A new step forward in managing a pernicious pest of golf course putting greens comes with an assist from an unlikely source: marine biology.
Researchers at Penn State University’s Center for Turfgrass Science have been seeking to improve management methods for the annual bluegrass weevil (Listronotus maculicollis), but a key challenge is to determine when the insects are most active in the grass canopy. Mowing putting greens can remove some of the weevils, and timing the mowing for the weevils’ active foraging period might remove more of them. But the weevils are small (at most 4.5 millimeters long) and difficult to monitor, says Benjamin McGraw, Ph.D., associate professor of turfgrass science at Penn State. So McGraw and then-Master’s student Benjamin Czyzewski needed a way to make the weevils easier to see, during both night and day.
Their first attempt ran into trouble. They marked weevils with fluorescent ink and placed them in cages with a UV light and a time-lapse camera. “No matter how hard we tried to exclude other insects, nocturnal insects would somehow get in, be attracted to the UV light, and block the time-lapse images,” McGraw says.