GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As we inch closer to summer and its inevitable rain, we also head toward mosquito egg-laying season. And as we do, Florida mosquito control officials may learn to emulate Pinellas County’s mosquito-borne disease surveillance program and its response to a West Nile virus outbreak in 2005, a University of Florida entomologist says.
“They have a top-notch mosquito surveillance program in Pinellas County,” said Professor Jonathan Day, a faculty member at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “That’s the model that we always go back to. They averted a much larger West Nile epidemic in 2005.”
Day will speak April 26 at the Southwest Regional Workshop on Arboviral Surveillance in Lehigh Acres, Florida. The workshop is organized by the Florida Mosquito Control Association and FMEL, and participants will analyze the 2011 and 2015 South Florida surveillance data regarding mosquito-borne viruses.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A mosquito species that’s very abundant in the Southeast may play a more significant role in transmitting Eastern equine encephalitis than originally thought, according to a University of Florida scientist.
Nathan Burkett-Cadena, an assistant professor of entomology at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, helped investigate the role of the mosquito species known as Culex erraticus and Culista melanura, the latter of which is most commonly associated with spreading the potentially lethal virus.
“Our study shows us how a mosquito that is a relatively poor transmitter of the virus can actually have a huge impact on human health, due to its overwhelming abundance,” Burkett-Cadena said.
The study, published recently online in the Journal of Medical Entomology, was led by Thomas Unnasch, distinguished professor of global health at the University of South Florida.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Just as the Zika virus is causing concern worldwide, a University of Florida insect specialist with 36 years of experience at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory has been named the lab’s new director.
Professor Jorge Rey started at FMEL, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, in 1979, the year the Vero Beach, Florida, lab came under UF’s umbrella. He moved up the faculty ranks from research scientist to professor in 1994 and was named interim director last year. Now, he’s the lab director, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
“With his many years of top-quality research and his time as interim director of the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, Dr. Rey has earned the respect of the lab’s faculty members. Thus, he’s an ideal fit as director,” Payne said. “Dr. Rey is well-positioned to lead the FMEL scientists to new heights in research and Extension as we continue to look for solutions to mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and Zika.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher will return to Brazil to study the ability of two mosquito species to transmit the Zika virus.
The yellow fever mosquito – Aedes aegypti – and the Asian tiger mosquito – Aedes albopictus – are considered the main culprits behind the transmission of chikungunya, dengue and zika viruses.
Among other outcomes, this work will provide real-time information about the involvement of the Asian tiger mosquito in the outbreak, as most scientists are focusing on involvement of the yellow fever mosquito, said Chelsea Smartt, UF/IFAS associate professor at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach, Florida. Information gathered by Smartt and her colleagues would improve the ability of mosquito control officials to respond to these viruses ahead of human cases.
“This would aid disease control efforts by being able to detect the virus ahead of human cases,” she said.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If your child loves bugs, it’s time to register for the seventh annual UF Entomology Field Camp organized by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Whether your child craves the critters for their creepiness or is beginning to develop a “Big Bang Theory”-like interest in insects as a potential field of study – or is somewhere in between — he or she may well enjoy the experience. Many campers return year after year, organizers say. This year’s camp has been dubbed the “Bug Club.”
The camp, open to rising fifth through ninth-graders, is held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., daily from June 20-24, at the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department at Steinmetz Hall on the UF campus. This year, organizers plan to include more insect-collecting trips, weather permitting, said Rebecca Baldwin, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of entomology.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Mowing less frequently along Florida’s highways boosts pollinator and wildflower biodiversity and would likely save money on gasoline and manpower, new University of Florida research shows.
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are studying how to preserve pollinators and wildflowers along the state’s roadsides. Pollinators visit flowers, searching for food in the forms of nectar and pollen. During flower visits, pollinators may deposit pollen from a different flower. The plant uses the pollen to produce a fruit or seed. Many plants cannot reproduce without pollen carried to them by foraging pollinators.
The best-known pollinators are bees, but UF/IFAS researchers are studying butterflies as roadside pollinators. Among their other benefits, butterflies serve as indicator organisms. They signal when environmental changes are affecting ecosystems before the effects are apparent to humans or many other organisms, said Jaret Daniels, a UF/IFAS associate professor of entomology.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Want to know how to differentiate between an Asian tiger mosquito and a yellow fever mosquito? Such knowledge may be worth your while because both mosquito species can transmit dangerous viruses such as chikungunya, dengue and zika if they bite you.
Students learn to identify mosquito species during a mosquito identification course being held now and in April at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory (FMEL), a Vero Beach facility and part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
There are about 80 species in Florida; approximately 150 nationally and more than 3,500 globally, said Roxanne Connelly, a UF/IFAS Extension entomology professor and instructor for the courses. Connelly teaches identification of the adult mosquitoes, and Nathan Burkett-Cadena, an assistant professor at the UF/IFAS facility, teaches identification of larval mosquitoes.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Plant Diagnostic Center will help shed light on potentially devastating plant diseases at the 4th National Meeting of the National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN) in Washington, D.C.
Held every three to four years, this year’s conference will take place March 8 to 12 in the nation’s capital.
Among those representing UF will be Jason Smith, a UF/IFAS associate professor of forest pathology. Smith’s topic is titled, “Holy Guacamole: Insights into the Emerging Laurel Wilt Pandemic.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Figure this: Asian and Formosan subterranean termites cause about $32 billion in damage annually, worldwide, when you combine harm to structures and measures to control them. Now, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers predict these pests will dramatically increase their impact in the next two decades in South Florida and possibly across the nation.
In fact, UF/IFAS entomologists estimate subterranean termite activity will expand, meaning half the structures in South Florida will be at risk of infestation by subterranean termites by 2040.
Assistant Researcher Thomas Chouvenc, Distinguished Professor Nan-Yao Su and Professor Rudy Scheffrahn will publish their new study in June in the journal Florida Entomologist.
Six invasive termite species are now established in Florida, and among these, the Formosan subterranean termite, the Asian subterranean termite and the West Indian drywood termite pose particular concern for residents and the pest-control industry because they cause most of the structural damage.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With public concern about Zika, UF/IFAS Extension is giving tips on how to avoid contracting the virus.
Although the Zika virus is circulating in Central and South America and the Caribbean, currently, there is no evidence that local populations of Florida mosquitoes are infected. However, we need to be prepared and vigilant in case local transmission occurs, said Jorge Rey, professor and interim director of the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory (FMEL), in Vero Beach Florida.
Roxanne Connelly, an Extension medical entomology specialist with FMEL, part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, says:
- People need to do all they can to manage the mosquitoes most likely to be involved in Zika virus transmission in Florida if the virus shows up in local mosquitoes. These mosquitoes are among those known as “container mosquitoes” specifically, the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, and the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus.
- Initial measures include getting rid of containers in your yard or outside your business, because they collect water and become perfect habitats for immature stages of these mosquito species. These include tires, wheel barrows, potted plants that sit on saucers, cans, bottles and more. You should inspect your yard weekly to make sure you don’t have any containers. Bromeliad plants and bird baths also can house container mosquitoes, Connelly said. For these types of mosquito habitats, they can be flushed with clean water weekly, or can be treated with mosquito-specific Bti granules (Mosquito Dunks or Mosquito Bits).
- Inspect windows and doors for hole and tears and repair them to exclude mosquitoes.
- Mosquito repellents should be used when people plan to be outdoors at the time mosquitoes are biting. The longest lasting repellents contain DEET and picaridin. Whatever type of repellant you use, read the label to make sure you’re putting on a product registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.