Insects

Coexisting With Wasps

Sep 6, 2019
Tom Lord / Creative Commons

On this Horticulture Day edition of Talk of Iowa, Iowa State University Entomologist Donald Lewis makes the case for the importance of wasps in Iowa's ecosystem, despite their unpopular presence.

He provides information on social wasps, which congregate in colonies and spend their summer gathering other insects as food for offspring. In the late summer season, these wasps reach their peak population and become more visible as they seek out sugar and moisture, Lewis says.

This year’s catastrophic flooding has created hard times for many people in Midwest, but it’s created a nirvana for mosquitoes.

Kansas City and the surrounding region could potentially become a hotbed for mosquito-borne viruses like West Nile virus in the coming years due to increasing temperatures and more frequent flooding, which are predicted by climate experts.

Penguin Random House


John Krzton-Presson / Iowa Master Gardener Program

This year the Iowa Master Gardener Program celebrates 40 years of community engagement through gardening initiatives and educational outreach. Since 1979, over 14,300 Iowans have received master gardening training. 

D. Gordon E. Robertson / Wikimedia Commons

Iowa's rivers and streams are swollen with water right now and they're also teeming with insect life. On this Hort Day edition of Talk of Iowa Host Charity Nebbe talks with ISU Entomology Professor Donald Lewis about aquatic insects, including mayflies, dragonflies, and damselflies. He describes their life cycles and the important role they play in Iowa ecosystems. 

Later on in the program, ISU Extension Horticulture Specialist Richard Jauron answers IPR listener questions. 

Amy Mayer / IPR

On top of trade disputes, a wet spring and late planting, many soybean farmers face yet another hurdle: the thistle caterpillar.

Although it becomes the painted lady butterfly, which can bring a fluttering swath of color to backyards and gardens, this caterpillar can be a real pest in soybean fields..

Dr. James E. Zablotny / USDA

An invasive beetle is expected to move west in Iowa, prompting one city to look into how to deal with it.

Courtesy of Iowa State University

New research from Iowa State University scientists found western Iowa has the state’s largest presence of a type of mosquito that carries West Nile Virus. Scientists are watching to see whether standing water from March’s flooding will bring more mosquitoes and the risk of the virus to western Iowa this summer.

Royce Bitzer / ISU

The largest population of monarch butterflies in over a decade could be headed to Iowa later this spring, according to Iowa State University researchers. Monarch butterflies covered almost 15 acres of forest canopy in Mexico last winter and are on the move north.

Kevin Collins/KQED

A house centipede is almost never a welcome house guest, but these creepy crawlies are actually beneficial creatures.

On this Horticulture Day edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with entomologist Donald Lewis about why centipedes and millipedes don’t deserve their bad reputation. Later in the hour, horticulturist Richard Jauron joins to answer listener questions.

Extension Master Gardener

We’ve just endured a polar vortex, which brought wind chills approaching -60F to some parts of Iowa. As the state begins to defrost, it would be nice to think this extreme cold could be a setback for some of our least favorite invasive insects—but will it impact our beloved plants, too? 

USFWS/Ann Froschauer

 

Feel like braving the dark? Those who head outside after nightfall are sure to be rewarded with natural sights and sounds unlike anything available during daylight hours.

 

Yancas / Flickr

Along with the rich greens and beautiful blossoms of early summer come bugs— gnats, mosquitoes, ticks, and many others. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe chats with Iowa State University entomologist Donald Lewis about biting insects. 

It got cold last week, and suddenly the world outside is insect-free. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with her guests about how insects survive the winter, and why they show up so quickly when the warmth returns. 

Guests are Iowa State University Extension Horticulturist Richard Jauron, ISU Extension Entomologist Donald Lewis, DNR District Forester Mark Vitosh, and ISU Professor of Horticulture and organic specialist Kathleen Delate. 

Image courtesy of Michael Leland

One of Iowa's largest and most recognizable insects is the Praying Mantis. Contrary to their predatory nature and creepy appearance, the Praying Mantis is actually beneficial to the garden, and according to Entomologist Donald Lewis, they can't really hurt you.

Yolanda

The decline of Monarch butterfly populations over the past two decades has received much attention from scientists. However, recent surveys of the Monarch population in the Midwest have not been showing dramatic decreases.

Monarch populations are thought to be tied to the disappearance of milkweed, the only plant on which Monarchs lay eggs. Iowa State University assistant professor in ecology, John Pleasants says Monarch populations in the Midwest may appear stable because counts are taken in open areas where butterflies can find milkweed.

Tom (turkletom) / Flickr

Iowa has seen fewer mosquitoes than usual this summer, but recent rainfall may change that, according to Donald Lewis, a professor and extension entomologist at Iowa State University.

Lewis says drought conditions in Iowa in the first part of the summer led to low mosquito populations.

“The rainfall we had in parts of the state where they got one or two inches all at once could rapidly change that situation," he says. "So don’t think we’re out of the woods for mosquito bites through the rest of the summer.”

Chikungunya, Mosquitoes, and a Vaccine

Jun 13, 2017
Sanofi Pasteur / Patrick Boulen

Chikungunya is a debilitating inflammatory virus carried by mosquitoes. The University of Iowa is one of three sites in the U.S. that is enrolling participants for a clinical trial of an experimental vaccine for chikungunya. The illness has been found in the U.S.

Ddryden87

Every once in a great while, a caller on Horticulture Day will ask a question that the Hort Gang just can't answer. When our experts are stumped, we turn to the Iowa State University Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with members of the Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic and takes calls from listeners, 

Beneficial Insects for Your Garden

Mar 31, 2017
Silk Knoll / flickr

While pollinators are lauded as the most beneficial insect to have in your garden, there are other insects that you also want around. Iowa State University Extension Entomologist Donald Lewis explains the various roles insects play in our landscape.

Lewis explains that the insects which we might perceive as a danger or a nuisance, such as wasps or bald-faced hornets, actually provide a needed service.

 

Courtesy Programa Nacional de Acrídios/Senasa

The normally dry northern region of Argentina has a problem of biblical proportions.

Farmers there are struggling with a massive outbreak of locusts. Dark clouds of the green-brown bugs cast shadows when they fly overhead and when they land, they cover the ground.

"It is really, really, amazing when you see the locusts because you see millions of them together," said Juan Pablo Karnatz, who raises cattle in Santiago del Estero, about 600 miles northwest of Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires. "When you think they can be more millions flying around, it could be a disaster."

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

Advocates for listing the monarch butterfly as threatened under the Endangered Species Act are tired of waiting for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make up its mind.

"We filed a notice of intent to sue so that they have to give us a date to make that decision on whether or not they're going to protect the monarch," says Tierra Curry, senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity which, along with other groups, petitioned the federal agency in 2014 citing an 80-percent decline in the monarch population over the past 20 years.

Photo courtesy of USDA

A senior scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture filed a whistleblower complaint on Wednesday accusing the federal agency of suppressing research findings that could call into question the use of a popular pesticide class that is a revenue powerhouse for the agrichemical industry.

Tannaz / Wikimedia Commons, Licensed under Creative Commons

Fresh herbs are one of the most versatile plants available to home gardeners. Iowa State University Extension Program specialist in Value-added Agriculture, Linda Naeve, says they're an easy way to add color and texture to the landscape without the risk of a plant getting too big. The exception to that rule is mint, which is very aggressive. Naeve says it should be planted in a container, and then added to the garden, to help keep it in check.

Sam 17 / Flickr

Freda Sojka, CEO of Soothing Solutions, created Bug Soother in the wake of the 2008 floods, when gnats were bothering her five-month-old grandson. She had no idea that less than a decade later it'd be distributed throughout the world.

"If I'd known all that at the beginning, I might have named it differently. We're pretty stuck with the name now," she said with a laugh.

This Spring, Bug Soother launched in the UK. And Sojka is looking at other countries to introduce Bug Soother to; Panama is next on the list.

Halvard from Norway

When our horticulture experts are stumped by a caller, they turn to the experts at Iowa State University's Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic.  They identify plant diseases, weeds, mushrooms and insects.  Host Charity Nebbe talks with Entomologist Laura Jesse and Plant Pathologist Lina Rodreguez-Salamanca about the sleuthing that happens in diagnosing a plant disease or insect infestation.

John Tann / Flickr

If you head out for a hike, there's a decent chance you'll return with a hitchhiker. All three types of ticks in Iowa are active right now. 

Donald Lewis, an entomologist with Iowa State University extension, speaks with host Charity Nebbe about ticks. ISU Extension horticulturist Richard Jauron and DNR district forester Mark Vitosh also join the conversation.

Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media

The monarch butterfly may soon find more of its food in Iowa.

gapowell / flickr

Monarch butterfly numbers have declined dramatically. Now it looks like they may be put on the Endangered Species List.

Roadsidepictures / Flickr

The answer is: probably zero. ISU entomologist Donald Lewis says fears and myths about spiders are overblown.

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