Foraging Preferences of High Desert Insects – W4D4E

Oct 9, 2015

Foraging Preferences of High Desert Insects

Field, I; Gadkari, L; Ryan, S; Brigham, J; Smith, K; Carey, D.

Abstract:  Foraging preferences of high desert insects were examined by putting out six diverse baits in ten locations and monitoring visitation rates over time.  We concluded that there are distinct differences in foraging patterns of wasps vs flies with wasps preferring sugar and flies preferring savory. 

Introduction:   During our time in the High Desert, we have observed yellow jackets and flies frequently foraging in our kitchen. Intrigued by this observation, we decided to see which foods they preferred. 

Methods:  The study utilized six potential baits.  They were apple, onion, yogurt, Kombucha, raw rancid elk parts, and plum jelly.   Using egg cartons as food platforms we placed the items strategically where we had observed previous fly and wasp activity, making sure that the locations were diverse when it came to sun/shade, and proximity to other food sources.  There were 10 locations and each location contained all six baits, placed within a foot of each other.  Over the next two hours we checked at the baits at 30 minute intervals and recorded insect activity. 

Results:   In total over all baits, the total insects per bait checked were:

Jelly…..18 wasps (5 locations), one fly, two horse flies (two locations)

Yogurt…..one fruit fly

Meat…… 14 flies (5 locations)

Kombucha ……. 17 flies ( 4 locations), 2 horseflies (2 locations), 1 wasp

Apple …….  3 wasps (2 locations)

Onion …….  10 flies ( 2 locations), 1 wasp

General observations.  Wasps and flies were both more attracted to food in the sun. 

Conclusions:  Wasps appear to be most attracted to the sugar in jelly and apple, while flies were attracted to smelly things like onion and meat.  Flies were on baits in greater numbers simultaneously (five max at one time) as opposed to wasps (three at one time).  Baits in the sun are more attractive, especially for the flies.  In the future we would recommend a study with a larger sample size and baits out for a longer time.  We would also standardize studies by putting all samples in the sun.  Finally, we would try and tease out the actual attractors by looking directly at sugar content and so forth.  We would also use more local foods as baits. 

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