Japanese Beetle Lifecycle and Management: Up Close and Virtual?

Learning life cycles for managing pests

Japanese beetle
Japanese beetle adults

As someone who sees the value in learning plant and pest life cycles as a method of knowing when and how to manage plant problems in the garden, I very much value life cycle diagrams. However,  despite seeing many of them through PowerPoint slides or handouts in years of undergraduate or graduate school, I just can’t seem to commit very many to long-term memory, unless of course, I learn them and then apply them to my practices in the garden nearly immediately.

Unfortunately, where I live, the growing season is short, winters long, and sometimes it works better for me, logistically, if I do the bulk of my reading, homework, or learning of new gardening concepts, ideas, and strategies in the winter. This way I can devote most of my time to applying that knowledge in the garden once summer is here.

Virtual Worlds:  3D Immersive Learning Environments

Image of YouTube video: Life cycle of Japanese Beetle
Under a lawn in a 3D Immersive Japanese beetle grub habitat (Show here: part 2 in Japanese Beetle Lifecycle YouTube series)

Fortunately for me, new 3D virtual learning environments are emerging as new educational tools. These virtual environments can be really helpful for triggering new understanding, memory, and even behavior change (see the April 8, Stanford Report:  New virtual reality research – and a new lab – at Stanford).

With the help of LuAnn Phillips, eXtension’s virtual world’s coordinator, Penn State extension educator, Jeff Fowler, has immersed himself in teaching through a virtual Japanese beetle exhibit. This exhibit is found in a virtual world called Second Life. Second Life  is gaining recognition for becoming a rich, immersive learning environment. While the masses may not all be ready to download the software required to move an avatar around in a virtual world, videos of instructors interacting within the virtual world can be captured to help create simulations for learners that make online instruction look and feel, well – real.

Lifecycle of the Japanese Beetle in Second Life captured on YouTube

Phillips and Folwer have captured several learning interactions in a four-part YouTube video series, titled: Japanese Beetle Lifecycle. His resources are targeted for gardeners and yard managers in the Northeastern United States (so in viewing these resources, if you’re not from the Northeast U.S. you’ll also want to check your local state or county extension office on Japanese beetle biology and management specific to your area or view the USDA APHIS, Japanese Beetle web page).

To understand exactly why a virtual world caught on video can be a such great educational moment , you must visit part 2: Viewing a grub habitat and lifecycle stages. It’s here where Fowler takes you underground to look at beetle grubs feeding on the turfgrass roots. This is something that is nearly impossible to view in real life, but is an exceptional learning opportunity in Second Life (in my opinion, anyway).

Check out the Lifecycle of the Japanese Beetle videos, parts 1-4, up close and virtual:

Video these videos, using the link, or by clicking on the embedded YouTube video below:

What do you think?

What do you think? Can you see this learning environment as something that may be useful in teaching or learning for another topic or subject?

Interested in going to the 3D Japanese Beetle Lifecycle Exhibit in Second Life?

If you would like to see the Japanese Beetle exhibit shown in the YouTube videos above, you can go there using your own avatar. LuAnn Phillips says all you’ll need is a free Second Life user account. Go to http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Morrill/114/198/24 (this link takes you directly to the Japanese beetle entrance) and follow the online instructions. Need help getting started in Second Life? Email eXtension’s Second Life, mentor at luann.phillips@extension.org.

Karen Jeannette
eXtension Consumer Horticulture Content Coordinator