entomology

Ana Legrand: Educator Spotlight

Creating Sustainable Landscapes Through the Interactions of Plants and Insects

Educator Spotlight: Ana Legrand

Ana LegrandAna Legrand built her career around helping people understand the benefits that insects provide. Legrand is an entomologist and UConn Extension educator in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. Entomology is the study of insects, and it plays a vital role in our environment and landscapes.

“My interest in entomology started when I was young,” Legrand says. “I worked with an agricultural ecology professor in college, and she focused on insects for her research. I saw that it was a good path to follow because I was also interested in agriculture.”

Legrand started working on the project as an undergraduate. Then, she took a class on entomology that showed the formalities and that it could become a profession. “Part of my educational experience was working in the laboratory. I found that collaborating with the graduate students and professors was fun,” Legrand recalls. “I went on to pursue research in graduate school at the University of Maryland because you’re always learning something and that’s exciting. Teaching is also exciting because you are sharing that new information.”

At UConn, Legrand’s research and extension program focuses on plant and insect interactions in vegetable crops. Her work uses insects to enhance biological controls and looks at plant traits that impact insect pests. Legrand’s lab team is investigating plants that attract pests away from crops. Their goal is to trap insects on crops in the early stages before any damage to the food being grown.

Educational outreach including field days and fact sheets target growers and other researchers. “It’s rewarding to find something that wasn’t documented before, even if it’s a small thing,” she says. “I also enjoy seeing the diversity of insects. It might seem like a quiet agricultural field, but it’s really complex with a lot of activity out there.”

Ana Legrand teaching an Extension programShe enjoys getting students and growers excited about insects. Watching undergraduates complete research and pursue entomology in graduate school is also rewarding. “I want everyone to know that insects are a diverse group of animals,” Legrand says. “We face many challenges from pest problems – including health issues. But we also need to appreciate the beneficial insects and make them better allies in what we’re doing. Obviously, there is pollination. But beneficial insects also help with waste management, pest control, and in other areas.”

Remote sensing for early detection of pest damage is one of her new research projects in agriculture and entomology. Legrand and Bivek Bhusal, her graduate student, are partnering with researchers in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. They are using drones to identify insect damage to plants. Analyzing the way the light bounces back from the plant surface helps them find tissue damage and then look for patterns. There is a lot of data, and it has many other applications for agriculture production, specifically in vegetable crops.

Extension educators at several Northeast states are collaborating on a brassica project. The results of their research will enhance agricultural operations. Maussi Arrunategui, another of Legrand’s graduate students, is working on the project with her. Brassica crops include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and turnips. Her research avenues continue expanding and innovating beyond these projects. She is also securing more grant funding to sustain her research and extension initiatives.

“Extension work is valuable, and we want to keep people informed of the latest IPM developments,” Legrand concludes. “There are so many new pest challenges and there are new options available for management of traditional pests. The local environment is important too, our research is more applicable to what people are facing here in Connecticut.”

Article by Stacey Stearns

4-H Bugs Summer Activity

Article by Sara Tomis ’22 (CAHNR)

youth around table doing activityThis summer, UConn 4-H New London County completed their first in-person program since early spring, 2020. The program focused on entomology and STEM and was facilitated through Preston Parks and Recreation summer camp. Students ranging from 4 to 12 years in age participated in a variety of activities designed to “break the ice” with bugs while learning about insect habitats, developmental stages, feeding behaviors, and anatomy.

Although many younger campers were eager to get their hands dirty and learn by doing (even when this involved making ‘ant restaurants’ that combined a variety of sticky, creamy, and crunchy foods), older campers exhibited a limited interest in engaging with these activities early in the program. However, by the end of the summer, young and older campers alike were enthusiastic about trying new things, interacting with the natural world, and engaging with content that they were initially apprehensive about. Additional impacts resulting from this experience involved promoting science education and science-based careers to young women, as well as teaching young learners how to overcome their fears and insecurities during their pursuit of knowledge and growth.

two kids huggingThe 4-H Bugs program further served as an environment where students were able to develop a sense of community and teamwork. One student found a cicada exoskeleton at camp and brought his new ‘friend’ to 4-H Bugs program sessions over multiple weeks. His peers encouraged his newfound interest in entomology and together the group made a habitat for the exoskeleton and created paper ‘food’ for the exoskeleton to enjoy. The students applied what they had learned about insect diets and life cycles as they interacted with the exoskeleton, who was named Steven.

All students expressed increased interest in engaging with insects as the weeks progressed. The last session of the program involved creating habitats for live mealworms, which went home with students inside plastic water bottles filled with leaves, sticks, banana peels, and sheep grain for the worms to eat. The students were each allotted one mealworm each. However, as the worms were purchased in packs of 12, there were extra worms at the end of the session.

Almost all of the students asked for a second or even a third worm to add to their habitat and talked about their plans for feeding and caring for their insect as they moved on to their next camp session.

Cultivating positive interactions with peers and the natural world has a profound impact on how young students view their world and their future. The 4-H Bugs program was successful in providing such an experience to participants through experiential learning. Students benefited from an in-person learning modality after an extended period of time where their primary educational interactions took place in a virtual environment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This program is reflective of UConn Extension’s commitment to improving the lives of residents and stakeholders through quality educational programming.

Ornamentals & Turf Course

plant diseaseThis year has been unique for everyone. All of us have been impacted in one way or another. We sincerely hope that you and your family are doing well and the pandemic has not touched you or your family. We at UConn Extension have been striving to put this course online for your convenience. While we understand that an online course is simply not the same as in person, this is where we are in the world today. We will certainly miss the interaction we have with all of you in the classroom as well.

There are some advantages to having an online course though, first you can work when it’s most convenient for you. You can also take the course in small chunks rather than sitting through a 3-hour lecture. You don’t have to leave your job or business to take the course either.

This Short Course is an in depth review of the information necessary for studying and fulfilling the requirements of the Ornamental and Turf/Golf Course Superintendents State of Connecticut Supervisory Pesticide Applicator Certification exam. A student completing all the modules, working through the quizzes, and studying resources materials independently should be able to successfully pass the examination, both written and oral state exam. Expect to spend at least 8 hours on each module.

Class topics are: Pesticide Laws and Regulations, Pesticide Safety, Botany and Ornamental Identification, Plant Pathology and Ornamental Plant Diseases, Entomology and Insect Pests of Woody Ornamentals, Area and Dosage Calculations, Turf Management and Weed Management. Each class begins with a basic overview of the science then takes an in-depth look at specific pests, their biology and control.

We have developed the course into 8 modules. Each module is broken down into Parts. Each part begins with learning objectives followed by slides with a narrative. PDFs of the slides are available for printing. Each Part will close with a summary and quiz on the contents of the part just viewed. Please take the quizzes seriously and take the time to write out your answers, as this will help you retain the important points from each Part and be useful for studying for the final exam as well as the state exam.

Each week on Tuesday evenings at 5:30, we plan to introduce a new module for you to work through during the week. The following Tuesday we will do a short debrief of the module you just completed and introduce the next module, again followed with a debrief the next Tuesday and so on for 8 weeks.

This does not include the required Pesticide Applicator Training Manual, (aka “The Core Manual”), which can ordered from UConn MarketPlace under the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources Extension at:
https://secure.touchnet.com/C21646_ustores/web/store_main.jsp?STOREID=29
Click on Department of Extension box.

The core Manual can also be found and downloaded from the “National Association
of State Departments of Agriculture” at the following link:
https://www.nasda.org/foundation/pesticide-applicator-certification-and-training

An additional resource which is very highly recommend by CT DEEP, and is free from the website below it is called, “Turfgrass Nutrient and Integrated Pest Management Manual”, edited by Tim Abbey. This is really is a must read and necessary resource: http://cag.uconn.edu/documents/Turfgrass-IPM-manual-s.pdf

There is also an optional manual called “Ornamental and Turf, Category 3 manual” available from Cornell, it cost $41.00 plus shipping and handling. https://www.cornellstore.com/3.-Ornamental-And-Turf
Check for used copies of these books with your colleagues or online, yes, even check Amazon.

Register for the online course here.

Click on the Orn & Turf Class box. Make sure to check out as guest.

For questions or more information, please contact Diane, diane.labonia@uconn.edu

 

Biological Control Short Course Offered

people in field
Photo: Auerfarm

Xerces Society’s Conservation Biological Control Short Course

4-H Education Center at Auer Farm
158 Auer Farm Rd.
Bloomfield, CT

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017
9:00 am – 4:30 pm EDT

Learn a science-based strategy that seeks to integrate beneficial insects for natural pest control with instructor Dr. Ana Legrand from UConn!

To register and read course agenda follow this link: http://s.uconn.edu/3mt