Native paper wasps hold potential as bio-control agents for lepidopteran pests of Brassica

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McCall, Erin
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Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression
Iowa State University Conferences and Symposia

The Symposium provides undergraduates from all academic disciplines with an opportunity to share their research with the university community and other guests through conference-style oral presentations. The Symposium represents part of a larger effort of Iowa State University to enhance, support, and celebrate undergraduate research activity.

Though coordinated by the University Honors Program, all undergraduate students are eligible and encouraged to participate in the Symposium. Undergraduates conducting research but not yet ready to present their work are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the presentation process and students not currently involved in research are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the broad range of undergraduate research activities that are taking place at ISU.

The first Symposium was held in April 2007. The 39 students who presented research and their mentors collectively represented all of ISU's Colleges: Agriculture and Life Sciences, Business, Design, Engineering, Human Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, and the Graduate College. The event has grown to regularly include more than 100 students presenting on topics that span the broad range of disciplines studied at ISU.

Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology

Pesticides have become a staple in agriculture. Even with modern advancements in agriculture pest control, there are pests that still persevere within our farming systems. The application of chemicals to crops is time consuming, costly, and can be environmentally compromising. Within Brassica plants the larval pest T. ni (Trichoplusia ni) consumes large amounts of plant product on a daily basis. Our project looked to see if native paper wasps (Polistes fuscatus), are capable of predating these pest larvae, at a rate that is high enough to benefit the plant. Established colonies were placed in a hoop house with young collard greens. were then placed on the collards, with half of those plants encased to prevent wasps from predating. Data were collected on the number of larvae predated over 3 hours each day. Leaf area was also measured at the end of the experiment to assess the benefits of wasp predation on plant growth. Combined, our data will help us see how paper wasps populations could aid agricultural production. Future research could then determine if predation levels are high enough to have an economic impact.

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