Insects

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.”

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.

Wikimedia Commons

There have been reports of dragonfly swarms in certain parts of the state this summer. 

Wikimedia Commons

A U. S. Geological Survey study has found widespread concentrations of a toxic pesticide in waterways in Iowa and throughout the upper Midwest.

National Weather Service/NOAA

This week, thick clouds of millions of mayflies emanated from the Mississippi River in Northeast Iowa.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

It continues to be a tough year for trees in Iowa. The Polar Vortex left its mark on many trees and shrubs, and now a tenth county has been added to the list of counties in Iowa where the Emerald Ash Borer has been discovered. That county is Johnson County, and an adult female Emerald Ash Borer was found in Iowa City.

Also, listeners have their plant and garden questions answered by Jeff Iles, Professor and Chair of the Horticulture Department at Iowa State University, and Richard Jauron, Iowa State University Extension Horticulturist.

Bug Soother

This spring, Freda Sojka says there's only one way to describe her business: busy. 

She's the brains behind the bug repellent "Bug Soother," that has become overwhelmingly popular over the last few years in Iowa. She says she discovered the recipe for the repellent by accident. “My grandson was at my house, and I didn’t want to put anything on him with DEET in it. I threw a few things together, and it worked.”

dapawprint (Flickr)

They float, swarm, harass and irritate, and they can even take down a chicken or a turkey. The gnats are back. But when we complain about “gnats,” Iowa State University Extension Entomologist Donald Lewis says, sometimes we might be misplacing blame. 

"Saying you are annoyed by a gnat is like saying you were passed on the interstate by a vehicle… It’s a two mile wide term. Ask yourself – are the bugs bothering you or are they biting you?”

Amy Mayer/IPR

Nathan Anderson stops his red pick-up truck alongside a cornfield on his farm near Cherokee, Iowa. The young farmer pulls on a heavy brown hoodie, thick long, sturdy yellow gloves and a beekeeper’s hat with a screened veil. He approaches a pair of hives sitting on the edge of a field recently planted with corn.

Dendroica curulea

They've been waiting in the ground for 17 years, but the wait is almost over.  In just a few short weeks, a large brood of 17 year cicadas will emerge in 46 counties in Iowa.  Host Charity Nebbe talks with Iowa State University Entomologist Donald Lewis about what to expect and how these remarkable and long-lived insects survive.

Plant a Tree!

Apr 25, 2014
Bianca de Blok

It's Arbor Day and in Iowa the Emerald Ash Borer has a lot of people thinking about diversifying the trees in their landscape.  On this "Horticulture Day" edition of Talk of Iowa Charity Nebbe talks with DNR District Forester Mark Vitosh about the work being done at Iowa's State Forest Nursery and how to pick the right tree to plant in your landscape.

Cory Barnes

This past winter was particularly harsh on Iowa's honeybees.  Experts estimate that 65-70 percent of Iowa's honeybee colonies didn't survive.  Iowa State University Extension entomologist Donald Lewis talks with host Charity Nebbe about the plight of honeybees as well as pesticides that may pose a further risk to the state's pollinators.

Day of Insects

Mar 30, 2014
Rickk Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

It sounds like the title of a horror movie, but the people who attended the “Day of Insects” have an appreciation for the six-legged creatures that we share our lives with. One specimen in particular, caught the attention of Iowa Public Radio’s Rick Fredericksen.

Honeybees may be among the many victims of this winter's extended stretches of extreme cold. The State Department of Agriculture's Apiarist, Andrew Joseph says annual winter losses among U.S. beekeepers run about 30 percent. Iowa's losses are likely to be 60 to 65 percent. He says bees that are in good shape can survive a very harsh winter, but those that have been weakened by pesticides or parasites are not likely to survive until spring.

Carsten Tolkmit / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

Join Talk of Iowa for a talk with Douglas Tallamy, Professor and Chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware. He says “We need to change the way we interact with nature; it should not be segregated,” and that living with nature can be very rewarding. Tallamy says that Americans use plants that are mostly from Asia as decorations.  The result is a reduced biodiversity in the places we live, work, and farm.  Hear from Tallamy  about how we can connect habitats by reinstalling native plants.

Phil Nixon / University of Illinois

Horticulture day returns to its weekly schedule, a sure sign of spring!  Host Charity Nebbe talks with Extension Entomologist Donald Lewis about the likely impact of colder than usual temperatures on Iowa's insect population.  The answer:  "not much."  Extension Horticulturist Richard Jauron talks about the timely tasks that need doing in your garden.

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