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Mosquito threat emerges as season peaks, UF researchers report

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Household Pests, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Safety

Some mosquito species play a major role in the transmission of disease-causing viruses. (UF/IFAS/File Photo)

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Mosquitoes aren’t just a nuisance, they’re also an economic and health concern, say University of Florida researchers.

July, August, and September are peak months for mosquito activity in Florida, and the state spends about $151 million each year trying to control the biting insects.

Controlling mosquitoes is important for economic development and tourism, said Jonathan Day, a University of Florida medical entomology professor at UF’s Florida Medical Entomology Lab in Vero Beach.

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UF review suggests new approaches needed if biological control of termites to succeed

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It sounds like a pest control technician’s dream come true—eradicating hard-to-reach underground termite colonies by introducing small quantities of a pathogen or parasite, a practice called biological control.

But after 50 years of research, scientists have yet to deliver a successful method. Researchers’ efforts have been hindered by flawed experiments and lack of field testing, according to experts with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Their findings appear in a review article published online this week by the journal Biological Control.

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Charles Steinmetz Hall dedication

Topic(s): Announcements, Departments, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Families and Consumers, Honors and Appointments, Household Pests, IFAS, Invasive Species, New Technology, Pests

 

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Charles Steinmetz, a retired pest management company owner, addresses the audience at a ceremony to rename the University of Florida’s entomology and nematology department building, at the UF main campus in Gainesville – Wednesday, May 25, 2011. Steinmetz and his wife, Lynn, recently donated $5 million to the department to support academic and research programs. In recognition of the gift, UF renamed the building Charles Steinmetz Hall. At the ceremony, Steinmetz reminisced about his undergraduate days at UF and some of his career milestones. UF/IFAS photo by Dawn McKinstry

UF study traces global red imported fire ant invasions to southern U.S.

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Red imported fire ant invasions around the globe in recent years can now be traced to the southern U.S., where the nuisance insect gained a foothold in the 1930s, new University of Florida research has found.

Native to South America, the ant had been contained there and in the southeastern U.S. before turning up in faraway places in the last 20 years — including California, China, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand.

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UF discovers house flies carrying five new illness-causing bacteria

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Food Safety, Household Pests

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Everyone knows that house flies aren’t welcome around food.

But University of Florida scientists have discovered five new reasons why.

Researchers with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have documented five more bacteria species carried by house flies, and all of them cause illness in humans, ranging from food poisoning to respiratory infections.

In the current issue of Florida Entomologist, the researchers describe collecting house flies near rear entrances and trash bins at four restaurants in Gainesville. About 20 flies from each location were collected in sterile containers and returned to the campus laboratory.

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Termites’ gut reactions show how to improve renewable fuel, UF researchers say

Topic(s): Biofuels, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Household Pests, New Technology, Pests, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Termite damage costs the U.S. more than $1 billion each year, but that same destructive power might help solve one of the nation’s most pressing economic quandaries: sustainable fuel production.

After years of genetic sequencing, University of Florida researchers are beginning to harness the insects’ ability to churn wood into fuel. That ability involves a mixture of enzymes from symbiotic bacteria and other single-celled organisms living in termites’ guts, as well as enzymes from the termites themselves.

The team from UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences spent two years dissecting and analyzing gene sequences of more than 2,500 worker termite guts. In total, they identified 6,555 genes from the termites and associated gut fauna involved in the digestive process.

As the researchers reported Oct. 15 in the online journal Biotechnology for Biofuels, they’ve begun to identify which of these genes encode for enzymes that could significantly improve the production of cellulosic ethanol, a fuel made from inedible plant material that the U.S. Department of Energy estimates could replace half of our gasoline if the production process could be made more cost effective. (more …)

UF professor flies high in the small world of owl-pellet gathering

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Household Pests

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Dissecting owl pellets and reconstructing animal skeletons inside can be a gruesomely great educational experience for youngsters – so much so, that demand for owl pellets has spawned a cottage industry.

In Florida, one of the main suppliers is Richard Raid, a professor with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Owls can’t chew, so they rip prey apart with their beaks and swallow it in big chunks. The pellets are blobs of undigested fur and bones the birds regurgitate after a meal.

Raid gathers 3,000 to 5,000 pellets each year from farms in the Everglades Agricultural Area. He leads workshops at schools, clubs and museums where he shows children how to carefully pick apart the pellets, identify the creatures inside, and arrange the bones into complete skeletons.

The experience may sound cringe-inducing, but it teaches children about biology and predator-prey relationships, says Raid, a plant pathologist at UF’s Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade. (more …)

House-infesting brown dog tick becoming resistant to common pesticides, UF experts say

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It’s bad enough that the Southeast is bedeviled by a tick that doesn’t mind taking up residence inside homes.

But now researchers say they believe the brown dog tick has developed resistance to the treatments most commonly used to fight it.

University of Florida researchers Phil Kaufman and Faith Oi will work with USDA tick expert Robert Miller to test the ticks’ resistance to permethrin, a chemical found in many pesticides and repellents, and fipronil, found in Frontline. Both are sold in pet stores.

A $171,000 grant from the USDA’s Southern Region Integrated Pest Management Center will support the researchers’ three-year study. When it ends, they hope to know the tick’s level of resistance to both chemicals and to have an array of materials aimed at teaching the public how best to guard against infestations and what to do if they face one.

The brown dog tick has been invading homes across the Southeast for years, Kaufman said, but its resistance to chemical foes seems to have been building the last five to eight years. This study will be the first to document the ticks’ resistance in the U.S. (more …)

UF researchers turn up the heat on bedbugs with new low-tech treatment method

Topic(s): Agriculture, Entomology and Nematology, Household Pests, New Technology, Pests, Safety

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Multimedia available: http://news.ufl.edu/2009/07/07/bed-bugs-multimedia/

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Bedbug infestations are notoriously hard to eliminate, but University of Florida researchers have developed a low-cost, low-tech method to kill the bloodsucking insects in furniture and bedding, using heat.

With less than $400 in equipment they created a portable chamber big enough for a bed or dresser. Heaters inside the chamber gently raise its air temperature to a minimum of 113 degrees Fahrenheit – enough to destroy the insects but not damage the items.

Treatment takes from two to seven hours, said urban entomologist Phil Koehler, a professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. In a study, the method killed 100 percent of bedbugs in nine out of 11 trials conducted in dormitories and apartments.

The study appears in the current issue of Journal of Economic Entomology.

“You’re very limited in what you can do to fight bedbugs,” said Koehler, an author of the study. “This is a good way to relieve infestations in bedding and other items people have close contact with, and it controls all life stages of bedbugs.” (more …)

Mosquitoes aplenty this July Fourth bring disease concerns for North Florida

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Household Pests, Lawn & Garden, Pests, Safety, Weather

 

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Recent weeks of heavy rain have left conditions statewide ripe for a Fourth of July rife with mosquitoes. For some North Florida areas, however, the pests are more than a holiday annoyance — they bring the threat of the eastern equine encephalitis virus, known as EEEV.

“This year doesn’t look like it’s going to be tremendously unusual in terms of overall cases of mosquito-borne diseases,” said Jonathan Day, a professor of medical entomology with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “But transmission of [EEEV] tends to be very focal, and there are some areas that are looking risky.”

EEEV is best known for being deadly in horses, but humans can contract the virus as well.

According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus can cause a severe infection of the central nervous system in humans, and is fatal for nearly a third of those afflicted.

So far this year, 26 horses have been found to be infected in North Florida, with five more in the state’s Panhandle.

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