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Landscapes surrounding farms affect insect pests, crop yields, study finds

Apr 18, 2018

Landscapes that surround agricultural lands strongly influence the dynamics of beneficial insects as well as insect pests on farms, which in turn affect crop yields.
Such were the findings of a Cornell study of New York farmlands, published April 4 in the journal Ecological Applications.
Many previous studies on how landscapes surrounding farms affect insect pests and crops have only considered one pest at a time. This study examined the effects of three cabbage pests – aphids, flea beetles and leaf-feeding caterpillars – wasps that feed on caterpillars, and crop yields. It also looked at three different types of landscapes that surround farms: agricultural lands, meadows and semi-natural areas (including shrublands, types of forests and woody wetlands).
“By considering multiple insect pests, [our study design] represented a more realistic situation for what farmers experience, we were able to disentangle some of these complexities,” said Ricardo Perez-Alvarez, the paper’s first author and a graduate student in the lab of Katja Poveda, professor of entomology and the paper’s senior author.
In the study, the researchers set up 22 experimental cabbage plots on farms across the Finger Lakes region of New York from June to September in 2014 and 2015. The details and management of each plot were the same, with no pesticides or insecticides used. Throughout the growing season, the researchers measured plant damage by each pest, density and abundance of parasitoid wasps, and they recorded crop yields at the end of each season.
The researchers expected that landscapes with a higher proportion of cropland and lower habitat diversity would lead to more specialist pests and a reduction in crop yields, according to the paper. Instead, they found that yields and the number of pests were best explained by the presence of non-crop habitats, such as meadows, in the landscape.
A cabbage looper, a pest of cabbage plants. Photo by Ricardo Perez-Alvarez.
Specifically, when the proportion of meadows surrounding farms was high, the amount of infestation from cabbage leaf-eating caterpillars was lower, likely because of increased parasitism from wasps. On the other hand, these same plots experienced more infestation from flea beetles and aphids. The findings suggest that while some beneficial insects increased as a result of the non-crop habitats, so did the number of certain pests.
By considering the collective effect of multiple pest species on crop yields, management schemes need to consider joint effects of pest species to be effective, Perez-Alvarez said. Still, more detailed study is needed to better understand these dynamics. “There were some landscapes where the presence of meadows can have an overall positive effect from crop production, but in other areas, meadows can have a negative effect,” he said, perhaps due to the characteristics of the insect fauna that live in those areas.
“There is not a universal solution,” he added.
Brian Nault, professor of entomology, is a co-author of the study.
The study was supported by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture via the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station.

Ashley Leach was the winner of the PhD Student Oral Competition at the 89th Entomological Society of America’s Eastern Branch meeting in Annapolis, MD

Apr 10, 2018

Ashley Leach was the winner of the PhD Student Oral Competition at the 89thEntomological Society of America’s Eastern Branch meeting in Annapolis, MD last week.  The title of her presentation was, “Evaluating effects of nitrogen fertilizer and insecticide use in managing onion thrips (Thrips tabaci) in onion.”  Stephen Reiners (Horticulture Section, SIPS) and Brian Nault were co-authors.
Ashley Leach also was the winner of the Student Poster Competition at the 9thInternational IPM Symposium in Baltimore, MD last week.  The title of her poster was, “Successful adoption of action threshold-based insecticide programs for thrips management in onion.”  Christy Hoepting (Cornell Cooperative Extension) and Brian Nault were co-authors.


Major international traveling exhibit on Spiders- Linda Rayor

Feb 20, 2018

Check out this article in the Cornell Chronicle on our spiders for the museum exhibit: Dr. Linda Rayor and five undergraduates, Jake Gorneau, Leeah Richardson, Joe Gulian, Arabelle Orsicky, and Kristianna Lea, spent five months preparing North American spiders for a major international traveling exhibit on Spiders. Together, they helped prepare over 300 spiders in life-like positions for the show. Australia Museum's 'Spiders: Alive and Deadly' will be opening at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada on 16 June 2018, and then touring around the US and Canada for 5 years.

"Host-microbe institute poised to expand" With Brian Lazzaro

Feb 12, 2018

As the Cornell Institute of Host-Microbe Interactions and Disease(CIHMID) wraps up its first year, the launch of its Undergraduate Research Experience (URE) proved to be a highlight, say institute leaders.
CIHMID serves as a hub for the spokes of host-microbe biology and disease across Cornell and includes researchers in departments in the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, Engineering and Human Ecology. CIHMID provides an organizing body for researchers dispersed across colleges to collaborate, communicate and establish a visible presence for Cornell in research areas related to host-microbe interactions.
The URE program provides a mechanism for students to work in CIHMID-associated labs. The students participate in monthly trainings and professional development activities during the academic year, including learning about the scientific method, important research practices, how to read a scientific paper, and how to apply for grants and graduate school. Seventeen undergraduates were chosen for the 2017-18 cohort. The hope is that students will share their experiences and develop connections with each other.
Support is also available for 10 URE students to continue lab work through the summer. Research assistantships during the academic year count for credit, while the summer position includes a stipend.

New host-microbe institute connects campus researchers
“Having good research experiences are critical for encouraging students to stay in academic research or to pick careers in STEM fields,” said Tory Hendry, an assistant professor in microbiology and one of the directors of the URE, along with Teresa Pawlowska, associate professor of plant pathology and plant-microbe biology. “This gives them experience to see the full progression of a research project,” from how to develop a question, implement it and analyze results, Hendry said.
Hendry and Pawlowska have also applied for a National Science Foundation grant to expand the URE program.
Along with the URE, CIHMID is accepting applications for up to three postdoctoral research fellows to be granted three-year appointments in a CIHMID-affiliated lab. Applications are due Feb 26. The institute is also providing promotional support for hiring two faculty positions that would fall under the CIHMID umbrella; one for a specialist in vector biology and vector-borne disease through the Department of Entomology, and another for a plant-microbe biologist in the School of Integrative Plant Science.
Last July, the institute held its inaugural summer symposium and regularly invited seminar speakers over the course of the fall semester.
“The first year was about getting things organized and putting structures and mechanisms in place,” said Brian Lazzaro, CIHMID director and Liberty Hyde Bailey professor in the Departments of Entomology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. “Now that is done, and we are looking to get funding for the future to keep programs running and to expand them.”
Jo Handelsman, director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and former associate director for science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under President Obama, will speak on March 15 at a seminar co-sponsored by CIHMID and Biology without Borders.
CIHMID is currently accepting nominations as it determines its line of speakers for the 2018-19 academic year.

Dr. Poveda

Katja Poveda has been promoted to Associate Professor.

Feb 8, 2018

Katja Poveda has been promoted to Associate Professor. Please be sure to congratulate Katja on this wonderful achievement!

Scott McArt in ABC's "Growing California almonds takes more than half of US honeybees"

Jan 23, 2018

It can be hard to see how important honeybees are to daily life. Just by looking at fully grown oranges, apples and almonds, the honeybee wouldn’t necessarily get marquee credit for their growth.
Interested in Food Forecast?
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But, bees pollinate around 70 percent of the world’s crops, according to Cornell University, and without them, there’s no easy way to pollinate the fresh foods that need to be grown and harvested.
David Miller
Beekeeper Chuck Kutik with Ginger Zee on his farm in Manning, South Carolina.
The vast farming operations around the country keep bees in high demand almost year-round and it’s up to commercial bee keepers to make sure farmers have their pollinators.
One of those beekeepers, Chuck Kutik, rents his bees out across the country, throughout the year. He said there's one crop that demands more bees than any other -– almonds. In the winter, Kutik, and commercial beekeepers throughout the country, send the majority of the nation's commercial bees to pollinate almonds blossoms.
David Miller
Bees pollinate around 70 percent of the world's crops and without them there's no easy way to pollinate the food we need to harvest.more +
Kutik loads his bees on flatbed trucks that hold 112 palates of beehives and sends them on a multi-day, cross-country journey.
David Miller
Before the bees arrive at the almond farms in California, the trees are bare, but after several weeks, they begin to blossom in bright white flowers.more +
Truck drivers have to continue moving throughout the day, only stopping at night, in order to maintain cool temperatures for the bees. If it’s too warm they will be tempted to fly out of their hives.
The bees will spend several weeks pollinating the bright white almond blooms. When they are done, they will be taken to the next farm, to a new crop on the east coast.
Watch Full Episodes of “Food Forecast”Almond farmer and beekeeper Ryan Cosyns tells us that the price of pollination rental for almonds has nearly doubled since 2005, which is directly related to the increased acreage devoted to almonds.
A single hive from Kutik’s farm rented for as much as $200 in 2017, to a California almond farmer.
David Miller
Beekeeper Chuck Kutik loads his bees on flatbed trucks and sends them on a multi-day cross country journey to reach California almond farms.more +
But as the demand for bees has gone up, keeping honeybees healthy has also become more and more of a challenge.
According to the USDA, Between 2015 and 2016 the nation's beekeepers lost 44 percent of their colonies.
"The consensus in the scientific community now is that it's not any single factor that is driving losses of bees," said Scott McArt, an associate professor in the Department of Entymology at Cornell University. "It's multiple factors."
David Miller
Beekeepers make new hives by taking one that is thriving and splitting it into two.
He said those factors can include pesticides, insecticides, loss of habitat and climate change.
However, as honeybees are dying the overall population of bees has gone up.
"This is something that a lot of people don’t necessarily understand," said Emma Mullen, an associate in the Department of Entymology at Cornell University, "because if you do track the number of colonies that are in New York or the U.S., they do tend to increase. So what they’ll do is they’ll split their colonies and in that way they can continue to replace the colonies that were lost and grow their operation."
In the springtime, beekeepers can take a hive that is thriving and split them, creating two from one. Kutik predicted he would create 6,000 new hives in the spring.
Treasure hunt: Ginger Zee searches for rare, expensive Italian white trufflesWhen the bees return home to Kutik’s farm, there is still more work to be done; that's when honey production starts. But farmers in the U.S. cannot produce enough honey to meet the total demand across the country.
“We only produce, I don't know what it is, 120 million or 140 million pounds of honey in the U.S.," Kutik said. "I think the consumption is 300 [million pounds]. The consumption is way more than we can produce."
David Fazekas/ABC News
At Chuck Kutik's farm in New York, his bees stay home in the summer to make honey.
With so much work to be done by American beekeepers and their bees, can the industry keep up with demand?
In this episode of “Food Forecast,” Ginger Zee tags along the route of the bees to the almonds groves of California and talks to the beekeepers along the way.
For more stories from ABC News' "Food Forecast" series, download the ABC News App on iOS or Android.

ABC News' TV show "Food Forecast" - Emma Kate Mullen and Scott McArt

Jan 12, 2018

ABC News' TV show "Food Forecast" created a fantastic episode on beekeeping! It features one of New York's own commercial beekeepers, Chuck Kutik. The episode also includes interviews with Emma Mullen and Dr. Scott McArt from Cornell University, who discuss beekeeping in NYS and what viewers can do to help pollinators. Watch the episode here.

Bee on Flower

Scott McArt and his labs info was published in Wildlife....on the reason for bumblebee declines.

Jan 4, 2018

We’ve heard a lot about honeybees and how important they are as pollinators. But bumblebees pollinate wildflowers and crops, too, and some kinds of bumblebees are in trouble.
Scott McArt is an assistant professor of pollinator health at Cornell University. He says that bumblebees can be extremely important pollinators for certain crops.
“So, for example, the vast majority of tomatoes that you will buy at the grocery store are pollinated exclusively by bumblebees,” he says.
In a new study, McArt found that fungicides could be playing a role in the declines of four species of bumblebees. He and his team looked at two dozen environmental factors to understand why these species are declining.
“We have this excellent data set; this data set includes 10,000 individual bumblebee samples. And believe it or not, someone has actually gone through all of these 10,000 bees and pulled out their guts, and looked for the prevalence of a particular pathogen, this Nosema pathogen. It’s a microsporidian, it’s related to a fungus.”
They used the data set to look for landscape predictors.
“So the things that were around the different sites that these bumblebees were actually collected, and looked at the predictors of what was associated with this particular pathogen,” he says.
McArt says most fungicides are relatively non-toxic to bees, but there can be problems for bees when fungicides interact with insecticides. He explains that some pesticides can have synergistic interactions which can lead to up to a thousand-fold increase in toxicity.
“So if you look in the pollen and look in the nectar that the bees are bringing back to the colonies, we’re finding that there’s a lot of pesticides that are coming back,” he says.
McArt says there’s a still a lot to learn about the problem before they can figure out how to stop it.
“In the combination of those fungicides and insecticides, we don’t know a lot about how these synergisms are actually occurring. So how often these synergisms are occurring and what types of toxicities result from these synergisms. This is sort of a new area of research that pollinator health is going into right now,” he says.
You can listen to our interview with Scott McArt above.
How you could be killing bees when you're trying to help them
By   AUG 16, 2016

Many gardeners know that bees are in trouble, and they want to help.  Sales of so-called "bee-friendly" flowering plants are on the rise. 
There's just one problem, says Melissa Cooper Sargent of the Ecology Center, and it's a big one. 
Sargent says it's common practice for nurseries around the country to treat the seeds of the plants, or the plants themselves, with pesticides called neonicotinoids, that are highly toxic to bees.

Congratulations to Ping Wang on his promotion to Full Professor.

Jan 2, 2018

Congratulations to Ping Wang on his promotion to Full Professor.

Butterfly being photographed

Insectapalooza swarms campus Oct. 28

Oct 25, 2017

The popular event, which draws up to 2,000 people each year, features hundreds of live insects, spiders and other arthropods from the collections of the Department of Entomology.

A Girl's Love For Bugs Goes Viral

Sep 19, 2017

Canadian Sophia Spencer, 8, loves bugs. A tweet her mom sent out about that made headlines and led to a paper the girl co-authored in a science journal. NPR's Ailsa Chang talks with Spencer and her co-author, scientist Morgan Jackson. [Copyright 2017 NPR]

Fungus creates zombie beetles that crave flowers before death

Jun 21, 2017

Cornell Entomologists uncover the previously secret death and life of Zombie Soldier Beetles 
 Don Steinkraus, Cornell Ph.D. 1987, observed the strange flower-biting behavior of soldier beetles  infected with Eryniopsis fungus. He teamed up with Ann Hajek and Jim Liebherr to tell the whole gruesome story of infection, death, and then life.

The Tompkins County Public Library STEAM book club read Beetle Boy, by M.G. Leonard,& invited Dr. Todd Ugine of CU Entomology to read it

Mar 24, 2017

The Tompkins County Public Library STEAM book club read Beetle Boy, by M.G. Leonard,& invited Dr. Todd Ugine of CU Entomology to read it

Max Helmberger's Claymation on Entomopathogenic Nematode Biology and Life and The Soil Food Web

Mar 3, 2017

Max Helmberger's Claymation videos on Entomopathogenic Nematode Biology and Life and another called The Soil Food Web

Integrating Insect, Resistance, and Floral Resource

Dec 14, 2016

Managing agricultural pests with an incomplete understanding of the impacts that tactics have on crops, pests, and other organisms poses risks for loss of short-term profits and longer-term negative impacts, such as evolved resistance and nontarget effects.

CALS Research and Extension Awards

Nov 8, 2016

Cheryl was honored on Nov 7th by CALS for her outstanding dedication and service to Entomology and the College. Congratulations!

IPM Award for Cornell researcher

Aug 9, 2016

For 25 years and Cornell University professor of entomology John Sanderson has brought the latest and safest in integrated pest management to greenhouse growers all over New York. Now, for his boundless enthusiasm and contagious love of learning, Sanderson has received an Excellence in IPM award from the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYS IPM).

Cornell Researchers Talk Precision Ag at Field Day

Aug 3, 2016

A much newer technology used in precision agriculture applications is aerial drones. Lindsay Chamberlain, a student at Cornell who works in Ketterings’ program and with drone expert Elson Shields, talked about some of the work they are doing with drones.

Buzzing about local honeybees

Jul 16, 2016

“It is true that honeybees are facing more threats today than they did 50 years ago. In particular, new parasites have been introduced to western honeybees. Although each decade has its own stresses with beekeeping, these new threats make it particularly difficult to keep bees healthy today,” said Emma Mullen, Cornell University honey bee associate and member of department of entomology.

Cornell entomologists take fight to invasive bugs crippling NY crops

Jul 15, 2016

New York and other regions in the United States are seeing greater numbers of invasive insects that attack specialty crops due to increased levels of interstate and international trade. Entomologists at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES) have taken the lead in addressing these destructive pests.

Former student wins 1st place

Jul 13, 2016

Anthony Auletta, a former Cornell Undergraduate, won 1st prize for his poster on spiders brains at the International Congress of Arachnology meetings in Golden, Colorado this week!  Both Linda Rayor, former PI, and Cole Gilbert, former advisor, were in attendance.

CCE Summer Internship

Jul 8, 2016

Lindsay Chamberlain, senior student in Plant Sciences, created a great blog about her summer research project and Elson Shields and his drone research expertise has made the cut!

gypsy moth on leaf

New pathogen takes control of gypsy moth populations

Apr 22, 2016

New pathogen takes control of gypsy moth populations | Cornell ChronicleA new fungal pathogen is killing gypsy moth caterpillars and crowding out communities of pathogens and parasites that previously destroyed these moth pests.

Beyond milkweed: Monarchs face habitat, nectar threats

Apr 21, 2016

In the face of scientific dogma that faults the population decline of monarch butterflies on a lack of milkweed and herbicides, a new Cornell study casts wider blame: sparse autumnal nectar sources, weather and habitat fragmentation.

$4.8 million USAID grant to improve food security

Mar 29, 2016

The U.S. Agency for International Development has awarded Cornell a $4.8 million, three-year grant to fight hunger and improve food security using agricultural science and technology.