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People out, insects in

Weed/Disease/Insect Control

OSU researcher studies effects of urban gardens.

Columbus Dispatch | August 2, 2010

CLEVELAND - Insects are everywhere. In the country and the city. In your mulch bed and your garden.

And they're all over the sticky pads Mary Gardiner and her team have placed in community gardens and vacant lots in what was once Ohio's largest city.

Gardiner, an entomologist at Ohio State University's Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, is leading a team trying to determine the best uses for land that thousands of people once called home.

Should these lots covered with chicory weed and clover become community gardens? Would they be better used for stormwater runoff? Or would they better serve residents if they were natural habitats or parks within the decaying city?

City leaders here and elsewhere are trying to decide these questions as they are faced with more and more vacant houses and lots. Insects will help provide some direction.

In late June, Gardiner's team met up with researchers from Cleveland State University in downtown Cleveland and headed to a large, grassy and muddy vacant lot at the corner of Ivy Avenue and E. 70th Street.

It's a desolate residential area once home to blue-collar workers who toiled in nearby factories, steel mills and warehouses. Now, it stands testament to decades of industrial and residential flight. Tires lie on the lot that is littered with bricks and tiles.

The area is just northeast of Slavic Village, a neighborhood that some have called ground zero for the nation's foreclosure crisis.

And it is here where Gardiner sets her traps.

She's looking for the hunters and the hunted, pollinators and pests. She and her assistants, Scott Prajzner and Kojo Quaye, set up small cages on the ground. Inside, they plant flesh fly pupae to lure hungry insects.

The cages keep animals such as raccoons out while letting in insects and spiders.

They set cards that hold eggs from caterpillars, specifically corn earworms, hoping to attract insects that eat these pests, Gardiner said.

They lay small pan traps with liquids to attract bees and put out the sticky boards to trap predatory bugs such as ladybugs and syrphid flies.

"There's a whole bunch of land like this that could be used for community gardens," Gardiner said.

But she's trying to determine whether the conversion from lots to gardens reduces the number of beneficial insects.

Please visit the Columbus Dispatch to read the rest of this article.

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