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UF/IFAS faculty member coordinates global pest paper contest

Topic(s): Agriculture, Household Pests, Pests
Jiri Hulcr, a University of Florida assistant professor of forest entomology, coordinates a global contest that encourages students to write original research papers about insects as pests. Courtesy: Jiri Hulcr

Jiri Hulcr, a University of Florida assistant professor of forest entomology, coordinates a global contest that encourages students to write original research papers about insects as pests.
Courtesy: Jiri Hulcr

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida entomology faculty member coordinates a global contest for students’ original insect research, and he recently announced the two winners for 2013.

The contest encourages students to research the natural history of pests, said Jiri Hulcr, a UF assistant professor in forest entomology and a member of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

For their research papers, Stephen Taerum, who attends the University of Pretoria in South Africa and Emily Meineke, a student at North Carolina State University, won the most recent contest, now in its second year, said. For winning, they shared the annual prize of  $500.

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UF/IFAS researcher co-authors beetle book

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Forestry, Pests

Xyleborini New Guinea

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Pesky beetles sit, ready to pounce on their unwitting prey: trees around the world, which sustain billions of dollars in damage because of the armored insects, says a University of Florida scientist, who has co-written a book about beetles native to Papua New Guinea.

Thousands of beetle species make their home in Papua New Guinea, a small island off the northern coast of Australia, but only two or three travel to other parts of the globe, said Jiri Hulcr, a UF assistant professor of forest entomology. First, they have to be exported, something humans do by accident, said Hulcr, a member of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ faculty.

“We put them in habitats where they shouldn’t be,” he said, by exporting wood or using it to send ship cargo. “It’s not as though these beetles have evolved as killing species. They have evolved in their native habitat.”

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UF develops first high-altitude device to help detect health threats from the sky

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Environment, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, Research, Weather

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African dust video

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida researcher is exploring whether the latest plant, animal or human health threats will come from the sky.

Using the first ever high-altitude sampling device designed to collect microorganisms from the upper atmosphere, Andrew Schuerger, an aerobiologist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will examine the massive dust clouds that roll into Florida from Africa each year.

The maiden flight of the device, known as Dust at Altitude Recovery Technology or DART, was flown on an F-104 Starfighter jet Tuesday at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

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UF/IFAS study: In battle against flies, don’t toss old bulbs

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Economics, Pests

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Restaurants and supermarkets could save millions of dollars by hanging on to bug zapper bulbs instead of tossing them every year as they normally do, a new University of Florida study has found.

What’s more, the benefits could extend to the environment by keeping some of the bulbs’ mercury out of the waste stream.

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UF researchers identify citrus cultivars that show promise in battle against greening

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, RECs, Research

Click above for video about citrus breeding and citrus greening research.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers have some encouraging results in the battle against citrus greening.

They have identified citrus cultivars, in this case 16 citrus rootstocks, most of which show a lower rate of infection and more tolerance to citrus greening – the dreaded disease that has wreaked havoc through Florida’s citrus industry since its arrival in the state in 2005.

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UF/IFAS research: termite ‘poop’ nest material creates natural antibiotic

Topic(s): Pests, RECs, Research, Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For some 50 years, scientists have tried — but failed — to find a way to use microbes as a means of biological control for destructive subterranean termites.

University of Florida researchers have now discovered why termites have proven to be so disease resistant. Termites use their own feces as nest-building material. The fecal nest promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria, which in turn suppress pathogens — or in plainer words: termite poop works as a natural antibiotic.

Besides improving termite control, the findings could help pave the way for new human antibiotics.

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UF study helps quantify biodiversity decrease around farmland

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, Conservation, Crops, Economics, Environment, IFAS, Pests, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Animal biodiversity suffers near conservation areas that border big farms, and the effects can spread for miles, according to a new study by University of Florida researchers and their colleagues.

Maintaining animal biodiversity is important as it can lead to greater control of agricultural pests and increased pollination around farmland as well as help maintain the health of an area’s ecosystem, said Robert McCleery, a study co-author.

The researchers studied small mammal populations across large-scale sugarcane production areas and adjacent to isolated pockets of conservation land in Swaziland, Africa. The study was published Monday in the online journal PLOS ONE and can be viewed here: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0074520.

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UF Oyster Recovery Team issues findings: Drought and salinity major issues, not oil

Topic(s): Agriculture, Aquaculture, Conservation, Cultivars, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, Pollution, Research, Weather

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — There is no evidence that pollutants from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill contributed to the “unprecedented” decline in recent Apalachicola Bay oyster populations, according to a report this week by the University of Florida.

Instead, the report by UF’s Oyster Recovery Team cites drought, insufficient rainfall and increased salinity in the bay as factors contributing to the dramatic drop-off in oyster landings beginning in September 2012 and continuing through the year, said Karl Havens, task force leader and director of Florida Sea Grant.

“There was a whole chain of circumstances that led to this situation, some of which are beyond human control,” Havens said. “Our report makes recommendations for many things that can be done to help the oyster population through management and restoration.”

Havens and other recovery team members discussed the report and findings with a crowd of about 60 residents and seafood workers Wednesday at the Apalachicola Community Center.

The full report and a summary are available at the UF/IFAS Franklin County Extension office or its website, http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu.

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Soil “transplants” may hinder Diaprepes weevil in flatwoods citrus, UF/IFAS researchers say

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Citrus, Environment, Invasive Species, New Technology, Pests

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Adult Diaprepes citrus weevil. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service. Click here for high-res image.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Diaprepes citrus weevil is often more abundant in finely textured, poorly drained flatwoods soils than in the sandy soil varieties of Florida’s Central Ridge; perhaps that’s because sandy soils seem to host more species of nematodes that prey on insects.

Researchers with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Science have taken those observations and turned them into a potential management technique, using “transplanted” soil and nematodes to grow flatwoods citrus. Their results appear in the January issue of the journal Biological Control.

In the study, researchers conducted experiments at a weevil-infested flatwoods citrus grove in Osceola County. They planted 50 trees in oversized holes filled with sand, and 50 trees in native soil, then introduced predatory nematodes to most of the trees. For the next four years, researchers monitored nematode and weevil populations and checked tree health.

The results showed there were more predatory nematodes of more species — and fewer weevils — in the root zones of trees planted in sandy soil. By the study’s end, 21 trees in native soil had died of weevil herbivory, compared with three trees in sandy soil. Surviving trees in sandy soil also had 60 percent greater trunk diameter and produced 85 percent more fruit than those in native soil.

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UF/IFAS entomology department is new home to School of Ants project

Topic(s): Agriculture, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Pests, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The nationwide School of Ants has set up shop at the University of Florida, but picnickers can relax – none of its “students” are the six-legged variety.

The school is an example of citizen science, a project where ordinary people collect and submit data for experts to review and compile. Participants collect ants from their yards and neighborhoods, then entomologists identify each species and plot its location on digital maps that, eventually, will provide a snapshot of ant distribution around the country.

“Knowledge of the presence of a species of ant might help for things like quarantine and control, if the species is a problem,” said founder Andrea Lucky, an assistant scientist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “If we find a rare ant, or an ant that’s way outside its known range, we may want to keep an eye on it purely for academic purposes.”

The school was launched at North Carolina State University in 2011, a collaboration between Lucky and Rob Dunn, a biology assistant professor. Then last semester, Lucky took a position with UF’s entomology and nematology department. Though the North Carolina branch will remain active, Lucky says she’s thrilled to relocate the project headquarters to Florida, which has more ant species than any other state.

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