneficial insects and significant harm that could be done, both through extending your harvest window and by harming predators and pollinators.  You can read my thoughts on this subject and what growers can do instead of spraying, here.

Today, I read about an even better reason to appreciate wasps, in particular, in your vineyard.  NPR's The Salt blog highlights research from Italy that demonstrates that wasps move wine-fermenting yeasts throughout vineyards and have likely contributed to the evolution of these important yeasts.  You can find the full article here.

More information
What to watch for - Bees and wasps in grapes
Thank the simple wasp for that complex glass of wine - The Salt
Role of social wasps in Sacromyces cerevisiae ecology and evolution - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Monday, July 23, 2012

Spotted wing drosophila detected in Arkansas

On July 9th, Donn Johnson at his team at the University of Arkansas detected the first spotted wing drosophila adults in Arkansas.  You can read about this find here and see the trap capture data at the SWD*VMN.

Spotted wing drosophila biology and management in North Carolina strawberries

The third in my summer series of spotted wing drosophila (SWD) factsheets focuses on strawberries.  Please note, factsheets are shared via Google Documents, which is great for quickly and easily posting files but does sacrifice image quality.  If you would like a printer quality digital copy of this factsheet. Please email me.

You can find the first factsheet on SWD biology and management in North Carolina caneberries here and the second on post harvest SWD significance and sampling here.

This Thursday I will be attending a strawberry field day in Watauga County, NC at a farm that grows day neutral (summer fruiting) strawberries and sharing information from this factsheet as well as results from our spring strawberry SWD management experiments at the Central Crops Research Station. Day neutral strawberries present unique SWD management challenges because they fruit through fall, when the highest SWD populations of the year occur.  You can read more about day neutral strawberries at the North Carolina Strawberry Association's blog.

More information
Strawberry field day - Watauga County Cooperative Extension

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

NC State summer vineyard tour - 27 July

NC State University grape experts will be leading a tour of muscadine and vinfera vinyards on 27 July. We'll be hosted by Cauble Creek Vineyard and Morgan Ridge Vineyard, both in Rowan County.

 I will be discussing the Grape Root Borer Volunteer Monitoring Network (GRB*VMN) and kicking off 2012 monitoring!

 Preregistration is required by 24 July. See the program below for the registration form and details on the other presenters.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

North Carolina hops arthropod summary

Developing hops cones at the Lake Wheeler Road Field Lab, Raleigh, NC. Photo; HJB

In preparation for the upcoming NC State Hops Field Tour next week, I have been crunching some data from our hops observations from last year at the Lake Wheeler Road Field Lab hop yard.  The results so far have been very interesting.

Our goal, as part of the larger NC State Hops Project, was to learn what arthropods (insects and mites) were present in North Carolina grown hops and which of these insects may become pests in commerical production.We knew from work in the Pacific Northwest that twospotted spider mite and hop aphid were potentially significant pests of hops that occur in North Carolina, but we didn't know what other insects pests may be present.  We utilized the research hop yard at the Lake Wheeler Road Field Lab, which included 10 different hops varieties planted in four, five plant plots, to conduct our observations.  We sampled insects and mites in two ways: 1. We collected 10 leaf samples from each plot weekly and counted the number of spider mites, predatory mites (good guys), aphids, and leafhopper nymphs, and 2. We placed a yellow sticky trap in each plot, which was changed weekly.  We then counted the number adult leafhoppers, thrips, aphids, and beneficial insects (in this case, ladybugs) on each trap.

In addition to leaf samples and trapping, we rated defoliation on plants due to caterpillar or beetle (most commonly Japanese beetle) feeding.  We visually divided the three middle plants in each plot into thirds and rated percent defoliation on the upper, middle, and lower third of each plant.  While both caterpillars and Japanese beetles were present throughout the growing season, overall defoliation was minor (less than 1% each week) and localized on the top third of plants.

One plot at the Lake Wheeler Road Field Lab, early 2011. Photo: HJB
While we observed spider mites and aphids in our samples, as expected, we also observed two other groups of insects that we did not anticipate, thrips and leafhoppers, because they are not considered pests in the Pacific Northwest. 

Looking first at our leaf observations, we found differences in spider mite densities throughout the season between varieties.  We express the number of mites multiplied by the days between observations and totaled over the season as "mite days" to compare infestation over time. Click on the images below to enlarge them.

Cumulative spider mite days in hops varieties during the 2011 growing season. Centennial had far few mites than other varieties observed, with Zeus also trending lower.
While Centennial had fewer mites than other varieties, more aphids and leafhopper nymphs were present on leaf samples.  This is a very interesting difference, because foliar feeding aphids may not necessarily be problematic in hops (presence in harvested cones is the real concern) and we do not know whether leafhoppers are a pest in eastern hops or just commonly present.

Aphid and leafhoppers nymphs per leaf in foliage samples during 2011. Note that Centennial has by far the greatest numbers of either aphids or leafhopper nymphs.

While spider mites were present pretty much continuously throughout the growing season, leafhopper nymphs appeared only for a few sampling dates across all plots.  The presence of leafhopper nymphs suggests that they are reproducing on hops, which also does not seem to occur in the Pacific Northwest. Predatory mites were present in on some dates but in very low numbers, and aphid numbers were generally low across the board.

Spider mites, mite eggs, leafhopper nymphs, and aphids in leaf samples across all varieties.

The most frequently captured leafhopper species in traps was the versute leafhopper, Graphocephala versuta, a distinctive species common throughout the eastern US.  We do not know if the leafhopper nymphs present on leaves are also this species.

Graphocephala versulta. Photo via BugGuide, © Troy Bartlett
The most common insects captured overall on our yellow sticky traps were thrips.  Thrips on sticky traps cannot be identified to species, and yellow is attractive to pest and non pest thrips alike, so we cannot say if the thrips we captured were potential pests.  However, thrips were not commonly observed on leaf samples, and typical "silver-leafing" thrips damage was not observed on leaves.  Aphids were also captured on traps but were less common on leaf samples.

Insect captures in yellow sticky traps throughout the growing season, 2011.  Thrips numbers should be multiplied by ten to get the actual number observed per trap.

This first year of observations is intriguing, and I am excited to share them in greater detail next weekend!  I am also excited to compare these results to data from from other components of the NC State Hops Project, including fertility and yield (posted here).  Cascade* and Zeus were the highest yielding plants in 2011 and Zeus had low mite numbers.  Mites are attracted to and reproduce more on stressed plants, and I suspect that yield relationship is more due to the fact that these varieties were vigorously growing and generally happier in NC than the others, therefore hosting less mites.

It's very important to note that these insect observations are only from one field season, so while they are interesting, they don't necessarily tell us what to expect in the long term.  It's also important to understand that presence does not necessarily mean pest.  While we observed large numbers of thrips in yellow sticky traps, we did not necessarily see large numbers on foliage nor did we see any evidence damage, and while leafhoppers are common in and around NC hops, we do not know they are causing significant damage.

Update, 14 July
For those of you unable to attend today's field tour, you can view the slides from my presentation here.

Update, 31 July
As the commenter below pointed out, Centennial was a poor producer, while Zeus had relatively high yields.  Cascade, the other relatively strong yielding variety, had mid-range mite populations and low populations of other leaf feeding pests.

More information
Two Opportunities to Visit the NC State Research Hop Yards - NC Alternative Crops and Organics
NC State Hops Project
All hops posts - NC Small Fruit & Specialty Crop IPM

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Spotted wing drosophila in the city

Spotted wing drosophila mating pair outside a Wake County, NC home.  Photo: Matt Bertone.

Entomologists at the North Carolina Nature Research Center and NC State University are partnering to count the creepy crawlers and unseen critters that live inside our houses, and have found spotted wing drosophila (SWD) during their search.

Led by Michelle Trautwein, Assistant Director of the Biodiversity Laboratory at the Nature Research Center, Arthopods of Our Homes seeks to understand the diversity of insects and other arthropods in homes and how human residents influence their populations.  In the handful of houses the team has sampled so far, they have found over 100 species.  Not necessarily a surprise to us entomologists, who know insects are all around us, but it is exciting to demonstrate such diversity so close to home!

Eagle eyed dipterist Matt Bertone, part of the Arthropods of Your Home team, spotted two mating SWD in the yard of a recently sampled home and collected a few others inside.  The flies inside are particularly interesting, as we suspect that man made structures may help adult flies overwinter because they don't diapause, or hibernate, like many other insects.  Understanding how common SWD is in non agricultural habitats and during what times of year we can find them will help us develop whole-system management tools, not to mention help us understand how significant a concern they may before your backyard garden.

Matt will be record SWD finds as part of the SWD*VMN (Spotted Wing Drosophila Volunteer Monitoring Network).  You can find the record for the first one here.

More information