IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS uses wasps to monitor exotic Joro spider

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Extension, IFAS

WASPS (1) black_and_yellow_mud_dauber 092916

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are reaching out to citizen scientists to find nests of the black and yellow mud dauber wasp (Sceliphron caementarium) – also known as the “dirt dauber” — in northeastern Georgia.

“Mud dauber wasps are harmless to humans, but they hunt spiders,” said Lisa Anne Taylor, an assistant research scientist in the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department. The wasps capture, paralyze and pack spider prey into a mud nest for their offspring to eat. The wasps build their nests under the eaves of homes, barns and bridges, where they are sheltered from the elements.

Scientists hope to use these wasps to help them track the spread of the newly introduced Joro spider in the area.

“The Joro spider is a large, colorful spider from Asia that was discovered in the United States in 2014 by scientists at the University of Georgia,” Taylor said. So far, the spiders have only been recorded in three counties in northeastern Georgia, but researchers suspect they occur even more widely. To help track the spread of this species, Taylor’s group has teamed up with UGA scientists Rick Hoebeke and Robert Matthews.

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UF/IFAS study: Bringing bugs to the classroom makes everyone smarter

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

The resurgence of the bed bug is also linked to a recent change in pest management programs for other insects, particuarly the use of insect baits and growth regulators instead of sprays.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Through a curriculum appropriately titled, “Bed Bugs and Book Bags,” students worldwide are learning how to identify bed bugs, where they hide out and much more. The program teaches how to prevent the insects, and a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows the hands-on learning experience works.

The project started in 2012 in Duval County Public Schools and teaches the public how to know if the insect is indeed a bed bug and then how to deal with it. As measured by students’ increased knowledge of bed bugs, the curriculum succeeds in the United State, Canada, Israel and Saudi Arabia, the study shows.

Public knowledge of bed bugs is critical because the insects are coming back.

“Within the past few years, bed bug infestations have dramatically increased and have created major concern for society and for pest management professionals,” said Roberto Pereira, a UF/IFAS associate research scientist in entomology and a lead author on the new study. “They are thought to be the most difficult and expensive insect pests to control in the United States. By being aware of signs of infestation in our daily activities, we all can play our part to prevent spreading these pests.”

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UF/IFAS researcher: Insects increase metabolism to adapt to dramatic weather change

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

Daniel Hahn, an associate professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, displays the type of flies he and former postdoctoral associate Giancarlo López-Martínez sterilized under a low-oxygen environment. Their studies demonstrate that doing so results in sterile flies who remain attractive suitors for mates than their counterparts sterilized in normal-oxygen conditions. UF/IFAS photo by Marisol Amador.

 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A recent study led by a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher found that an insect has evolved metabolically in response to an increase in weather cold snaps.

Daniel Hahn, an associate professor in the entomology and nematology department at UF/IFAS, led a team of researchers from UF, the University of California Berkeley, the University of Alabama-Birmingham and Kansas State University in the study of the fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Researchers found that selection to recover more quickly from cold snaps also drove the evolution of higher metabolic rates.

“While we hear a lot about warmer weather in spring and fall, weather fronts will continue to bring bouts of cold,” said Hahn, whose research focuses on ecological and evolutionary physiology. “This makes the transitions from warm to cold temperatures more extreme, and increases the vulnerability of animals and plants to damage from snap freezes.

“Small animals that rely on the environment to regulate their body temperature—like insects, frogs, and even sea turtles—are also susceptible to stress and even death from extreme cold fronts. We found clear changes in metabolism of the fly as it evolves and adapts to the cold snaps.”

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UF/IFAS researchers share safest ways to spray for Zika mosquitoes, protect bees

Topic(s): Agriculture, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Pests, Safety

A beekeeper holding a hive

Please see caption below the story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida beekeepers are concerned after 2.5 million bees that were killed during an aerial spraying with Naled/Dibrom for Zika-carrying mosquitoes in Dorchester County, S.C. Now, Floridians are looking for ways to avoid the same tragedy. Florida is the third-largest beekeeping state in the nation.

Researchers are not surprised that the South Carolina incident has Florida beekeepers worried, said Fred Fishel, professor of agronomy and director of the Pesticide Information Office.

“With the Zika cases in south Florida, and now that scientists have identified mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus, we would expect beekeepers to be concerned about increased pesticide application,” Fishel said. “But, registered beekeepers should be notified before an application of pesticides. That gives them time to protect their bees while spraying is conducted.”

There are pesticides that will not harm bees, but will kill mosquitoes, says William Kern, associate professor of urban entomology at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center.

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UF/IFAS researchers scramble to find cure for tenacious, costly sugarcane virus

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Departments, Entomology and Nematology, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs, Research

1-Sugarcane leaf with yellowing of lower midrib

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are working to find a cure or develop resistant varieties for a virus that is attacking sugarcane and sorghum throughout the Everglades agricultural region. Florida produces more than 50 percent of all sugarcane in the United States, making it the largest producer in the nation.

The sugarcane yellow leaf virus was first identified in Hawaii during the 1980s. The virus was found in Florida in 1993, said Philippe Rott, a professor of plant pathology at the UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade, Florida. Symptoms include a yellow stripe down the middle of sugarcane leaves, he said.

“The virus travels down the vascular bundle of the plant and interferes with the movement of nutrients,” Rott said. “This, in turn, stunts the growth of the plant.”

The virus is carried by an aphid, a tiny bug that feeds by sucking sap from plants, said Gregg Nuessly, director of UF/IFAS Everglades REC and a professor of entomology. Nuessly’s and Rott’s research has identified the carrier of the virus, and trials are in progress to see if insecticides are effective at killing the aphid.

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As zika spreads, UF/IFAS faculty on front lines battling the virus

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

Common Aedes Aegypti mosquito, magnified 2,000 times at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 6/28, prepares to feed on human skin. After 15 years of test on more than 3,900 compounds, Jerry Bulter, professor of entomology, has developed a safe, natural insect repellent that protects people against everything from mosquitoes to ticks and tiny "no-see-ums."  Its the first effective alternative to products containing DEET, the most widely used ingredient in insect repellent now on the market. Butler's new herbal repellent is patented by the UF and licensed to a commercial firm.(AP Photo, Jerry Bulter)

Photo of an Aedes aegypti mosquito.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty are on the front lines in the battle against the zika virus, as entomologists study the ability of at least two mosquito species to transmit the virus and ways of reducing pesticide resistance.

They’re also teaching people statewide about how to prevent spreading zika.

As of Aug. 18, 510 American residents had contracted the virus. Florida has 479 zika cases, according to the state health department; 35 people in Florida have contracted zika via local transmission, meaning they didn’t bring it back from overseas.

Scientists at the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach, Florida, have made Zika a top priority. The virus is most likely transmitted by Aedes aegypti – the yellow fever mosquito – and Aedes albopictus – the Asian tiger mosquito.

In February, when the virus started making international news, Roxanne Connelly, a professor of medical entomology and UF/IFAS Extension specialist at the FMEL, put on a statewide zika webinar to tell Extension faculty the do’s and don’ts of trying to contain zika. One of her key messages – that still holds true — was to get rid of standing water and containers that could get water in them because those are mosquito breeding grounds. The other key element was to wear repellant with DEET.

These days, Connelly is working with other UF/IFAS Extension entomologists such as Faith Oi, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and mosquito control districts on zika educational workshops and school newsletters throughout Florida.

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UF/IFAS hires Eminent Scholar to help in fight against citrus greening

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Citrus, Departments, Entomology and Nematology, IFAS, Pests

Bryony Bonning

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has added another soldier in its battle against citrus greening by hiring world-renowned entomologist Bryony Bonning. She has been named Eminent Scholar with tenure in the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department.

Currently, Bonning is a professor of entomology at Iowa State University and director of the National Science Foundation Center for Arthropod Management Technologies, where she oversees cutting-edge research on insect physiology and pathology, and biotechnology. Bonning is a recognized authority in the development of new technologies for insect pest management, and a fellow of the Entomological Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“Dr. Bonning brings an outstanding record of accomplishment and cooperation, and we are confident she will work tirelessly to develop solutions for citrus pest management,” said Blair Siegfried, chair of the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department. “Her combined experience and achievements make her ideally suited and deserving of the position.”

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Entomologist joins UF/IFAS to help solve citrus greening

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Citrus, Crops, Entomology and Nematology, Extension, IFAS, New Technology, RECs, Research

Qureshi

FORT PIERCE, Fla. – An entomologist with 10 years of research focused on the state’s iconic citrus industry has joined the faculty of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Indian River Research and Education Center.

Named Entomologist of the Year in 2012 by the Florida Entomological Society, Jawwad A. Qureshi was selected for a new position as assistant professor of entomology at UF/IFAS IRREC, near Fort Pierce, Florida. The UF/IFAS Fort Pierce location is part of the university’s statewide service to agriculture, providing research, extension and education for producers.

“Dr. Qureshi is one of the world’s few entomologists who have expertise in integrated pest management focused specifically on citrus,” said UF/IFAS IRREC interim director Ronald D. Cave. “His work is much needed in the region known worldwide for the highest quality fresh citrus product.”

According to Cave, Qureshi’s expertise with insect pest management for the citrus industry is critically valuable to the state’s citrus industry at a time when huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening, has had a negative impact on the crop statewide.

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New method could quash squash pests

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Extension, IFAS, Pests, Research

Dr. Oscar Liburd conducts research on the management of thrips in blueberries.

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida grows more zucchini squash than anywhere else in America – to the tune of $70 million a year. To help improve production, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are developing a method to keep squash pests at bay.

For a newly published study, Janine Spies, a post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS entomology department, simultaneously planted buckwheat with squash and found the method kept pests away while retaining yields at current levels. Furthermore, she and her colleagues manipulated how they planted buckwheat and squash.

“Pests like whiteflies and aphids transmit viruses to squash and can significantly reduce yield, and the money we make on squash,” Spies said. “This is why it is important to reduce the number of whiteflies and aphids that land on squash and to prevent the transmission of viruses.”

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Q-biotype whitefly expands to 8 Florida counties

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Entomology and Nematology, Extension, IFAS, Pests

WHITEFLY 052516

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Q-biotype whitefly, a significant pest that could damage agriculture, has spread from Palm Beach to seven other Florida counties, according to a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher.

Crops that could eventually be affected include tomatoes, squash, beans, watermelons and many other vegetables and ornamentals, said Lance Osborne, an entomology professor at UF/IFAS.

The whitefly species has now been reported in homeowners’ yards and on plants in retail nurseries are destined to be planted in yards as far north as Duval County. It’s also in Broward, Highlands, Hillsborough, Martin, Pinellas and Seminole counties, Osborne said.

In April, the whitefly was found for the first time outside greenhouses and nurseries in Florida. Known scientifically as Bemisia tabaci, the Q-biotype or Mediterranean whitefly is a light-colored, tiny flying insect. This marks the first time the Q-biotype of Bemisia tabaci has been found outside a greenhouse or nursery in the United States since it was found on an ornamental plant in a greenhouse in 2004-2005, said Osborne.

Inspectors from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services are in the process of tracing the flies back to the wholesale nurseries that shipped the plants to the retail stores. From there, nurseries can work with UF/IFAS on appropriate management practices.

If homeowners suspect they have a Q-biotype whitefly in their yard, they should use soap and oils that are sold as insecticides or just call a professional exterminator.

Researchers with UF/IFAS are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service and FDACS to manage the whitefly. The following measures are recommended to control the spread of Q-biotype whitefly:

 

  • Homeowners who suspect they have a whitefly infestation should contact their UF/IFAS Extension county office. Office locations may be found at http://bit.ly/1Q8wguw.
  • For identification purposes, infested leaves and dead insect specimens should be brought to local Extension offices. Wrap in a dry paper towel and place in a seal-able plastic bag and then in an envelope. Freezing the specimen overnight before transport is highly recommended. Live insects should not be transported.
  • The collection information should be included with the sample. Date, location, what type of vegetation is affected, number of suspected whiteflies, and any information about whether a pesticide has been used on the plant, is helpful information to managing the pest.  For steps on how to submit a sample to FDACS DPI, visit http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Plant-Industry/Business-Services/Submit-a-Sample-for-Identification.
  • Because new populations have built up resistance to chemicals, it is recommended that suspected whitefly infestations be confirmed before chemically treating the insects, as it may be needless to spray pesticides.
  • Landscapers and pest control operators should inspect for signs of whitefly pests, communicate with neighboring properties and homeowners associations, employ good management and growing practices, and implement whitefly management guidelines available at http://mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/lso/bemisia/bemisia.htm.
  • Nurseries that suspect whitefly infestations should contact Cindy McKenzie at cindy.mckenzie@ars.usda.gov. She will only report positive finds to the county level. Growers will not be identified. Please also check out the UF/IFAS whitefly management program at http://mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/lso/bemisia/DOCUMENTS/WhiteflyManagementProgram_1-15-15.pdf).

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Caption: The Q-biotype whitefly, a significant pest that could damage agriculture, has spread from Palm Beach to seven other Florida counties, according to a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher. Crops that could eventually be affected include tomatoes, squash, beans, watermelons and many other vegetables and ornamentals, said Lance Osborne, an entomology professor at UF/IFAS.

Credit: UF/IFAS file.

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

Sources: Lance Osborne, 407-461-8329, lsosborn@ufl.edu

Adrian Hunsberger, 305-248-3311, aghu@ufl.edu

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