Archive for the ‘Insects’ Category

Food security is an issue of major concern with climate change, as water supplies become scarce and the world’s population continues to grow.

Combined, these factors are expected to stress the world’s agricultural capacity. But one solution may be right underfoot, so to speak. Insects are easy to digest and grow. They may even provide global food security in the future. But while human beings have eaten them for thousands of years—and two billion people still include bugs in their daily diet—for many, there’s a “yuck” factor to contend with. UCLA professor Andy Rice explored the delights of entomophagy (bug eating) with L.A. Laker Metta World Peace and students in his “Food: A Lens on Environment and Sustainability” class. Many first-timers were dubious about partaking in fresh roasted crickets, with reactions varying from the purely squeamish “like salty regret in my mouth” to “it’s like eating shrimp.” For his part, Metta described his first roasted cricket as “not bad, tastes like an end piece of bacon, crispy… and a little bit scary.”Despite such mixed reactions, Rice believes bugs will be a great source of protein in a world affected by climate change. Many experts believe that global warming and human development will reduce agricultural lands. Insects could be a smart alternative to resource-intensive foods such as beef. They are hardy and thrive in warmer temperatures, which are expected to be stressors for traditional livestock. The infrastructure for insects is also simpler and requires less space, making it easy for families to raise certain species at home. Watch and learn…


The video was made by Dr. D. Andy Rice, ASPIRE Fellow in Socially Engaged Media in Undergraduate Education Initiatives and co-instructor for the freshman cluster “Food: A Lens on Environment and Sustainability,” in collaboration with the freshmen enrolled in the 2015-16 class. The Healthy Campus Initiative also provided funding and support for the project.


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2010-2015: Impact of bagrada bug on desert cole crops

  • PCAs have adopted effective management programs to protect seedling crops from the bagrada bug during stand establishment.
  • Insecticide usage to control this pest remains high, and the percentage of acreage treated in 2015 was consistent with previous years.

With the 2015-2016 winter produce season finally finished, now is a good time to reflect on pest issues last fall.

The bagrada bug, Bagrada hilaris, first occurred on desert cole crops at damaging levels in Fall 2010 and has since been an established pest.

In an attempt to document the severity of bagrada bug infestations on direct seeded and transplanted cole crops, and the intensity of chemical management, we have annually surveyed growers and pest control advisers from Yuma, Imperial, and Maricopa counties since 2010.

We recently conducted our annual survey in April.


Last fall was the lightest year we’ve seen to date. Based on seasonal population abundance studies of adults infesting non-treated broccoli plants at the Yuma Agricultural Center, bagrada bug infestations were lower than what we had observed since the pest first showed up in the desert.

Estimates of stand losses from bagrada bug infestations at stand establishment in both direct seeded and transplanted crops have decreased by more than 50 percent over the last five years. The lower losses reported last fall were likely due to the lighter bagrada pressure experienced last season.

Plant injury, defined as plants with multiple heads, forked terminals, and/or blind terminals resulting from bagrada feeding, was also lower in 2015 compared to previous years.

These data suggest that PCAs have adopted effective management programs to protect seedling crops during stand establishment. Insecticide usage to control this pest remains high, and the percentage of acreage treated in 2015 was consistent with previous years.

Pyrethroids remain the primary product used to control bagrada bug adults either via chemigation or with foliar spray applications. Based on survey results, products that have contact activity appeared to provide the most effective control against bagrada adults on both direct seeded and transplanted cole crops.

However, more neonicotinoid products (Venom) are beginning to be implemented into PCA’s IPM programs.

Overall, the results of the PCA survey are consistent with results obtained in research trials conducted at the Yuma Agricultural Center over the past four years.

A summary of the 2010-2015 survey results can be found in this report – Impact of Bagrada Bug on Desert Cole Crops, 2010-2015.

Note: This article is from the May 25, 2016 issue of the University of Arizona’s “Vegetable IPM Updates’ e-newsletter and is reprinted with permission from Dr. Palumbo. 

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UF/IFAS Expert: Whitefly Species Likely to Cause Growers’ Problems

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Newswise — GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences expert predicts the Q-biotype whitefly discovered in April in Palm Beach County will likely cause problems for growers.

The Q-biotype whitefly – not to be confused with the B-biotype, which came to Florida in the mid-1980s – is now being seen outside greenhouses and nurseries and poses a threat to ornamental plants and agricultural crops. After the B-biotype was found in Florida in the 1980s, scientists saw big increases in the diversity and frequency of whitefly-transmitted viruses in many Florida crops, said Jane Polston, a UF/IFAS plant pathology professor. Crops like beans, tomato, watermelon and squash were hit hard by these viruses after the appearance of the B biotype.

“This Q-biotype is a pest that damages crops and resists many of the insecticides that are effective on the B-biotype, the whitefly that is common in many ornamental and vegetable crops,” Polston said. “And like other whiteflies, it is capable of transmitting viruses from one plant to another.”

But because the Q-biotype whitefly feeds for longer periods on some plants, it has a greater chance of acquiring a plant virus, Polston said. The more time a whitefly spends feeding on a plant, the more likely it is to acquire a virus from an infected plant. Only a few studies have been conducted on the host plants that Q and B feed on, but those few studies indicate that Q and B do have different preferences, she said.

Because these whitefly species feed differently, vegetable and ornamental crop growers may see different viruses in their crops, as well as how many plants become infected each season, Polston said.

“And because it’s harder to manage with pesticides, we may see higher populations of this new whitefly, and that can mean high numbers of virus-infected plants,” Polston said.

Viruses may show up in plants that were not infected before, Polston said. Scientists and Extension faculty also should be prepared to see changes in the percentage of infected plants on farms, she said.

In other words, the Q-biotype whitefly is not simply an insect management issue; the insect also transmits viruses, she said.

This whitefly can transmit many different plant viruses, such as Tomato yellow leaf curl virus, Squash vein yellowing virus, Tomato infectious chlorosis virus, Cowpea mild mottle virus, and many others, according to a 2013 paper that Polston co-wrote.

Known scientifically as Bemisia tabaci, the Q-biotype or Mediterranean whitefly is a light-colored, flying insect slightly less than 1 millimeter in length.

When the whitefly was reported this spring, it marked the first time the Q-biotype of Bemisia tabaci had been found outside a greenhouse or nursery in the United States since it was found on an ornamental plant in a greenhouse in 2004-2005, said Lance Osborne, a UF/IFAS entomology professor.

Researchers with UF/IFAS are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to manage the whitefly.

Here are some helpful hints regarding the Q-biotype whitefly:
The following measures are recommended to control the spread of Q-biotype whitefly:

• Homeowners who suspect they have a whitefly infestation should contact their UF/IFAS Extension county office. Office locations may be found at http://www.bit.ly/1Q8wguw.

• For identification purposes, infested leaves and dead insect specimens should be brought to local Extension offices. Wrap in a dry paper towel and place in a seal-able plastic bag and then in an envelope. Freezing the specimen overnight before transport is highly recommended. Live insects should not be transported.

• The collection information should be included with the sample. Date, location, what type of vegetation is affected, number of suspected whiteflies, and any information about whether a pesticide has been used on the plant, is helpful information to managing the pest. For steps on how to submit a sample to FDACS DPI, visit http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Plant-Industry/Business-Services/Submit-a-Sample-for-Identification.

• Because new populations have built up resistance to chemicals, it is recommended that suspected whitefly infestations be confirmed before chemically treating the insects, as it may be needless to spray pesticides.

• Landscapers and pest control operators should inspect for signs of whitefly pests, communicate with neighboring properties and homeowners associations, employ good management and growing practices, and implement whitefly management guidelines available at http://www.mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/lso/bemisia/bemisia.htm.

• Nurseries that suspect whitefly infestations should contact the FDACS Division of Plant Industry at 1-888-397-1517.
• Here are some helpful links about the issue:
http://www.bit.ly/1WD6CmM, http://www.bit.ly/1Tm5iBm and http://www.bit.ly/1XxxG6D
• The Whitefly management plan for Growers: http://www.mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/lso/bemisia/DOCUMENTS/WhiteflyManagementProgram_1-15-15.pdf
• The list of materials for landscapers:

By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu
Source: Jane Polston, 352-273-4627, jep@ufl.edu

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Emerald ash borer

Minn. Dept. of Natural Resources/AP/File

The Emerald ash borer is one of the non-native insects wreaking havoc in forests throughout the country.

By David Abel Globe Staff  May 10, 2016

Most arrive as stowaways on the wooden pallets and crates that help transport some 25 million shipping containers into the United States each year.

The invasive forest pests are ravaging forests and urban canopy throughout the country and cost property owners and communities, especially in the Northeast, as much as $2 billion a year, according to a study released Tuesday by the journal Ecological Applications.

The steady march across the continent of the Emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle, hemlock wooly adelgid, and other non-native insects have been wreaking havoc that requires urgent solutions, said the authors of the study, which they called the most comprehensive review of forest pests in the US to date.

The pests, which also enter the country on plants that are destined for nurseries, have taken an especially harsh toll on trees in Massachusetts. Massachusetts has 57 types of pests, more than every other state but New York and Pennsylvania.

“The introductions of invasive pests that we continue to have is unacceptable,” said Dave Orwig , a forest ecologist at Harvard Forest in Petersham and one of 16 authors of the paper. “We’re just not doing enough.”

There are more than 400 forest pests in the country, and every state has invasive insects and pathogens. Louisiana has the fewest, with 12, while New York has the most, with 62.

Imported insects

Despite federal efforts to prevent their entry, such as having ports spray pallets with pesticides, between two and three new forest pests, on average, arrive in the country every year, Orwig said.

In Massachusetts, the pests include winter moths, which have devastated forests in the eastern part of the state; oak crypt gall wasps, which have been killing black oaks to the south and the islands; and a range of others, including the emerald ash borer, which has killed billions of dollars worth of ash trees across the country and was first found in Massachusetts in the Berkshires town of Dalton in 2012.

The state’s trees have also suffered from a range of pathogens, including butternut canker, dogwood anthracnose, Dutch elm disease, and beech bark disease.

Elsewhere in the state, hemlock wooly adelgid, a small insect, are killing many of the state’s hemlock trees, while Asian longhorned beetles have devastated red maples, especially in Worcester, where authorities have removed more than 34,000 trees at a cost of about $150 million, Orwig said.

“It looked like a hurricane had struck the city,” he said of Worcester. “It will take decades or more for the community to recover the benefits of the trees.”

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.

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Gill’s mealybug in pistachio– does the spray pay?

The adult female Gill’s mealybug, Ferrisia gilli, has a pink body and is covered in white wax. Photo by David Haviland.


To spray or not – that’s a question that often plagues pistachio growers faced with pests including Gill’s mealybug, which may or may not wreak economic havoc on their crop.

And that’s where David Haviland, University of California integrated pest management advisor for Kern County, comes in.

Haviland has published a paper with the Journal of Economic Entomology which presents a formula for determining the economic injury level that might or might not be tolerated by a grower.

The paper is based on several factors, including the treatment cost, the expected price per pound for the crop, and the anticipated yield.

It’s a matter of “does the spray pay?” Haviland said.

It could be that if an infestation is just beginning and a grower is trying to prevent spread, it might be best to be more aggressive, he adds.

The economic injury level formula adds the cost per acre for control with the anticipated yield in pounds per acre and the anticipated price, and then divides it by 0.094.

The result will be the economic injury level per cluster in May. As the cost goes up and the price and yield drops, there may be a greater tolerance for the number of mealybugs per cluster.

Haviland says a higher payment per pound of around $4 means the threshold for treating the pest “is really low.”

The ideal treatment timing is around June 1, or 10 days or so earlier when temperatures are higher.

Haviland said adult females emerge in late April or May, “and that’s when you monitor the number of mealybugs per cluster.” They can be found when the old wood connects with new growth – basically where the bud was.

Among the pesticides effective on the pest are Centaur (Buprofezin), Movento (Spirotetramat), Assail (Acetamiprid), and Admire (Imidacloprid).

Haviland said Admire is not as effective as the others but it is inexpensive and has no application costs when used in drip systems. Admire, he says, might not be the best choice in a bad infestation, but if the level is creeping back it can be used for suppression.

Haviland said Centaur, Assail, and Movento are all “extremely good.” Another good product he shared is Closer, which has been re-named Sequoia, a Dow AgroSciences product where the registration was pulled. Dow is seeking product re-registration.

Movento is costly, Haviland said, but researchers have learned it can be used at lower rates, six ounces rather than nine ounces, shaving one-third off the cost.

The pest was introduced into Tulare County in the mid-to-late 1990s. It spread slowly initially, reaching 2,000 acres in 2004 in at least five counties and was also found in almonds and wine grapes.

By 2005, 3,000 acres were infested. There were 6,000 aces infested by 2007. And pesticide reports indicate treatment on 80,000 acres in California by 2013.

Gill’s mealybugs are roughly ½ to 1/5 inch in length and pinkish grey in color. The pest is often covered with white wax secreted from a pore.“They muck up the clusters,” Haviland said.

He explained that they “intercept carbohydrates intended for kernel development.”

Smaller kernels mean less weight and less splitting.

“The small kernel is never big enough to push them open,” Haviland said, “and the biggest problem is closed shell nuts.”

The pest can cause shell staining and an increase in adhering hulls with later harvests. But it has no association with aflatoxin.

Pistachio growers should be cautious not to confuse Gill’s mealybug with grape mealybug.

Grape mealybug is sometimes found on pistachios, but does not cause economic damage but requires treatment. Grape mealybug has four slender white tails. The female Gill’s mealybug has two broad white tails.

When poked, adult females of grape mealybug extrude a bright red liquid through structures called ostioles towards both the rear and front of the top of the body. Gill’s mealybug does not extrude such a liquid.

Mealybug feeding produces large amounts of honeydew that results in black sooty mold that can reduce photosynthesis.

The most common predators of mealybugs in pistachios are brown lacewing and lady beetle whose larva resembles a mealybug.

One way to peg problem areas is to check trees before dormancy in the fall and look for sooty mold and leaves and for mealybugs within clusters. Note those locations for further evaluation the following spring.

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Updated 21 Feb 2016, 5:50pm

Tasmania’s fruit fly-free status could be under threat, jeopardising millions of dollars worth of exports into lucrative Asian markets, a biosecurity scientist warns.

Key points:

  • Tasmania currently enjoys fruit fly-free status; opens up trade in key Asian markets
  • Increase in temperature could allow pest to establish in Tasmania
  • Climate change now considered factor in biosecurity risk modelling

Tasmania’s fruit growers currently benefit from the state’s fruit fly-free status, allowing them to sell fruit to Asian countries including China, Japan and Taiwan.

Fruit grower Tim Reid grows cherries and apples in the Derwent Valley, in southern Tasmania.

“If we have an outbreak of fruit fly in Tasmania it will exclude us immediately from all our major export markets,” he said.

That would cost growers millions of dollars.

Professor Anthony Clarke, a fruit fly expert with the national Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre, said Tasmania was facing a growing threat due to climate change.

“Slightly warmer conditions all season long increases the risk that a small [fruit fly] population can establish,” he said.

“A reduction of even two or three really hard cold days in winter increases the chances of fruit fly surviving during the winter period.”

Fruit flies have been declared endemic in Victoria.

“The flight distance of these flies is unclear, but like many insects they can get picked up on wind,” Professor Clarke said.

Growers concerned tourists not aware of risks

Phil Pyke from industry group Fruit Growers Tasmania said the threat was constantly in the back of the minds of growers.

As climate changes, that situation may change, but that’s going to take a long time.

Biosecurity Tasmania general manager Lloyd Klump

“They are very nervous,” he said.

“Since it became endemic in Victoria the risks are really increasing.”


Fruit flies lay larvae in fruit, making it inedible, and means growers need to leave it to rot in the orchard.

Mr Reid said he believed the main threat of an incursion was from fruit brought in from interstate by tourists or locals who do not understand the risk.

“Public understanding of this is a real issue,” he said.

Biosecurity Tasmania (BT) now factors climate change into its risk modelling.

BT general manager Lloyd Klump said traditionally the cold winters in Tasmania had prevented establishment.

“As climate changes, that situation may change, but that’s going to take a long time,” he said. “That may take decades.”

BT is working on more modern, multilingual signage advertising the threat of fruit fly to be erected at airports and Spirit of Tasmania terminals.

The signage would replace temporary signage and is expected to be in place within weeks.

First posted 20 Feb 2016, 10:29pm

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Scoop, SciTech

War on weeds nets $44 million windfall


16 February 2016

A tiny insect’s huge appetite is saving New Zealand dairy farmers $44 million a year.

A new Landcare Research quantitative study has revealed the “surprising” amount the Ragwort flea beetle saves in control costs.

“Until now we have only been able to speculate on the financial benefits of the Ragwort flea beetle to farmers,” said Landcare Research scientist Simon Fowler.

“We had no hard data. We had amazing before and after photos of the flea beetle’s work. But people need quantitative data so we revisited our research and we have now finished a national cost-benefit analysis”.

Fowler used data from a 2005 study conducted on the West Coast where the flea beetle has failed to thrive due to its wet climate. The amount of money West Coast farmers spent killing the weed was extrapolated across New Zealand’s dairy sector. His methodology, which factors in inflation and national dairy herd size, has been peer reviewed and is expected to be accepted for publication in the New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research shortly.

“The figure took us all by surprise. It will be the first published post-release weed biocontrol agent economic analysis for New Zealand and we think it shows in a very tangible way how smart science can assist the primary sector.”

Ragwort, which invades pastoral land and is toxic to cattle and horses, is thought to still cost New Zealand dairy farmers $20 million per year in control costs.

The flea beetle has wiped out ragwort on 50 per cent of New Zealand farms, however, it remains a “moderate” problem on about a quarter and the remaining farms – many in wet regions located on the West Coast, Taranaki and Northland – are still fighting the weed. A second insect, a plume moth that thrives in wet conditions, is being deployed to tackle remaining ragwort strongholds and looks set to reduce the threat of ragwort further.

Ragwort flea beetle was shortlisted in New Zealand as a potential control agent in the 1930s but dismissed. Fowler said that “decision had no scientific basis. I did some calculations on the cost of that decision and it came to a staggering 8 billion dollars. That’s how much farmers spent on controlling Ragwort up until 1983, when the DSIR imported and released the flea beetle.”

The latest flea beetle research was funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as part of Landcare Research’s Beating Weeds Programme.

Farmers can pick up tips on how to help the flea beetle flourish on their properties at http://bit.ly/1QHdrP5.

“Farmers can get on a continual treadmill of spraying herbicides to control the weed but that doesn’t give the flea beetle a chance, and only provides temporary relief. It takes a bit of nerve but sometimes they need to take a deep big breath and do nothing. Be patient and let the ragwort flea beetle do the work for you.

“Biocontrol agents are not always as successful and many fail to have any material effect. However, the flea beetle is a success story and our quantitative analysis shows how important these tools can be when we assess control agents. The $44 million saving is ongoing and free, and we can be confident that this little golden beetle will not do anything other than munch through this particular weed.”


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