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IFAS News

University of Florida

Barn owls threatened by Africanized bees in South Florida

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs
Richard Raid and a barn owl in Belle Glade. Keywords: sugar cane, bio pest control, South Florida, agriculture, bird, wildlife. Photo by Eric Zamora UF/IFAS

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Belle Glade, Fla. — Throughout the past two decades, University of Florida researcher Richard Raid has seen barn owl populations in the Everglades Agricultural Area, centered around Belle Glade, expand from mere dozens to more than 400 nesting pairs.

But these beneficial raptors, currently listed as a threatened species, are now being threatened by Africanized honey bees.  Swarming as frequently as eight times per year, the invasive bees have been taking over nesting boxes Raid and students have built for the owls, using them as hives, and displacing or even killing the desired raptors. (more …)

Light trap lures more mosquitoes, fewer bugs you don’t need to kill

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers have found a light trap that monitors mosquitoes more effectively, while ferreting out bugs no one wants or needs to kill.

The finding will help mosquito control districts more quickly identify mosquitoes before decisions are made to spray, said Phil Kaufman, an associate professor and veterinary entomologist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Mosquito control districts can run 50 or more traps in a night during the mosquito season to keep track of mosquito populations.  But mosquito control officials do not want to capture insects unnecessarily, a practice that takes time and money, Kaufman said. Those unintended captures include moths, beetles and other flies.

“The traps are returned to the mosquito control district office, and people have to sort through all of the moths, beetles and more to find and remove the mosquitoes that have to be identified to see which species are a problem or to test them for West Nile and other viruses,” Kaufman said. “Having fewer non-target insects makes their job easier.”

(more …)

Low-altitude aerial images allow early detection of devastating avocado disease

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

LAUREL WILT - CAMERA STUDY - 052015 (over Homestead) (2)

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Low-altitude aerial images can detect laurel wilt, a devastating avocado disease, giving growers an early way to identify diseased trees and perhaps help reduce losses to the $100 million-a-year economic impact avocados provide Florida.

Reza Ehsani, an associate professor in agricultural and biological engineering at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, used a multi-spectral camera that distinguishes between laurel wilt-affected trees and healthy ones.

Images taken with the camera from a helicopter have significant implications in the management of this important disease and for the commercial avocado industry in Florida. Ehsani said he expects the Federal Aviation Administration to open U.S. airspace for commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles, which could be equipped with such cameras, by 2017.

“Ultimately, we think that small UAVs, equipped with the right multi-band camera, can be used for scouting for this disease, which could potentially be very cost-effective,” Ehsani said. “The results of this study will enable growers or service companies that use UAVs to detect this disease at an early stage.”

(more …)

UF/IFAS scientists zero in on Brown Dog Tick control

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Household Pests, IFAS, Pests, Research

A petri dish contains several brown dog ticks, a species researchers believe has become resistant to the most commonly used pesticides.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Brown Dog Ticks

click here for video: http://bit.ly/1PujWam

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A little pest can really tick off dogs and their owners.

In addition to homeowners and canines, the pesticide industry has also been trying to find a way to vanquish the Brown Dog Tick for years.

But help is on the way, courtesy of University of Florida scientists.

Dogs and their owners who battle the Brown Dog Tick sometimes go to desperate measures ─ including getting rid of their dogs, fumigating their homes, throwing many possessions out or even moving ─ to control the pesky bugs, which breed indoors and hide in places that are practically impossible to reach.

Phil Kaufman, an associate professor of veterinary entomology at UF/IFAS, is one of several investigators who have just published two studies. One shows the tick is resistant to the most commonly used chemical applied directly between the dog’s shoulder blades. The other shows the effectiveness of carbon dioxide as a lure for baiting ticks to bed bug traps.

(more …)

Dealing with Florida’s rare tick diseases

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Household Pests, IFAS, Pests, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Though uncommon, Floridians can get tick diseases.

“The biggest myth about tick-borne diseases is that every tick carries the Lyme disease pathogen, when in fact, only one tick species in the Eastern U.S. is capable of transmitting the pathogen, Ixodes scapularis, the black-legged or deer tick,” said Phil Kaufman, a University of Florida veterinary entomologist.

Kaufman, an associate professor at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, cited three tick-borne diseases we should know about. Those diseases are:

  •  Lyme disease: In Florida, 673 cases of Lyme disease were reported from 2002 to 2011, according to the Florida Department of Health. That’s only 67 cases per year, compared to 27,000 cases in the U.S. in 2013. Of the Florida cases, 77 percent were acquired by people when traveling to other states.
  •  Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: In Florida, the reported incidence has increased markedly in recent years, possibly due to increased disease awareness and reporting, Kaufman said. Some 163 cases of the fever were reported from 2002 through 2011, and 77 percent were acquired in Florida. Again, most were in north and central Florida. Cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are reported year-round, though peak transmission is typically during the summer.
  •  Ehrlichiosis (HME)/Anaplasmosis (HGE):  In Florida, 89 cases of Ehrlichiosis/HME were reported from 2002 through 2011. Of those, 33 cases of Anaplasmosis/HGA were reported. The majority of HME cases – 73 percent — are reported as being acquired in Florida, primarily in the north and central parts of the state. Like Lyme disease, HGA has less than half — 45 percent — of cases classified as Florida-acquired.

(more …)

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

TERMITES - Nan Yao Su 022415

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 …)

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