Making a plan

We spent our class today making a plan. Here it is:

Timeline/To do

  1. February
    1. Create recommended reading list (Elizabeth, Louie, Kasey, Vincent, Mia)
      1. Read recommended reading list (everyone)
    2. Start milkweed in greenhouse (in class?)
      1. Pick up seeds (Kelsey)
    3. Check the Bohart for Lespesia archippivora (Eliza, Jess, Annaliese, Arianna, Mia)
      1. Get collection locations, dates, determine sex differences
    4. Rear parasitoids
      1. Make caterpillar diet (small team or in class?)
      2. Order beet armyworm (Louie)
      3. Set up BAW cages
      4. Collect tachinids
        1. Light traps (Eliza)
        2. Sentinel armyworms
        3. Sweep netting
      5. Separate out females for landing tests?
    5. Forced landing lab experiment I
      1. Make note cards
      2. Make landing arenas
      3. Do tests – potentially do this outside with tethered flies?
  2. March
    1. Forced landing lab experiment II
    2. Set up monarch colony
      1. Collect monarchs from the field
  3. April
    1. Painted caterpillar lab experiment
      1. Try out different ways to paint caterpillars
    2. Field experiment I
  4. May
    1. Fitness effects of color differences in monarchs
    2. Data analysis, writing reports

The timeline gets pretty rough, but it is useful to have a rough guide. Now that we have a bit of a roadmap, it probably makes sense to focus on the first things first.

Sub-projects

This is just a brainstorm list of all the projects we could think of. It will undoubtedly change as we learn more, and we might re-prioritize as we move down the line. As we tackle each sub-project in turn, we should aim to write up a clear protocol, with questions, hypotheses and methods. But one thing at a time, since we’ll learn a lot as we go.

  1. Growing milkweed
    1. EP and LHY started a population of milkweed in early Feb
    2. Have ordered new seeds as well (Kelsey will pick up on Monday)
    3. Possibly plant these as a class next week, in greenhouse plug trays
  2. Obtaining and rearing Lespesia archippivora (Tachinidae, parasitoid)
    1. Go to the Bohart to look at collection records
    2. How to separate males and females?
  3. Obtaining and rearing Danaus plexippus (Nymphalidae, monarch)
    1. Recent sightings of active larvae in the Bay area on tropical milkweed – might be able to collect larvae now?!
  4. Obtaining and rearing Spodoptera exigua (Noctuidae, beet armyworm, BAW)
    1. Check availability from Benzon Research
    2. permits
    3. Order
  5. Temperature dependence of tachinid attack rate
    1. KF = temperature (heated, cooled and room temperature)
    2. RV = attack rate
    3. Maintain populations of tachinids at different temperatures with hosts
  6. Forced landing lab experiment I
    1. KF = printed pattern
    2. RV = landing rates
    3. Put tachinids into a container with different flat landing surfaces
    4. Assess their landing rates on different surfaces. We could use index cards with different patterns printed on them, for example.
    5. Possibly choice or no-choice versions of this.
      1. For choice experiments, provide two patterns.
      2. For no-choice, give just one option, and measure latency.
    6. Possibly use sticky surfaces to capture landing data.
  7. Forced landing lab experiment II
    1. KF = model caterpillars with different patterns
    2. RV = landing rate of parasitoids on caterpillar models  
    3. Put tachninids into a container with clay model caterpillars.
    4. Assess their landing rates on different caterpillar models, e.g. clay or plasticine
    5. Possibly choice or no-choice versions of this.
      1. For choice experiments, provide two patterns.
      2. For no-choice, give just one option, and measure latency and egg count
      3. Negative control.
  8. Painted caterpillar lab experiment
    1. KF = painted stripe pattern
    2. RV = landing or attack rate of parasitoids
    3. Paint to change striping
      1. Paint live monarch caterpillars
      2. Paint Spodoptera exigua caterpillars
      3. Freeze dried caterpillars
    4. Assess attack rate in captive situation
    5. Could be done in lab or greenhouse environment
  9. Field experiment I
    1. Tethered fly experiment?
    2. Caged fly experiment?
    3. Wild fly experiment?
    4. Need to choose a field site
      1. Experimental Ecosystem
      2. North Davis Channel
    5. How to manipulate the striped phenotype of caterpillars?
      1. Raise them at different temperatures
        1. Warm – light color, low striping
        2. Ambient – “normal” color, high striping contrast
        3. Cool – dark color, low striping
      2. Paint to change striping
        1. Paint live monarch caterpillars
        2. Paint Spodoptera exigua caterpillars
        3. Freeze dried caterpillars
  10. Fitness effects of color differences in monarchs
    1. KF = caterpillar color phenotype (light, dark, normal)
    2. RV = survival, time budget?
    3. Field experiment or high intensity lights (artificial sun)
    4. Manipulate caterpillar color, then measure

Special thanks to Mia’s dad, our lifeline on polarized light! It was great to be able to dial an expert.

Updates

After class, I got word that the new milkweed seeds would be ready for pick-up on Monday. I also contacted the greenhouse manager, and it looks like we will be able to get some space on a germination bench. Since Kelsey kindly offered to pick up the seeds, I think we will probably be able to start the greenhouse work Tuesday.

I also emailed a 1) colleague who has had tachinids attack her monarchs in the past, just to see if we could get some more info on them, and 2) a colleague who works in IPM, just to see if he knows of a place to collect spods.

I also completed a permit application for the spods (BAW). I’m not sure how long it will take to get approval, but at least it is submitted.

What to do on Tuesday

So, for Tuesday, I think it makes sense to have some of the class go to the greenhouse to quickly plant trays of milkweed plugs. It also probably makes sense to have some of the class stay back to work on a plan for obtaining Lespesia archippivora . I don’t think we need to start making diet just yet, until we have a better idea of when we’ll be able to get the spods.

Team Lespesia (~10 people)

Goal: Figure out a plan to get Lespesia!

Ideas: figure out how/where to set up traps, check out iNaturalist, look at collection locations/dates, talk to folks at the Student Farms, talk to dipterists and biocontrol folks, look online, read papers, find other trap designs. We are looking for a game plan that we can start working on in/between classes! If there is time left over on Tuesdsay, it might be good to start drafting a protocol for “Forced landing lab experiment I”.

Stuff we’ll need: Eliza’s traps, Eliza’s photos of the Lespesia collection data from the Bohart, possibly stuff in my lab.

Team Asclepias (~10 people)

Goal: Start trays of milkweed at the greenhouse!

Ideas: we’re not going to have much time, so we’re going to need to figure out a way to move quickly. We’ll need to talk to the greenhouse manager to find the germination bench, get our trays, fill them with soil, water them to settle the soil, put milkweed seeds into each plug, cover with soil.

Stuff we’ll need: milkweed seed, several forceps, greenhouse shed key.

Let’s all meet at the classroom by 1:10 at the latest and we can divide up then. If folks arrive early, we’ll start choosing teams early.

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