Silver Fly Strategy

Ky Barnett '18, animal science major, CCE Onondaga County

Blog entry: July 11, 2015

Ky Barnett
Ky Barnett '18

This week, my boss, a co-worker and I headed down to Skaneateles Lake to retrieve the experiments. We had been to the lake many times before to treat a few wooly adelgid-infested trees with silver flies. The adelgids are a new, invasive pest of hemlock trees, and the silver flies are their natural predators. The experiments took place inside closed bags in order to limit environmental changes influencing the results. The experiment will tell us if releasing silver flies into the environment will likely be a successful method of controlling the adelgid population.

We had a very quick and efficient assembly line strategy to get the job done fast. My boss cut the marked branches that we used in the experiments off the tree. My co-worker, Blake Wetherbee, opened the bags and placed the branches inside. I tied the bags up once the trees were inside them and placed them in a pile. Once we got off the boat we placed all the small, black bags into one, larger black bag in order to transport them back to Ithaca.

Once back in Ithaca, we opened up the large, black bag and took out all the smaller, individually bagged branches. We placed the bags into two boxes, so they can be shipped right away for counting. Once they arrive at their destinations, some partners of Mark’s will count them and report back their data.

Looking for adelgids under the microscope
Looking for adelgids under the microscope.

We also did some counting of our own. Previously, we had attempted to count adelgids at the Corral, our field site, but we did not see many to count. This time we went out and found lots! My boss was very happy with the results. Blake measured and counted the branches, while I recorded the data in our lab notebook. On the first day it took us almost three hours just to do one tree. But by the second day, we managed to count one tree in just about an hour! That’s good news because there are many, many trees left to be counted.

A few weeks ago, a trip to an invasive species symposium and an Emerald Ash Borer meeting allowed me to “branch out” from my main topic. This symposium was very informative and demonstrated the varied work that people do on invasives. Many people who work with one invasive are also concerned about another invasive. This also taught me the cooperative work that those who work with invasives do. It is not about one person or a group of people fighting their species of interest, but about various groups of people working together to fight several invasives. I also saw many people attending the meetings to learn how to fight invasive species in their own backyards and neighborhoods. These weren’t professors or individuals who had dedicated their whole lives to a topic, but just an average community member attempting to save whatever native species he or she cared for. This showed me the importance of the community and their role in aiding the fight of invasives.

The Cornell Cooperative Extension Summer Internship Program has helped Cornell fulfill its land-grant mission by engaging students in outreach since 2007. Faculty and staff from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Human Ecology along with extension educators from local Cornell Cooperative Extension offices involve students in the college’s work to benefit New York state communities. From research to education and program development, interns are involved in a wide spectrum of activities which they document by blogging.