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UF/IFAS study shows invasive leaf beetle could threaten cole crops in cold climates

Topic(s): Agriculture, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs

Cave, Ron

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Gulf Coast farmers know that the invasive yellowmargined leaf beetle loves cooler temperatures, devouring leaves on turnips and other cole crops in fall and winter; now, a University of Florida study suggests the beetle’s cold tolerance could help it spread much further north than its current range.

Researchers report in the November 2012 issue of Annals of the Entomological Society of America that the beetle’s eggs can withstand prolonged periods at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. That means the insect might survive in Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky and Virginia, says entomologist Ron Cave, an associate professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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Push-pull approach could keep Western flower thrips off peppers, UF/IFAS researchers say

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Repelling Western flower thrips from Florida’s bell peppers could be as simple as giving the insects a push and a pull, say researchers with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

A team at UF’s North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy is evaluating an eco-friendly approach called “push-pull.” It’s meant to push thrips away from the target crop with unpleasant stimuli, and pull the insect to another type of plant grown as a lure.

Initial findings from a two-year study at a South Florida farm suggest that push-pull could help the state’s outdoor pepper growers reduce the thrips threat, said entomologist Joe Funderburk, a UF/IFAS professor who led the study.

The Western flower thrips is native to the Southwestern United States but spread to the country’s Eastern half in the 1980s. The insect feeds on plant juices and preys on more than 500 species, including many vegetables, fruits and ornamentals. It also transmits the notorious tomato spotted wilt virus.

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Crazy ant control strategies taking shape for UF/IFAS researchers

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Their name is comical, but when crazy ants infest a neighborhood it’s no laughing matter.

The fast-moving, invasive insects are present in Florida and several other Gulf Coast states. They can establish colonies with multiple queens and millions of workers, blanketing lawns and sidewalks, killing native species, shorting out electrical systems and creating headaches for homeowners and pest-control operators.

So far, efforts to control crazy ants have involved a patchwork of approaches, many of which failed. But a team of University of Florida researchers is developing an integrated pest management system tailored to the species’ unique characteristics and habits.

This week at the Entomological Society of America annual meeting in Knoxville, Tenn., two of those researchers presented findings on 15 insecticidal baits evaluated for the system.

Though none of the products were developed specifically for crazy ants, the researchers found that two granular baits – Amdro Pro and Maxforce Complete – killed crazy ants fastest in laboratory testing, probably because those baits had the most “appetite appeal” and were eaten more readily than other products, said Dawn Calibeo, an entomology doctoral candidate with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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Young entomologists: Apply for $500 prize

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Pests

Hoping to help bridge the gap for younger scientists between the lab and applied research, the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation is part of a group offering a $500 annual award to an entomology student whose pest-oriented, peer-reviewed research is deemed to the most interesting by a panel of judges. (more …)

UF/IFAS research: Typical populations of bedbugs can cause harmful blood loss in humans

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Household Pests, Pests
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For years, bedbugs have been turning up in sometimes odd and random places, such as subways, movie theaters, dressing rooms and schools, but scientists believed that to flourish, the insects would need more frequent access to human blood meals.

Turns out they don’t.

A new University of Florida study, published online this month by the journal Medical and Veterinary Entomology, shows the blood-sucking insects can do much more than survive — they can even thrive — with far less access to human blood than previously believed.

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UF/IFAS study shows banker plants can protect greenhouse crops from whiteflies, thrips

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Crops, Environment, New Technology, Pests


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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Keeping valuable greenhouse crops safe from whiteflies and thrips may become easier for producers, thanks to a new study on banker plants from the University of Florida and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A trend in biological pest control, banker plants provide food and shelter to natural enemies of target pests, giving the enemies a home base so they can provide continuous pest control.

 In a study posted online this week by the journal Biological Control, researchers tested three ornamental pepper varieties as host plants for the well-known predatory mite Amblyseius swirskii. The mite dramatically reduced silverleaf whitefly populations, as well as chilli thrips and Western flower thrips, on greenhouse-raised green bean plants and pepper plants.

 This approach could work for other greenhouse-grown vegetables, fruits, herbs and ornamentals, said Lance Osborne, an entomology professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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Laurel wilt disease not spread by fruit, seeds from infected avocado trees, UF researchers say

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Environment, Invasive Species, Pests


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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Though laurel wilt remains a top concern for Florida avocado growers, a new University of Florida study is cause for some relief – the disease is unlikely to be spread via fruit or seeds from infected trees.

 Researchers found that the pathogen, a fungus with the scientific name Raffaelea lauricola, does not colonize avocado fruit, said Randy Ploetz, a plant pathology professor at UF’s Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

 Furthermore, the insect responsible for transmitting the pathogen doesn’t infest avocado fruit, either. Known as the redbay ambrosia beetle, the pest dwells only in the xylem of the avocado tree trunk, he said.

 The findings mean avocado fruit and seeds produced in Florida are unlikely to pose a threat of laurel wilt transmission when shipped to other U.S. states or foreign countries.

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UF/IFAS experts find feral hog control efforts often fail, now investigating why

Topic(s): Agriculture, Environment, Forestry, Invasive Species, Livestock, Pests

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Feral hogs wreak havoc on Florida’s natural areas but a new University of Florida study shows that control measures often fail; now, researchers are investigating how the animals outwit removal efforts.

“Feral hogs are definitely one of our more noticeable invasive animal issues on the Treasure Coast,” said Ken Gioeli, a St. Lucie County extension agent. “People have been struggling to deal with the populations and we want to offer them better options.”

The study appears in the summer issue of the journal Aquatics, a publication of the Florida Aquatic Plant Management Society.

Florida has the nation’s second-highest population of feral hogs, after Texas. The animals are especially common north and west of Lake Okeechobee, and in the coastal Big Bend area, Gioeli said. They roam in groups and damage forest ecosystems by rooting in the soil and wallowing in shallow water. It’s believed that feral hog damage costs landowners and agricultural producers millions of dollars nationwide.

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UF/IFAS creates math-based model to show how citrus greening spreads within tree

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers have created a mathematical model that shows how citrus greening is transmitted within an infected tree – an important step toward helping scientists understand the devastating disease.

The model, published this month by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed that once a tree is infected, insecticides to control the pests that spread the disease may not be enough to halt the disease’s progression in the tree, and instead may only slow its spread within the tree.

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UF/IFAS study suggests growers should monitor for tomato thrips carefully

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Environment, Invasive Species, Pests

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — South Florida vegetable growers worried about the invasive tomato thrips should make certain they’re looking for the pest in the right places, say University of Florida researchers.

Also known as common blossom thrips, the species is native to South America and attacks a variety of crops. A major pest of tomatoes and cucumbers in its home range, the thrips has been detected regularly in South Florida since 2008.

A team from UF’s Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead recently published a study outlining their efforts to assess the abundance and distribution of tomato thrips in cucumber fields. Their findings appear in the June 2012 issue of the journal Bulletin of Entomological Research.

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