IFAS News

University of Florida

UF brings families together for annual Bug Week Scavenger Hunt on May 20

Topic(s): Announcements, Biocontrols, Entomology and Nematology, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests

See caption below.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Local families will get to have fun and learn about crawly critters during the annual UF/IFAS Bug Week Scavenger Hunt set for 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, May 20. The event will be held at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Admission is free, and all children will receive souvenirs. The first, second and third place winners will receive special prizes.

“This year, our goal is to help families learn about invasive species and how they affect the environment and economy,” said Beverly James, UF/IFAS director of public relations. “The Bug Week website features lots of information on invasive species and how, sometimes, other insects are used to control them. So, not only will families learn about insects, but they will also have the opportunity to spend time together in a fun activity.”

During the scavenger hunt, participants will be given five clues that lead them to displays where an insect, spider or other arthropod appears. Each clue comes with a question that can only be answered by visiting the display.

In addition, the UF/IFAS department of entomology and nematology will present a Bug Zoo. The zoo features insects in glass enclosures, and children will have the opportunity to hold them and learn about them.

Bug Week is the University of Florida’s annual celebration of its entomology program, one of the largest and best in the nation. For more information on Bug Week, visit http://bugs.ufl.edu.

Don’t forget – if you are talking about Bug Week on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, use the official #UFBugs hashtag!

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CAPTION:Children and adults participate in the 2016 UF/IFAS Bug Week petting zoo and scavenger hunt at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, beverlymjames@ufl.edu

 

UF/IFAS scientists find Zika RNA in a second mosquito species

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences molecular biologist has found Zika RNA in a type of mosquito not often associated with the virus.

UF/IFAS entomology associate professor Chelsea Smartt led a research team that found Zika RNA in Aedes albopictus. That’s not the species — known as Aedes aegypti — most often associated with Zika. But scientists have never discounted Aedes albopictus as another possible carrier of the potentially deadly virus.

Brazil has the highest number of reported Zika virus cases worldwide, with more than 200,000 as of December 2016. So, Smartt set her sights on tracking down Zika-infected mosquitoes in Camacari, Brazil, near the Atlantic coast.

Smartt and her research team collected 20 female and 19 male Aedes albopictus mosquitoes as eggs, raised them to adults and tested the adults for the Zika virus RNA. They found five of them positive for Zika RNA, Smartt said.

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The problem expands for avocado growers: More beetle species carry deadly fungus

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Many people love their avocados – not to mention guacamole dip. So it was bad enough when scientists said a beetle was ravaging avocado trees in South Florida. Then scientists found out that the redbay ambrosia beetle — originally determined to transmit laurel wilt — is rare in avocado groves but that six other beetle species could carry the laurel wilt pathogen.

That’s more species for scientists to track down and study. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences economists have estimated avocados bring a $100 million-a-year economic impact to South Florida.

In a new study, UF/IFAS plant pathology professor Randy Ploetz said scientists found three more types of beetles that can carry the pathogen that can kill avocado trees.

Scientist say they still don’t know how many species of ambrosia beetle transmit the fungus that causes laurel wilt, also known as Raffaelea lauricola. To serve as a “vector,” the insect must interact with the tree and the pathogen, and that interaction is hard to study, said Ploetz, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida.

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UF/IFAS entomology department, others take top spots in global ranking

Topic(s): Announcements, CALS, Departments, Entomology and Nematology, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Invasive Species, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Center for World University Rankings has named the University of Florida entomology department first in the world among more than 26,000 degree-granting institutions of higher education. Other programs in the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences also ranked in the top 10.

The Center for World University Rankings is the only global university performance table to judge world-class universities across all of their core missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. The center measures the quality of education and training of students as well as the prestige of the faculty members, and the quality of their research without relying on surveys and university data submissions.

“The quality and recognition of our program are the result of a dedicated group of faculty, staff and students,” said UF/IFAS entomology department chair Blair Siegfried. “They are committed to education, to solving important questions of both applied and fundamental significance, and to providing timely and important information to the citizens of Florida.”

The center ranked several UF/IFAS programs in the top 10:

  • Entomology (World Rank: 1, Score: 100.00)
  • Mycology (World Rank: 8, Score: 83.42)
  • Agriculture, Dairy and Animal Science (World Rank: 9, Score: 92.56)
  • Biodiversity Conservation (World Rank: 9, Score: 89.55)
  • Horticulture (World Rank: 9, Score: 90.63).

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By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, beverlymjames@ufl.edu

 

Bumblebees boost blueberry yield

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Bumblebees can boost blueberry yield by 70 percent, good news for Florida growers in the heart of their blueberry season, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

The news also accentuates the need for blueberry pollinators, said Joshua Campbell, a post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department.

After caging bumblebee hives with highbush blueberry bushes, researchers found that 70 percent of the flowers produced blueberries, while less than 10 percent of those without bumblebee hives produced blueberries. That’s helpful news for blueberry growers, said Campbell, co-author of a new study published in the Journal of Environmental Entomology.

“We think our findings are very relevant for growers who are growing blueberries in greenhouses and high tunnels,” Campbell said.

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Male jumping spiders court whomever, whenever; females decide who lives, dies

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Male jumping spiders will try to mate with any female, but that lack of discretion could cost them their lives, says a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher.

In a newly published study, UF/IFAS entomologist Lisa Taylor and her team documented the courting techniques of jumping spiders. They found that male spiders spend much time and energy – including singing and dancing — trying to mate with potential females, even when these females are the wrong species.

“We think that one reason these displays have evolved in male jumping spiders is to compensate for the fact that they can’t tell females of closely related species apart,” Taylor said. “Males run around courting everything that looks remotely like a female, and they place themselves at a very high risk of cannibalism from hungry females of the wrong species who have no interest in mating with them.”

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Neighboring termite colonies re-invade; expose themselves to deadly bait

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Even after an insecticide bait weakens Formosan subterranean termites, a neighboring colony will invade the same area and meet the identical lethal fate, new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences research shows.

The research finding is key for a pest that accounts for much of the $32 billion annual cost caused by subterranean termites worldwide.

“The good news for a homeowner is that as soon as the colony is weakened by baits, the neighboring colony would immediately invade its tunneling system, discover the baits and consume them,” said UF/IFAS entomology professor Nan-Yao Su, co-author of the study. “This always results in the elimination of the invading colony. The results showed that as long as the baits are still present in the bait stations, they will continue to intercept and eliminate incoming colonies.”

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‘Gloom’ and doom when these insects are on hot, dry red maple trees

Topic(s): Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, Forestry, Green Living, IFAS, Landscaping, Pests, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — They are known as gloomy scales, and these insects can make a red maple tree’s life downright dreary. This is because the arthropods feed and thrive on them, especially in warm and dry urban landscapes, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.

Melanaspis tenebricosa, or gloomy scale insects, reproduce more, especially when the trees they live on are under the stress of heat and drought, according to new study led by UF/IFAS entomology assistant professor Adam Dale.

Dale’s new research is important as residents and urban landscapers decide when and where to plant red maple trees, which are native and widely distributed in North America from Florida to Canada and whose canopy helps cool urban areas.

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Repellant could keep dangerous beetles away from avocado trees

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

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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UF/IFAS researchers find potential bugs to eat invasive cogongrass

Topic(s): Biocontrols, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Forestry, Invasive Species, Pests, Research

Please see caption below story.

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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