Redbay ambrosia beetles.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Using some pleasant-smelling chemicals, avocado growers may soon be able to repel beetles that inject a potentially deadly fungus into their trees, saving fruit and money, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers say.
When they’re infected with the laurel wilt fungus, redbay trees – a close cousin to the avocado — emit methyl salicylate to repel redbay ambrosia beetles, the very beetles that gave the trees the fungus in the first place, scientists say in a newly published study.
Florida avocados bring a $100 million-a-year impact to Florida’s economy, UF/IFAS economists say. They grow almost entirely in southern Miami-Dade County, but growers have battled the laurel wilt fungus, which can kill redbay and avocado trees, since it arrived in Georgia in 2003.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A few bugs may be able to chew up some cogongrass, a noxious weed that elbows out pasture grass, golf course greens and valuable ecosystems, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.
A worldwide research team led by UF/IFAS entomology professor James Cuda and retired entomology professor Bill Overholt found species in Japan, East Africa and Indonesia that might help in the battle against cogongrass.
Among the arthropods they found, Cuda and his team discovered a midge from Indonesia that attacks cogongrass. Cuda and his team are focusing on the Orseolia javanica midge that causes cogongrass to produce linear galls at the expense of leaves. However, when scientists brought the arthropods back to the quarantine facility at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce, Florida, they did not mate and increase in population.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences entomologist will use a $200,000 grant from the Florida Department of Health to improve tests for the detection of Zika virus.
In 2016, Florida saw 1,272 cases of Zika, which is usually associated with mild symptoms, although severe symptoms may also occur, including Guillain-Barré syndrome and birth defects in babies, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 256 were locally acquired. So far this year, four more cases have been reported, all travel-related.
Barry Alto, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of medical entomology, said scientists need better diagnostic tools to detect Zika virus to meet challenges to public health. He is working with collaborator Steven Benner at Firebird Biomolecular Sciences LLC to develop methods they hope should take about an hour – far less time than current testing methods. Existing methods require specialized equipment and highly trained personnel, so samples must be transported to specialized laboratory facilities to perform the tests.
Video available at: http://bit.ly/2jveL0r
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Insects and art intersect in a unique campus-wide sculpture and animation contest organized by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences entomologists.
In a project called “Insects Alive,” Andrea Lucky and Lisa Taylor hope to use science and technology to inspire creativity in students across UF.
An interdisciplinary team of undergraduate students from across UF is helping to lead the contest. The team generates 3-D files — based on real ants and spiders — that are produced using a nano-CT scanner at the UF Nanoscale Research Facility. The 3-D images are available to all contest participants to use as the basis for art.
For the contest, UF students in any discipline use the 3-D files of the insects and spiders to create three-dimensional sculpture and animation.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences entomologist has found two more non-native mosquito species in Florida that transmit viruses that cause disease in humans and wildlife. That makes nine new mosquito species found in Florida in the past decade.
“The presence of any exotic mosquito is important from a nuisance, or biting, standpoint,” said Nathan Burkett-Cadena, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of entomology at the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach, Florida. “However, these two species are known to transmit pathogens that affect human and animal health.”
Burkett-Cadena found the mosquito species Aedeomyia squamipennis and Culex panocossa in Florida City and Homestead, both in south Miami-Dade County. He and Erik Blosser, a post-doctoral researcher at the FMEL, were visiting South Florida to collect a native mosquito species, Culex cedecei, to investigate its biology and ecology, when they noticed the two non-native species.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Department of Housing and Residence Education will receive traps designed to stop mosquitoes in their tracks through a donation from SEOUL VIOSYS, a South Korean-based company.
While there are no cases of locally transmitted zika virus on the UF campus, Gainesville or Alachua County, Sharon Blansett, assistant to the associate vice president for UF student affairs, welcomes the mosquito traps as a virus-prevention measure for students living in graduate and family housing.
“The Department of Housing and Residence Education is happy to receive the mosquito traps to help further protect residents living in graduate and family housing from mosquitoes that could potentially transmit viruses,” said Blansett, whose duties include managing UF student housing. “We do not have a mosquito problem at UF, but it’s great to know we’re getting more help in our continued efforts to keep students safe.”
A tropical bed bug
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For the first time in 60 years, a tropical bed bug has been confirmed in Florida, and University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers urge the public to send them samples of suspected bed bugs for identification.
For decades, pest control professionals kept common bed bugs mostly at bay with various chemical treatments. Then scientists saw a resurgence of those bugs in the late 1990s and 2000s. The same thing may be happening with the tropical bed bug. It hadn’t been confirmed in Florida since the 1930s and 1940s. In 2015, a family in Brevard County reported tropical bed bugs in their home, said Brittany Campbell, a UF/IFAS doctoral student in entomology.
UF/IFAS scientists confirmed the bug finding, and so far, that’s the only confirmed case in Florida. But researchers think it’s possible they’ll find the bug in other parts of Florida and, in fact, the South because it lives in tropical and sub-tropical climates. Other than its geographic preference, the tropical bed bug is similar to the common bed bug, which is found in all 50 states.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — This spring, a handful of golf courses in Florida will become a little more “green,” thanks to a new project led by a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension specialist and researcher.
“In our state, resource conservation is a big issue, especially water conservation,” said Adam Dale, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of entomology. “Other big issues include pollinator conservation and insect pest management. Both of which are connected to the vitality of our ecosystems.”
According to Dale, golf courses could be used to conserve pollinators while reducing water consumption and management inputs such as pest control.
“Golf courses have a reputation for the resources used to maintain them,” Dale said. “In Florida, the majority of golf course acreage is irrigated, but 40 to 70 percent of that area isn’t typically played. What if we took some of that under-played space and turned it into drought tolerant functional habitats for pollinators and other beneficial insects?”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is sending an inter-departmental team of scientists to Cuba as part of a grant that is believed to be the first federally-funded project for scientific field research in Cuba.
The project’s principal investigator (PI), associate professor Damian Adams; project co-PIs assistant professor Jiri Hulcr and postdoctoral associates Paloma Carton de Grammont and José Soto, and other UF/IFAS research scientists and graduate students from the School of Forest Resources & Conservation, the Entomology and Nematology Department, the Food and Resource Economics Department, and the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering will travel to Cuba for this research, funded by a $228,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The project team is traveling to Cuba to fulfill several missions:
- Conduct research to identify wood-boring pest species in Cuba that could pose high-risk threats to U.S. agriculture and forests.
- Train Cuban scientists on state-of-the-art methods to accurately identify these wood-boring pests in Cuba in an effort to reduce the possibility of transmission of these pests to Florida agriculture and forests.
- Understand how Cuba’s plant protection programs and policies impact pest movement, particularly to the United States.
- Estimate the potential economic impact of a pest invasion from Cuba to the United States.
A cow grazing in a beef cattle pasture at the Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona, Florida. Photo by Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida residents curious or skeptical about the threat posed by the parasitic screwworm fly Cochliomiya hominivorax can rest assured the insect merits all the attention it has received after an outbreak was detected in the Florida Keys earlier this month, say experts with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Commonly known as the primary screwworm fly or New World screwworm fly, the insect threatens the health of warm-blooded animals and people in areas where it is well-established, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
“To put it plainly, a full-blown screwworm infestation is a death sentence for the host animal,” Payne said. “This pest can kill a previously healthy cow or bull in a matter of weeks if the problem isn’t treated properly. It’s that serious.”
Payne urges all livestock and pet owners to educate themselves about the symptoms of screwworm infestation and seek veterinary care for animals exhibiting tell-tale indications such as open wounds that do not heal, running sores, listlessness, loss of appetite or sudden weight loss.
The fly’s larvae must consume the tissue of a live warm-blooded animal to develop, so adult females lay their eggs on livestock and wildlife with superficial wounds, said veterinary entomologist Phil Kaufman, an associate professor with the UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department.
“From a strictly scientific point of view, screwworm larvae are incredibly well-adapted parasites,” Kaufman said. “That’s why this species was a constant menace to Florida’s cattle industry up through about 1960, when it was eradicated from the state.” (more …)