Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The Moth versus the Crowd: Tracking an alien invader of conker trees using people power

Date:
January 22, 2014
Source:
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Summary:
An army of citizen scientists has helped the professionals understand how a tiny ‘alien’ moth is attacking the UK’s conker (horse-chestnut) trees, and showed that naturally-occurring pest controlling wasps are not able to restrict the moth’s impact.

This is an image of horse-chestnut leaf-mining moth.
Credit: Dave Kilbey

An army of citizen scientists has helped the professionals understand how a tiny 'alien' moth is attacking the UK's conker (horse-chestnut) trees, and showed that naturally-occurring pest controlling wasps are not able to restrict the moth's impact.

The study's conclusions are published this week in the open access scientific journal PLOS ONE.

No bigger than a grain of rice, the horse-chestnut leaf-mining moth has spread rapidly through England and Wales since its arrival in London in 2002. The caterpillars of the moth 'tunnel' through the leaves of conker trees, causing them to turn brown and autumnal in appearance, even in the height of summer.

In 2010 thousands of 'citizen scientists' were asked by two professional ecologists to collect records of leaf damage from across the country as part of a project called 'Conker Tree Science'.

The results show that over the last decade the moth has spread from London to reach almost all of England and Wales. Investigating the data further the scientific team concluded that it takes just three years from the first sighting of the moth in a particular location to maximum levels of damage to the horse-chestnut trees being recorded.

In a follow-up experiment, many of the citizen scientists, including hundreds of school children, followed instructions to [MJOP1] rear the moth by sealing the infested leaves in plastic bags and waiting for the insects to emerge. The results reveal that the tiny pest controllers ('parasitiod' wasps) that prey upon the caterpillars are not present in high enough numbers to control the moths.

Dr Michael Pocock, an ecologist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and lead author of the research paper said, "This is the sort of science that anyone can do. By taking part the public are doing real science -- and the publication of this scientific paper is a demonstration of how seriously citizen science is now taken by the community of professional scientists."

Co-author Dr Darren Evans, a conservation biologist at the University of Hull said, "This work could have been done by paying research assistants to travel the country and collect records, but by inviting thousands of people to get involved we, together, were able to pull this off much more cost-effectively[MJOP2] ."

Dr Pocock added, "It seems almost like magic for children and other people to put a damaged leaf in a plastic bag, wait two weeks and then see insects -- the adult moths or their pest controllers -- emerge, but making these discoveries was a valuable contribution to understanding why some animals become so invasive."

Dr Evans added, "We have been challenged by other professional scientists as to whether 'ordinary people' can make accurate observations, suitable for real science. Of course they can -- and we tested this in our study. So thank you to the thousands of participants because together we were able to do this science."

Unlike some other citizen science projects that use biological records submitted by members of the public for long-term monitoring, the Conker Tree Science project set out to test two specific hypotheses over the course of a year. The authors suggest that this approach can be developed to examine a range of environmental problems.

Conker Tree Science was run with funding from the Natural Environment Research Council and begun when the two authors were at the University of Bristol.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michael J. O. Pocock, Darren M. Evans. The Success of the Horse-Chestnut Leaf-Miner, Cameraria ohridella, in the UK Revealed with Hypothesis-Led Citizen Science. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (1): e86226 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086226

Cite This Page:

Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. "The Moth versus the Crowd: Tracking an alien invader of conker trees using people power." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140122202051.htm>.
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. (2014, January 22). The Moth versus the Crowd: Tracking an alien invader of conker trees using people power. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140122202051.htm
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. "The Moth versus the Crowd: Tracking an alien invader of conker trees using people power." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140122202051.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins