Undergraduate Research

August 12, 2011 under CANR News

Undergraduate researchers were busy at the University of Delaware this summer, and the results of their research were on display during the second annual Undergraduate Research and Service Celebratory Symposium, held Wednesday, Aug. 10, in Clayton Hall.

Representing every UD college and discipline, some 330 undergraduate research and service scholars and visiting scholars participated. The event featured 243 poster presentations and 87 oral presentations.

CANR student Matthew Fischel won first place in the first-ever Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research in Sustainability Prize.  His topic of study was “Kinetics of Arsenite Exodation by Manganese Oxide Minerals:  Importance for Water Quality and Environmental Sustainability”, and his faculty sponsor was Don Sparks.

For the full UDaily article click here.

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UDairy Creamery partners with Center for Disabilities Studies

August 8, 2011 under CANR News

Sophie DeMesse, center, with Geoffrey Steggell and William Edwards

For Geoffrey Steggell and William Edwards, the UDairy Creameryis a great place to hone the skills that they’ve learned at the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies (CDS).

UDairy Creamery has partnered with CDS to hire individuals with disabilities to work in the store through the center’s Transition, Education and Employment Model (TEEM) Employment Services program.

TEEM helps individuals with disabilities gain greater independence and involvement in the community. TEEM’s Employment Services program teach employment skills, social awareness, effective communication and self-advocacy.

Although originally hired to work in the UDaily Creamery production area making ice cream, Steggell and Edwards also operate the cash register and take customer orders. They receive on-the-job coaching from CDS employment specialist Sophie DeMesse, who helps them communicate and problem solve.

DeMesse is a 2010 graduate of UD’s College of Education and Human Development who has a degree in human services with a minor in disabilities studies. As an employment specialist for TEEM Employment Services, she guides individuals with disabilities through the entire process of employment, helping them to obtain and maintain jobs in the community.

Steggell, a 22-year-old graduate of Newark High School, says he loves working at the UDairy Creamery. His favorite aspect of the job is working at the cash register, but he also enjoys making ice cream. He works with the food science team to create various flavors, including the new Cinnamon Toast Crunchie.

Edwards, a 21-year-old graduate of Hodgson Vocational Technical High School, also enjoys his time at the UDairy Creamery, where his favorite part of the job is making ice cream. He takes part and enjoys all aspects of making ice cream and helping to operate the creamery.

As employees of the UDairy Creamery, Steggell and Edwards learn how to work as members of a team, how to provide good customer support and—most importantly—how to make great ice cream. But they aren’t the only ones who benefit from the partnership between UDairy Creamery and CDS.

UDairy Creamery manager Melinda Litvinas says that employees can learn how to interact more effectively with individuals with disabilities as members of the workforce and community. As the program has continued, Litvinas says that she has “observed a positive response to Geoffrey and William’s work from both the creamery employees and the public.”

DeMesse agrees that the entire community benefits from this and other TEEM Employment Services partnerships because employing people with disabilities opens the eyes of customers and other employees to new situations and possibilities. “There are many challenges and many barriers to getting a person a job, but it’s so rewarding when the individual can work independently, loves the job and succeeds in doing just as well as anyone else,” she says.

CDS actively reaches out to prospective employers like the creamery who are open to employing individuals with disabilities. “We are so grateful for the openness that many employers at UD have demonstrated by creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities,” says Brian Freedman, director of the TEEM unit.

Since starting work at the UDairy Creamery, Steggell and Edwards have both been accepted into TEEM’s new Career and Life Studies Certificate (CLSC) program. This program is designed for individuals who want to continue their education after high school but require additional assistance. The two-year CLSC program, which leads to a certificate, is tailored to the needs of the individual and provides coaching and peer mentoring for the participants. It gives young adults like Steggell and Edwards more options for their future.

For more information about the UDairy Creamery and special promotions, “like” UDairy Creamery on Facebook or visit the creamery website.

Information about the Center for Disabilities Studies is available at the center’s website.

Article by Jenna Byers

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article was originally posted online on UDaily.

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Water science, policy program launched

August 1, 2011 under CANR News

Students in the water science and policy program will have ample opportunities to conduct field research. Here graduate student Justin Bower, undergraduate Tara Harrell and graduate student Martha Corrozi (left to right) use an Australian turbidity tube to measure the clarity of water in Fairfield Run, a tributary of White Clay Creek

The world’s human population is expected to top seven billion by April 2012. Of all the burdens this growing population places on the planet’s resources, none is more critical than the pressure on the world’s fresh water supplies. Just 2.5 percent of Earth’s water is fresh water, and much of that is frozen and unavailable to terrestrial life.

Developing solutions to the problem of meeting the growing need for clean water that are socially acceptable, economically viable and environmentally sustainable is the focus of the new interdisciplinary graduate program in water science and policy at the University of Delaware, which welcomes its first students this fall.

The new program will offer a master of science degree and doctoral degrees with either a water science or a water policy concentration. The curriculum draws on courses from four colleges at UD: the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, the College of Engineering, and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Students in the University-wide program will be advised by any of the 30 or so faculty affiliated with the program. The program will be housed in College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and will be directed by Shreeram Inamdar, associate professor of watershed hydrology.

“We have a really top-notch cadre of faculty representing many disciplines, including hydrology, geology, geography, ecology, climatology, microbiology, plant and soil sciences, environmental chemistry, engineering, resource economics and public policy,” Inamdar said. “We may approach the problem of water from different perspectives, but we share a common goal of better understanding, protecting and managing our precious water resources. The beauty of this program is it provides students greater flexibility in shaping their curriculum and greater opportunities to collaborate with faculty from diverse disciplines and departments.”

The new program was initiated under the auspices of the Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN), where staff members Jeanette Miller and Amy Broadhurst helped to coordinate the diverse group of interested faculty and the necessary paperwork and approval process to launch the program.

new website has been created to provide prospective students with information about the program. According to Inamdar, there are two new research assistantships available immediately to students in the program whose adviser has a primary appointment in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“Students who graduate from this program will be able to pursue exciting career opportunities in academia, governmental and nongovernmental agencies, close to home or around the world,” said Inamdar. “The demand for clean, healthy water is going to be very high in the coming century, and so will the demand for our graduates’ expertise.”

Article by Beth Chajes

Photo by Jerry Kauffman

The original article can be viewed online on UDaily.

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Ice cream at new bookstore

July 22, 2011 under CANR News

Just when you thought the new University of Delaware Bookstore couldn’t get any sweeter, it will. Not only is the location optimal for student traffic, the new bookstore — operated by Barnes & Noble — will also be selling pints of UDairy Creamery ice cream in the Blue Hen Café, located right inside the building’s Main Street entrance.

“We are very excited to be selling UDairy ice cream,” said Jennifer Galt, bookstore manager. “It’s a natural partnership and we look forward to hosting many events together.”

UD and Barnes & Noble opened ground for construction of the new UD Bookstore on Aug. 30, 2010. The new bookstore will be located at 83 E. Main St., and is on schedule to open on Aug. 1, with a grand opening event on Sept. 1.

Since 2002, UD has partnered with Barnes & Noble and last year signed a long-term contract extension to continue the collaboration. The UDairy Creamery is just one of many partners involved in the new bookstore, which will also include an Apple Authorized Campus Store and a Starbucks.

“This is a win-win-win opportunity,” said David Brond, vice president for communications and marketing. “The bookstore can promote the products of a local, student-run source, the UDairy Creamery can introduce its premium ice cream to the downtown Newark community, and the UD community can enjoy greater access to the official ice cream of the University of Delaware.”

Beginning in fall 2011, UDairy Creamery ice cream will also be available at all of the on-campus markets. The Rodney and Harrington markets will carry pints, while the new Provisions on Demand (POD) will have scoops, milkshakes and pints available.

The UDairy Creamery, established in 2008, produces premium ice cream made with milk from the cows on the farm at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Founded on science, sustainability and entrepreneurship, the creamery encourages discovery learning, with UD students involved in every aspect of making and selling ice cream “from the cow to the cone.”

This summer, the UDairy Creamery is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, visit the UDairy Creamery website. And, don’t forget to “like” UDairy Creamery on Facebook for information on upcoming events and special promotions.

Article by Rachael Dubinsky

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UD at the State Fair

July 22, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

The University of Delaware will participate in the Delaware State Fair to be held from July 21-30 in Harrington, providing information on the wide range of programs offered throughout the state and particularly in Southern Delaware.

The State Fair is the premier showcase event for celebrating Delaware’s agricultural history and attracts more than 300,000 visitors annually, including residents of Delaware and the surrounding region.

Continuing its longstanding presence at the fair will be CANR’s Cooperative Extension and 4-H programs, located in the Commodities Building and the Centre ice arena respectively. 4-H has been a part of the Delaware State Fair since its inception and according to fair officials is still one of the fair’s largest draws.

UD is sponsoring a demonstration booth under the central M&T Bank Grandstand area to highlight the research, educational and public service initiatives occurring throughout the state under the leadership of Delaware’s flagship university.

“Participation in the Delaware State Fair provides an excellent opportunity to talk about the many outstanding programs offered by the University of Delaware, not only on the Newark campus but also in Kent and Sussex counties,” said Rick Armitage, director of community and state government relations.

Representatives of a variety of UD units will participate, including the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), Student Centers, the Water Resources Agency, the Center for Disabilities Studies and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which offers programs in all three counties.

Also, both the UDairy Creamery and the University of Delaware Bookstore will be providing coupons.

This article can be viewed online on UDaily.

 

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Fresh milk

July 20, 2011 under CANR News

For the first time, milk produced by the dairy herd on the University of Delaware campus is being distributed on campus.

The distribution comes thanks to a partnership between the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and Hy-Point Dairy of Wilmington, Del., which is the sole distributor of UD-produced milk.

Since June, all of the milk produced by the University’s 100-head dairy herd has been sent to Hy-Point and, for the first time, the milk produced on campus has been distributed back to the University community.

Hy-Point Dairy is owned by Jay Meany, a 1981 graduate of CANR, and has long been an established partner in UD’s dairy initiatives.  The Meany family includes several UD alumni, including not only Jay Meany but also Jessica Meany, a 2007 CANR graduate, and Dan Meany, a 2009 CANR graduate.

“We all take pride in our connection with UD, both as alumni and business partners,” said Dan Meany, who was also a member of the original business plan team for the UDairy Creamery in 2008. “Hy-Point continues to be dedicated to the development, establishment and overall progress of dairy initiatives at the University.”

From assisting with the initial business plan to providing countless hours of support and advice on planning and implementation efforts, the Meany family and others at Hy-Point have been instrumental in the overall success of the UDairy Creamery.

The milk distributed by Hy-Point will be sold in all of the on-campus markets and provided in the dining halls. And it will continue to be used for UDairy ice cream.

“We are fully-committed to local purchasing when possible and this new agreement with UD and Hy-Point will bring important sustainable efforts full-circle,” said Robin Moore, director of operations for dining services.

The UD dairy, located on the 350-acre CANR complex in Newark, not only provides milk for the University but also serves as a living laboratory for undergraduate and graduate students.

“Our college is very happy to enter into this partnership with Hy-Point, a local business that has been extremely supportive to us, especially in our efforts to start the UDairy Creamery,” said Tom Sims, deputy dean of CANR and the T.A. Baker Professor of Soil and Environmental Chemistry. “Our new cooperation with Hy-Point will allow students, faculty and staff at UD to enjoy locally-produced milk from our dairy every day. This is consistent with our college’s efforts to not only teach but demonstrate the principles of agricultural sustainability to our students.”

Read the full article on UDaily by clicking here.

To learn more about CANR’s dairy research program, visit the website.

Learn more about the UDairy Creamery at this website.

Article by Rachael Dubinsky

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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Enchanting Butterflies

July 18, 2011 under CANR News

Sheila Vincent may be the only person in Delaware who gets paid to catch butterflies. Every summer day, Vincent heads out with a net and collects butterflies, caterpillars and larvae to stock Ashland Nature Center’s Butterfly House.

As group program coordinator for the Delaware Nature Center, Vincent spends the bulk of her time teaching natural history programs and only about 15 minutes with her butterfly net. “I really look forward to butterfly catching. It’s a bit of peace and quiet during hectic workdays,” she says.

Last season was a “spectacular butterfly season,” according to Vincent and this summer looks to be shaping up to be a good one, too.

“Most years, butterflies are abundant in Delaware from June through August,” says Brian Kunkel, an entomologist with University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. “Mid-July to mid-August is typically the peak of activity.”

But bad weather or insufficient food sources can be game changers. Two years ago, the butterfly season was lackluster because of too many cool, rainy days. Other times, host plants may not be well developed.

Delaware is a good place for butterfly watching. There are about 120 species of resident breeding butterflies in the state. Some entomologists make a distinction between butterflies and skippers – in which case, there are 70 species of butterflies and 50 of skippers. Named for their rapid flight pattern, skippers have small, angular wings and bodies that are proportionately larger than true butterflies, says Kunkel. There’s even a skipper known as the Delaware skipper because it was first spotted here.

But speedy skippers aren’t good for teaching purposes. Monarchs are Vincent’s go-to butterfly for nature programs, especially when she’s working with kids. Monarchs are fairly slow, abundant and easily recognizable. Her own personal favorites include the pipevine swallowtail, a relatively rare species that has orange spots and iridescent blue wings. Vincent also appreciates what she calls the “somber beauty” of the mourning cloak butterfly, which is dark brown with yellow borders around the wings and a row of blue spots.

The black swallowtail butterfly, which has distinctive yellow and bright-blue markings, tops Kunkel’s list of favorites. His wife grows herbs on their deck and always plants dill or fennel, which attract black swallowtails and their caterpillars. Kunkel also likes the Eastern-tailed blue. The males are usually light blue and the females a charcoal color but some varieties are pink or purple.

When Kunkel was a boy, he saw scores of Eastern-tailed blues in his yard every summer. That’s because his parents weren’t perturbed by a bit of clover in the their lawn.

“The caterpillars of Eastern-tailed blues feed on clover,” says Kunkel. “If you eradicate every piece of clover in your yard, I guarantee you won’t see any Eastern-tailed blues.”

Kunkel says he’s a “lawn guy,” who loves a carpet of green, but he’s happy to let clover or wild strawberries coexist with turf. He also can handle a little leaf damage on ornamental plants for the sake of the butterflies.

“Don’t get overly excited about caterpillars on your plants,” he says. “Yes, they’ll munch on some leaves but if you want butterflies, you’ve got to have host plants for the larvae, too.”

Vincent has incorporated plenty of host plants for caterpillars, as well as food plants for butterflies, into her New Castle yard. Her perennials include butterfly weed, milkweed, phlox, asters and goldenrod.  She also plants parsley and fennel in the ornamental beds to attract black swallowtails.

If your yard isn’t lepidoptera friendly just yet, there are other places to spot butterflies. To see the largest number, as well as the most species, choose a sunny, open location – like a meadow or field – that features plant diversity. Vincent recommends the meadow at Ashland Nature Center, Middle Run Natural Area, and White Clay and Brandywine Creek state parks.

Kunkel suggests the UD Botanic Gardens, which opened its Lepidoptera Trail in 2009. This self-guided interpretative trail showcases trees, shrubs, wildflowers and native grasses that provide food for butterflies and moths during both the caterpillar and adult stages. Right now, the Trail is abundant with butterflies.

Special events

• Open House in the Native Plant Teaching and Demonstration Garden will be held Monday night, July 18. Join Kunkel for a plant, pest and beneficial insect walk. Get your questions answered about butterflies, caterpillars and other insects. New Castle County Cooperative Extension Office, Newark. 6-8 p.m. For more information, call 831-COOP or email cjmurphy@udel.edu.

• A Mid-Summer Night’s Stroll through the Gardens will be held Wednesday, July 20. Watch butterflies feast on natives on the Lepidoptera Trail and enjoy all the mid-summer blooms in the UD Botanic Gardens. Live steel drum music and light refreshments. 4-6:30 p.m. Reserve a spot by contacting Donna Kelsch, 831-2531 or botanicgardens@udel.edu.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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Sweet watermelons

July 15, 2011 under CANR News

Delaware watermelon connoisseurs are enjoying the moment – local watermelons are now ripe and ready to enjoy. Local watermelons are sweeter and tastier than the out-of-state melons available earlier in the summer, claim their aficionados.

“Local watermelons do taste pretty sweet. And buying local produce when it’s in season helps to support our local growers,” notes Phillip Sylvester, agriculture agent for Kent County Cooperative Extension.

The state’s watermelon crop typically ripens by July 10 and continues through Sept. 25, with the most active harvest period in mid-August.  Delaware’s watermelon industry has declined slightly in recent years but is still strong.  There are more than 2,700 acres of watermelon in Delaware, down from 3,000 acres five years ago. Crop production is currently valued at $11 million annually.

Sylvester always plants watermelons in his home garden in Felton but the bulk of commercial growing takes place further south, in and around Laurel. The well-drained, sandy soils in western Sussex County are excellent for watermelon growing.

This area has been the seat of Delaware’s commercial melon industry since the 1850s, when schooners loaded with watermelon traveled the Nanticoke River to Baltimore and points beyond. More recently, the Laurel Farmers’ Auction Market opened in 1940 to bring wholesale watermelon buyers and sellers together. At one time the price of virtually every Delaware watermelon was negotiated at the Laurel Market. Today, supermarket chains send brokers directly to growers but the market is still used by small- and medium-sized buyers.

Sylvester grows “Crimson Sweet” watermelons because he says they have an exceptionally sweet taste. But this striped heirloom melon will never win any popularity contests, tasty as it might be, because of what some view as an unforgivable downfall – its seeds.

“I don’t care if a watermelon has seeds,” says Sylvester, “but most people do.”

In the 1990s, less than 1 percent of watermelons were seedless. Today, about 75 percent of the watermelons sold in the U.S. are seedless varieties. A seedless watermelon plant contains three sets of chromosomes and is sterile so it must be pollinated by a second plant to set fruit. As a result, growers must pay strict attention to the pollination needs of their seedless watermelon crops. Most growers rent or own honeybee hives but some have started to use bumblebees. UD bee researcher Debbie Delaney and Cooperative Extension fruit and vegetable specialist Gordon Johnson are working with watermelon growers this summer to see if bumblebees improve crop productivity.

Kate Everts also is conducting watermelon research but her projects focus on combating Fusarium wilt. This pestilent pathogen causes one of the most economically significant watermelon diseases worldwide. It causes wilt and plant death early in the season and again when the plant is in fruit. Once a field exhibits severe Fusarium wilt, it’s off limits for watermelon growing for 15 or more years.

Everts, who holds a joint appointment at the University of Delaware and the University of Delaware, collaborates closely with Extension specialists Emmalea Earnest and Gordon Johnson. Her research team focuses on several areas: they’re developing plants resistant to Fusarium wilt, exploring chemical disease measures, and looking at how cover crops can suppress this nasty fungus.

Sylvester is diligent about helping commercial growers obtain maximum yields but when it comes to his own watermelon plot, he adopts a laidback attitude. Though the ag agent know his way around a garden, sometimes pests or weather get the best of his watermelons. Every spring he tells himself “maybe we’ll have watermelons, maybe we won’t.”

However, this summer he hopes for a bumper crop because his 1 1/2-year-old son, Henry, shows a liking for watermelon. What could be better than a “Crimson Sweet,” grown in the backyard by Dad?

Article by Margo McDonough

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Ted Haas AG ’71 returns to campus for PT study

July 11, 2011 under CANR News

Forty years after graduating from the University of Delaware, Ted Haas found himself commuting to campus twice a week from Lewes, Del. But this time around, Haas wasn’t a student—he was a research subject.

A lacrosse player at UD from 1968 to 1971, Haas maintained an active lifestyle as an adult, jogging, cycling, and playing racquetball and softball. But by the time he reached his late fifties, his competitiveness caught up with him, and he began to experience pain and stiffness in his lower back when he got out of bed in the morning.

In April 2011, an ad in the Wilmington News Journal caught Haas’s attention. The UD Department of Physical Therapy was recruiting subjects for a study to determine whether a combination of low back stabilization exercises and electrical stimulation is a more effective treatment than back stabilization exercises alone for older adults with low back pain.

Haas met the criteria for the study and enrolled. “It was an 85-mile trip each way,” he says, “but I figured it was worth it if it would help me with a good PT program.”

Haas didn’t miss a single appointment, and he faithfully did all of the between-sessions homework assigned by therapist Meg Sions, a Ph.D. student working on the research under the advisement of Assistant Prof. Gregory Hicks.

The hard work paid off for this former athlete, with his post-treatment evaluation showing significant improvement in all measures.

“Ted demonstrated significant improvement per his objective testing in his low back pain, everyday function that was previously limited by his low back pain, physical mobility, balance, and back muscle endurance,” Sions says.

For Haas, participation in the research project not only addressed his physical problems but also served as a learning experience. “Meg taught me that it’s all about the core,” he says. “Strengthening the core helps to lower strain.”

“I’m not surprised that the treatment was so successful,” he adds. “I knew that the researchers and clinicians at the University would bring the most innovative approach to my back problems. In six weeks, Meg improved my quality of life, and I look for further advances in the next six weeks as I continue the program at home. My goal is to be back on the racquetball courts with my friends here in the Rehoboth-Lewes area three months from now.”

About the research

The study in which Haas participated is led by Gregory Hicks, assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy. Hicks’s research focuses on chronic lower back pain in older adults. Meg Sions is a Ph.D. candidate in UD’s interdisciplinary Biomechanics and Movement Science (BIOMS) graduate program. Her doctoral research is aimed at determining the impact of chronic low back pain on physical and psychosocial function in older adults.

About Ted Haas

Ted Haas earned his bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 1971. He spent his entire career working for the University of Maryland extension service as an agronomy specialist for the Eastern Shore. After retiring from the Maryland faculty several years ago, Haas served as a park ranger at Cape Henlopen State Park and as a dockmaster for the city of Lewes.

The University of Delaware has been a family affair for Haas. Related alumni include his wife, Patricia Lynch Haas (1970); his daughters, Kristen Haas Perez (1996) and Gretchen Haas Wyshock (1999); his sister, Carla Haas Spadaro (1966); his brother-in-law, Gregory Lynch (1976); and his mother-in-law, Jane Kenney Lynch (1940).

Article by Diane Kukich

Photos by Evan Krape

This article originally appeared in UDaily and is reposted here courtesy of the College of Health Sciences.

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Nature’s Fireworks

July 11, 2011 under CANR News

 Annelid worms do it. Certain species of centipedes and millipedes do it. Even a tropical land snail can do it.

But here in Delaware, fireflies and glow worms are the only terrestrial creatures that light up the night with their own built-in flashlights.

Bioluminescence results from a chemical reaction in which chemical energy is converted to light energy, according to Doug Tallamy, chair of the University of Delaware’s Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Fireflies (Lampyridae) aren’t actually flies and glow worms (Phengodidae) aren’t really worms. Both are considered to be beetles and are closely related species.

The fireflies’ glow adds beauty to a summer night but there are several pragmatic reasons for bioluminescence, too. Fireflies and glow worms light up to attract the opposite sex. Adult fireflies, both male and female, flash coded messages to attract prospective mates. Males fly about while they flash, females usually flash while hanging out in bushes. It’s all about “speed dating” not lengthy courtships — there’s no time to waste since adulthood only lasts for about two weeks.

There’s another reason why fireflies light up, at least in the case of juvenile larvae. Almost a decade ago, UD scientists led by Tallamy discovered that baby fireflies light up to keep predators at bay.

Previous studies had shown that mice and other would-be predators shun adult fireflies because of a compound in fireflies’ body that produced a bitter taste. The UD study demonstrated that baby fireflies flash to advertise that they also exhibit this bitter taste.

“A flashing neon sign may lure hungry humans to an all-night diner but the bioluminescence of firefly larvae sends a very different message to would-be predators,” says Tallamy.

Summer season

This summer is shaping up to be a good but not spectacular season for fireflies.

“Lightning bug populations at my house have been strong but not record-breaking,” says Tallamy. “In general, populations fluctuate from habitat availability more than from weather. However, if we get a bad drought during the summer and fall that does impact the population of lightening bugs the following summer.”

Fresh strawberries for a few short weeks around Memorial Day. Carnival rides at the State Fair for 10 days in July. Like other summertime pleasures, firefly season is short-lived.  “Nature’s fireworks” begin a few weeks before July 4th and are at their peak now. By the end of July they’re gone, save for a few stragglers.

Where to find different species

Several species of fireflies can call themselves native Delawareans. The beach region of Sussex is home to the coastal firefly, which prefers sandy, even salty, soil and generally stays close to the ground. Inland Sussex and Kent counties are home to yet another species. But the greatest diversity in firefly species is found north of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, says Tallamy.

“Fireflies are especially abundant in the Piedmont region, in the northernmost part of Delaware,” he says. “Most firefly species favor ‘old field habitat.’ In New Castle County, that type of habitat is most commonly found around the White Clay and Red Clay creeks and along the Brandywine River.”

At first glance, one species of firefly may not look much different from another. But pay close attention to fireflies as they begin to light up. “If you look closely, you’ll start to notice some distinct variations in their flash pattern,” says Tallamy.

There are three characteristics that differentiate firefly species:

  • Where the fireflies are located. Some species like to be close to the ground; others prefer shrubs and low trees.
  • The flight track, or style of flying, varies from species to species. Some fly in a “J” pattern then swoop down low, others take looping flights.
  • The pattern of the bug’s flashing. Think of the flashes like Morse Code — do they resemble a dash-dash-dash pattern or dash-dot-dash?

If your kids like to catch fireflies and put them in a jar, go for it, says Tallamy, as long as you punch some holes in the lid and release the fireflies after a few hours. Fireflies are beneficial insects; in their larval form they feed on garden and crop pests.

Article by Margo McDonough

The article can also be viewed online on UDaily.

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