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IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS study: Tiny wasp controls nuisance whitefly

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Economics, Environment, Pests, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A wasp the size of a pin head may control the nuisance Rugose spiraling whitefly, which leaves a sticky white mess that becomes covered in black mold on everything from plants to cars and pools, University of Florida scientists say.

“Although the Rugose spiraling whitefly damages plants, what really gets people worked up is that it’s a huge nuisance because it makes a mess,” said Catharine Mannion, an entomology professor at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida. “You get a sooty mold on everything. It’s hard to get pools cleaned. People start chopping their trees down.”

But a new breakthrough shows the tiny wasp encarsia noyesi reduces the population of the Rugose spiraling whitefly, according to a new UF/IFAS-led study funded by the Farm Bill, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

(more …)

Citizen science projects invite Florida residents to get involved

Topic(s): Agriculture, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Families and Consumers, Household Pests, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Have you always wanted to see what real, college-level, science research projects are like – and maybe even participate in one? Now is your chance with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ annual Bug Week.

Citizen science projects are a great way for kids of any age to help researchers in Florida – and throughout the country – understand what is taking place in their own neighborhoods. The projects can involve bug or animal counts, capturing specimens or creating habitats and reporting what shows up.

“Citizen science is a win-win for everyone involved,” said Andrea Lucky, an evolutionary biologist and biodiversity scientist with UF’s Department of Entomology and Nematology. “Participants have the opportunity to get involved in ongoing research and learn about the process of science and, at the same time, scientists benefit from partnering with diverse audiences.” (more …)

UF/IFAS is all about the bugs during Bug Week 2015, May 18-23

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, Environment, Families and Consumers, Household Pests, IFAS, Invasive Species, Lawn & Garden, Pests

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida campus is aflutter with activity as it gears up for Bug Week 2015, with various online and campus activities for students of all ages and their families.

“Bugs are serious business in Florida,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “Learning about bugs, though, should be fun. That’s why we have Bug Week.”

Bug Week 2015 is scheduled for May 18-23. To get started, check out the Bug Week website at http://bugs.ufl.edu/. UF/IFAS has a number of online resources there to explore including bug photos, feature stories, and the popular “Bug of the Day” and “Bug Word of the Day” items. Citizen science projects – in which anyone can participate – are spotlighted on the website, along with videos about everything from ants and butterflies to spiders and ticks. (more …)

UF/IFAS termite pioneer selected for inventors hall of fame

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Entomology and Nematology, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

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Nan-Yao Su

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Nan-Yao Su, the University of Florida scientist who invented the Sentricon® system for termite colony elimination, has been selected for induction into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame.

Sentricon®, the first commercial baiting product for subterranean termites, has protected millions of structures, including the White House and the Statue of Liberty.

The Hall of Fame selection committee chose nominees whose inventions and achievements have “advanced the quality of life for Floridians, our state and our nation,” according to a letter to Su from hall of fame Program Manager William Nikolic.

Su said he feels honored to be mentioned alongside such great inventors as Thomas Edison and UF’s own Robert Cade, who invented Gatorade®.

“I am glad that I can contribute to the quality of life of many homeowners in Florida and worldwide,” Su said.

(more …)

Two most destructive termite species forming superswarms in South Florida, UF/IFAS study finds

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

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UF/IFAS entomology Professor Nan-Yao Su

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two of the most destructive termite species in the world — responsible for much of the $40 billion in economic loss caused by termites annually — are now swarming simultaneously in South Florida, creating hybrid colonies that grow quickly and have the potential to migrate to other states.

In an article published today in the journal PLOS ONE, a team of University of Florida entomologists has documented that the Asian and Formosan subterranean termite simultaneously produce hundreds of thousands of alates, or winged males and females. Both species have evolved separately for thousands of years, but in South Florida, they now have the opportunity to meet, mate and start new hybrid colonies.

While researchers have yet to determine if the hybrid termite is fertile or sterile, it likely poses a danger, said Nan-Yao Su, an entomology professor at the UF Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“Because a termite colony can live up to 20 years with millions of individuals, the damaging potential of a hybrid colony remains a serious threat to homeowners even if the hybrid colony does not produce fertile winged termites,” Su said. “This is especially true when the colony exhibits hybrid vigor as we witnessed in the laboratory.”

(more …)

UF/IFAS grad student wins prize for mosquito trap research

Topic(s): Announcements, CALS, Entomology and Nematology, IFAS, Pests, Research

Casey Parker Environmental Portrait Mosquito Housing

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Casey Parker came to the University of Florida aspiring to be a pharmacist. But chemistry wasn’t for her. So, she took a class called “Bugs and People,” and the professor at the time, Carl Barfield, convinced her to study entomology.

“I loved everything about it,” Parker said of studying insects. “It’s something people don’t think about very much. They’re around, but we don’t think, ‘they do so many crazy things in our world.’ They transmit tons of diseases that affect humans and animals.”

Parker did so well academically that she graduated last year and continued her master’s studies at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Department of Entomology and Nematology. The graduate entomology student recently won the ONE WORLD competition, organized by the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Challenge 2050 Project in conjunction with the Syngenta Good Growth Plan. She was awarded $2,000 for her work.

“I was really honored,” Parker said, adding that she felt humbled to be among the other five student finalists – dubbed “The Solution 6” — all of whom created outstanding innovations.

(more …)

UF/IFAS expert to help Australians try to control diseases transmitted by invasive mosquitoes

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Pests

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida scientist recognized as a global expert on invasive mosquitoes will head to Australia in March to work with researchers to combat public health threats common to Florida and Queensland, Australia, such as chikungunya and dengue fever.

Phil Lounibos, an entomology professor at UF/IFAS’ Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach, has been awarded a Fulbright Specialist grant to give a series of lectures and to host seminars Down Under.

The mosquitoes that transmit chikungunya and dengue fever to humans are Aedes aegypti – sometimes referred to as the yellow fever mosquito ─ and Aedes albopictussometimes called the Asian tiger mosquito. Aedes aegypti, native to Africa, has lived in eastern Australia for more than 150 years, after arriving on sailing vessels, but is becoming less of a public health threat in parts of Queensland thanks to a novel experimental control method.

Aedes albopictus successfully colonized Florida more than 30 years ago but has not yet established itself in mainland Australia. Lounibos, a leading expert on the ecology of these two mosquito species, will bring his research-based knowledge, which has helped explain how the Asian tiger reduced the range and abundance of the yellow fever mosquito in Florida.

“We hope collaboration and knowledge from studying interactions between these species in Florida will help Australian scientists limit consequences from a feared invasion by the Asian Tiger Mosquito from the Torres Strait,” he said. The Torres Strait lies between mainland Australia and New Guinea.

The program will also benefit Florida, where several mosquito control districts are considering releasing genetically modified yellow fever mosquitoes for dengue prevention. The Eliminate Dengue Program, based in Cairns, Australia, is pioneering a non-GMO genetic control technique that causes mosquitoes of this species to become dengue-resistant by mating with released mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia, a type of bacteria.

Because of their extensive coastlines ─ which makes both areas vulnerable to the arrival of exotic animals and plants on boats and ships ─ Florida and Queensland, Australia are threatened by many invasive species, including the two mosquito species that transmit dengue and chikungunya.

In the past few years, the lay public and scientists have shifted their interest in mosquito ecology from salt marsh mosquitoes ─ major pests of the densely populated coasts of both regions ─ to invasive mosquito vectors of arboviruses, such as dengue and chikungunya.

Outbreaks of dengue fever occur regularly in northern Queensland and occasionally in South Florida, and the establishment of chikungunya in the Caribbean in late 2013 led to at least 10 cases of local transmission of this virus n Florida in 2014, Lounibos said.

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Cutline: UF/IFAS entomology professor Phil Lounibos checks for larvae of the invasive Aedes albopictus in water-holding tires used for surveillance on the grounds of the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach.

Credit: UF/IFAS file photo by Marisol Amador

By Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Source: Phil Lounibos, 772-778-7200, ext. 146, lounibos@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS scientists find potential biological control for avocado-ravaging disease

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Crops, Economics, Pests, RECs

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida scientists believe they’ve found what could be the first biological control strategy against laurel wilt, a disease that threatens the state’s $54 million-a-year avocado industry.

Red ambrosia beetles bore holes into healthy avocado trees, bringing with them the pathogen that causes laurel wilt. Growers control the beetles that carry and spread laurel wilt by spraying insecticides on the trees, said Daniel Carrillo, an entomology research assistant professor at the Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead.

But a team of researchers from the Tropical REC and the Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce have identified a potential biological control to use against redbay ambrosia beetles that could help growers use less insecticide.

(more …)

UF/IFAS-created strawberry monitoring system set to expand

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Environment, Honors and Appointments, New Technology, Pests

Natalia Peres strawberries resized

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A strawberry monitoring web system that will soon expand to South Carolina is one of many reasons a University of Florida faculty member has won the Lee M. Hutchins Award from the American Phytopathological Society (APS).

The Hutchins award goes to the author or authors of significant published research on basic or applied aspects of diseases of perennial fruit plants, according to the society’s website.

“APS is probably the most prestigious society worldwide in our field of plant pathology, so I am very honored with the nomination and the award,” said Natalia Peres, an associate professor of plant pathology at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm.

(more …)

UF/IFAS researchers use steam to treat citrus greening

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, Research

UF/IFAS researchers are using steam to treat citrus greening.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers are turning to the old-fashioned method of steaming to help treat citrus greening, a disease devastating citrus trees throughout Florida.

Reza Ehsani and his UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences colleagues are tenting and then enveloping trees in steam that is 136 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 seconds in an attempt to kill the citrus greening bacterium. (more …)

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