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Be a citizen scientist!

Cultivated and wild alfalfa is widespread, and a lot is known about this common plant. We are curious about the biodiversity found on alfalfa. Perhaps we will discover new interactions among organisms living on alfalfa. An example of an interesting interaction is between the Melissa blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa) caterpillars and ants (pictured above). The ants defend the caterpillars from predators, and the caterpillars feed the ants sugar in return. Caterpillar survival on alfalfa is much lower when their ant mutualists are absent.

To contribute, make a free iNaturalist account and join the Bugs on Alfalfa project. Find any “bug” (arthropod or animal, really) on any alfalfa plant, take a clear photo of it, and upload it to the project by “Adding an Observation.” You can make an observation with your iPhone, Andriod, or the web. You will answer a few questions about your contribution. You do not need to know the species of the “bug” to contribute -- you can use this guide to insects on alfalfa in the Great Basin to help you take your best guess. iNaturalist also provides suggestions for an ID. From there, members of the iNaturalist community will help confirm or narrow down your identification. Here are the most recent contributions to the project:

If you take photos of “bugs” on the alfalfa in the Dr. Gene Miller Life Science Garden Laboratory at Utah State University, specify the plant ID and plot # (e.g., AWFS1 in Plot 1) in the "Description" section of your iNaturalist Observation. Here is a map of the Science Garden:

USU Science Garden Map
Here is a visual of the diversity we found in the first year of this project. USU "Science Unwrapped" participants in fall 2019 helped us organize the bugs by color.

Alfalfa bug diversity by color

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