Summer Summary

What a great summer of research! It’s hard for me to believe it’s coming to an end. I am so excited to have had the opportunity to work in and learn from a variety of research environments, including the lab, the field, and the greenhouse. We started the summer with a fantastic field trip to Blandy Experimental Farm, and, after a long day of field research, we watched hundreds of fireflies put on a light show for us. I remember standing in the firefly field in total amazement – a feeling that occurred with many new discoveries this summer.  This trip highlighted a lot of my favorite themes from the summer – teamwork, the beauty of nature, hard work, and (of course) studying milkweed.

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The Final Days – Blog Post 7

We harvested 25 experimental plants on Thursday, August 1. We harvested even more plants over the weekend of August 2, for a grand total of 75 plants harvested. Throughout the harvests, we noticed some general trends. First, the roots with the highest experimental treatment (8 larvae) seemed to have the most damage. We could usually find one live larva feeding on these roots, which I always found exciting. The larvae were only about the size of my fingertip and about twice as big as when we introduced them to the plants. At introduction, the larvae were a golden color, but, at harvest, they were a creamier color. I am so interested in the final analysis of all the data we took to see how/if it all relates to each other. I am also really thankful to students in Dr. Puzey’s lab for volunteering to help us with the big harvests on Thursday and Friday!

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Time to Assess the Damage – Blog Post 6

It’s time to start harvesting the plants where the larvae have been feeding! I harvested six plants yesterday morning and saw several sections of damage on the coarse roots from larval feeding. I even found two larvae burrowed in the damaged areas. At the time of each harvest, I measured the plant’s stem heights, counted the number of buds on the roots, and checked for damaged areas. Like the previous destructive harvest of the thirty experimental plants, I bagged the aboveground and belowground tissues for each plant and then placed them in a drying oven so that I will be able to later weigh the tissues. I will compare these weights to the model of how belowground biomass and aboveground biomass relate to each other. I will continue to harvest plants throughout this week as more of the larvae reach the end of the eleven-day feeding period.

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Introducing Longhorned Milkweed Beetle Larvae to The Milkweed Plants – Blog Post 5

The beetle eggs have started hatching (again)! Instead of transferring the long grass stems from the beetle habitats to the kiddy pool, I added the stems to an incubation chamber in the greenhouse. I had hoped to use the roots of the kiddy pool plants as food for the larvae so that they could grow a little bit bigger before I introduced them to our experimental plants. Due to the time constraints of the summer research session, I am introducing this second set of larvae directly to the experimental plants and allowing them to feed for eleven days. These are the experimental treatments: Control – no larvae, Low – 2 larvae, Moderate – 4 larvae, and High – 8 larvae.

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Beetle Update – Blog Post 4

At the beginning of last week, I was ready to begin introducing the longhorned milkweed beetle larvae to the experimental common milkweed plants. I first completed a destructive harvest of thirty experimental plants. I bagged the aboveground and belowground tissues for each plant and then placed them in a drying oven so that I will be able to later weigh the tissues. I will use these weights to construct a model of how belowground biomass and aboveground biomass relate to each other. On Tuesday morning, I was ready to begin removing the larvae from the kiddy pool where they had been feeding on the small (25-35 cm tall) milkweed plants. I looked for larvae for about 3 hours and very sadly found none. I removed all the plants from the kiddy pool and examined their roots in the greenhouse with an optivisor before bringing the roots down to the lab to look at them under the dissecting scope. I saw a few really tiny clear worms and a few really tiny shiny bugs under the dissecting scope, but that was it.

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