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IFAS News

University of Florida

How teachers and parents can help budding bug enthusiasts

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

A green grasshopper resembling a leaf standing on pavement.  Insects and bugs.  UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Do you know kids who can’t get enough of spiders, crickets and lightning bugs? Do they keep creepy-crawly things in glass jars in their bedroom?

They might just want to grow up to be an entomologist, a fancy word for a person who studies insects. The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is here to help your budding bug enthusiast follow their passion with a host of activities featured during Bug Week 2015, taking place May 18-23. (more …)

UF/IFAS termite pioneer selected for inventors hall of fame

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Entomology and Nematology, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

TERMITES2 Nan-Yao Su 022415

Nan-Yao Su

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Nan-Yao Su, the University of Florida scientist who invented the Sentricon® system for termite colony elimination, has been selected for induction into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame.

Sentricon®, the first commercial baiting product for subterranean termites, has protected millions of structures, including the White House and the Statue of Liberty.

The Hall of Fame selection committee chose nominees whose inventions and achievements have “advanced the quality of life for Floridians, our state and our nation,” according to a letter to Su from hall of fame Program Manager William Nikolic.

Su said he feels honored to be mentioned alongside such great inventors as Thomas Edison and UF’s own Robert Cade, who invented Gatorade®.

“I am glad that I can contribute to the quality of life of many homeowners in Florida and worldwide,” Su said.

(more …)

UF/IFAS grad student wins prize for mosquito trap research

Topic(s): Announcements, CALS, Entomology and Nematology, IFAS, Pests, Research

Casey Parker Environmental Portrait Mosquito Housing

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Casey Parker came to the University of Florida aspiring to be a pharmacist. But chemistry wasn’t for her. So, she took a class called “Bugs and People,” and the professor at the time, Carl Barfield, convinced her to study entomology.

“I loved everything about it,” Parker said of studying insects. “It’s something people don’t think about very much. They’re around, but we don’t think, ‘they do so many crazy things in our world.’ They transmit tons of diseases that affect humans and animals.”

Parker did so well academically that she graduated last year and continued her master’s studies at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Department of Entomology and Nematology. The graduate entomology student recently won the ONE WORLD competition, organized by the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Challenge 2050 Project in conjunction with the Syngenta Good Growth Plan. She was awarded $2,000 for her work.

“I was really honored,” Parker said, adding that she felt humbled to be among the other five student finalists – dubbed “The Solution 6” — all of whom created outstanding innovations.

(more …)

Eighth annual UF Bee College event returns March 6-7

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Families and Consumers

A bee on a sunflower.  Helianthus annuus, annuals, honey bees, insects, pollination.  UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s sweetest event for all things honey bee is set for March 6-7, University of Florida officials announced this week.

The University of Florida’s Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory has organized and hosted the UF Bee College since 2008 for hobbyists, professionals and anyone interested in maintaining a healthy honey bee population. The event will be held at the UF Whitney Marine Laboratory in Marineland, Fla. (more …)

UF/IFAS expert to help Australians try to control diseases transmitted by invasive mosquitoes

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

LOUNIBOS 020915

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida scientist recognized as a global expert on invasive mosquitoes will head to Australia in March to work with researchers to combat public health threats common to Florida and Queensland, Australia, such as chikungunya and dengue fever.

Phil Lounibos, an entomology professor at UF/IFAS’ Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach, has been awarded a Fulbright Specialist grant to give a series of lectures and to host seminars Down Under.

The mosquitoes that transmit chikungunya and dengue fever to humans are Aedes aegypti – sometimes referred to as the yellow fever mosquito ─ and Aedes albopictussometimes called the Asian tiger mosquito. Aedes aegypti, native to Africa, has lived in eastern Australia for more than 150 years, after arriving on sailing vessels, but is becoming less of a public health threat in parts of Queensland thanks to a novel experimental control method.

Aedes albopictus successfully colonized Florida more than 30 years ago but has not yet established itself in mainland Australia. Lounibos, a leading expert on the ecology of these two mosquito species, will bring his research-based knowledge, which has helped explain how the Asian tiger reduced the range and abundance of the yellow fever mosquito in Florida.

“We hope collaboration and knowledge from studying interactions between these species in Florida will help Australian scientists limit consequences from a feared invasion by the Asian Tiger Mosquito from the Torres Strait,” he said. The Torres Strait lies between mainland Australia and New Guinea.

The program will also benefit Florida, where several mosquito control districts are considering releasing genetically modified yellow fever mosquitoes for dengue prevention. The Eliminate Dengue Program, based in Cairns, Australia, is pioneering a non-GMO genetic control technique that causes mosquitoes of this species to become dengue-resistant by mating with released mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia, a type of bacteria.

Because of their extensive coastlines ─ which makes both areas vulnerable to the arrival of exotic animals and plants on boats and ships ─ Florida and Queensland, Australia are threatened by many invasive species, including the two mosquito species that transmit dengue and chikungunya.

In the past few years, the lay public and scientists have shifted their interest in mosquito ecology from salt marsh mosquitoes ─ major pests of the densely populated coasts of both regions ─ to invasive mosquito vectors of arboviruses, such as dengue and chikungunya.

Outbreaks of dengue fever occur regularly in northern Queensland and occasionally in South Florida, and the establishment of chikungunya in the Caribbean in late 2013 led to at least 10 cases of local transmission of this virus n Florida in 2014, Lounibos said.

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Cutline: UF/IFAS entomology professor Phil Lounibos checks for larvae of the invasive Aedes albopictus in water-holding tires used for surveillance on the grounds of the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach.

Credit: UF/IFAS file photo by Marisol Amador

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

Source: Phil Lounibos, 772-778-7200, ext. 146, lounibos@ufl.edu

New UF/IFAS entomology chair coming from Nebraska

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

Honors Convocation Teachers Awards

Siegfried

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – An internationally renowned insect scientist with expertise in safe and sustainable pest management has been appointed to lead the UF/IFAS Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Blair Siegfried, a professor of entomology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, will start at UF/IFAS on Sept. 1. He said his interest in the UF/IFAS position is based on an interest in pursuing new challenges and opportunities.

“I am extremely excited by the opportunity to work with an outstanding group of scientists and personnel from the entomology and nematology department and to build relationships with other units from the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and broader campus,” Siegfried said.

Jack Payne, UF senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources, said Siegfried provides the background necessary to lead the UF/IFAS entomology program to new heights.

“People in Florida and, indeed around the world, need pest-control solutions as they impact homeowners and all aspects of agriculture and the environment,” Payne said. “Dr. Siegfried is well-positioned to steer UF/IFAS educational, research and Extension programs to help solve global entomological issues.”

(more …)

UF/IFAS citizen science project abuzz over bees, wasps

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

bees wasps citizen science1 120414

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Citizen scientists around the world are busy as bees for a University of Florida study.

A global movement called “citizen science” is gaining traction, as scientists give lay people protocols so they can collect valid data.

In this case, participants build and monitor artificial nesting habitats suitable for solitary bees and wasps. Many bees and wasps live in social colonies. Solitary ones keep to themselves and nest in tunnels.

Among methods used to build homes for the bees and wasps, participants drilled holes in wood, rock, cement or clay while others provided bamboo stems or other hollow tubes.

Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers used social media and websites to enroll and train citizen scientists for the project. Between April 2012 and July 2014, 655 people from 30 Florida counties, 39 states and 11 countries, including the U.S., Canada, Spain and Switzerland, registered for the Native Buzz project at www.ufnativebuzz.com to participate in the project.

During the first two years of the study, residents built 10,657 potential nests from various materials. Participants monitored their nest sites weekly to see if bees and wasps established nests in the available materials.

Results showed citizen scientists can build and monitor artificial nesting habitats for bees and wasps, a process that helps entomologists collect bee and wasp nesting data from a large geographic range.

(more …)

UF/IFAS mosquito-feeding study may help stem dangerous viruses

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, RECs, Research, Safety

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Mosquitoes bite male birds nearly twice as often as they bite females, a finding that may help scientists understand how to stem some viruses from spreading to humans, new University of Florida research shows.

In findings published online today in Royal Society Open Science, UF entomology assistant professor Nathan Burkett-Cadena found mosquitoes bite male birds 64 percent of the time, compared to 36 percent for females.

This marks the first step for scientists to try to determine why mosquitoes bite men more often than women in some parts of the world and vice versa in other areas, said Burkett-Cadena, who is based at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach.

“Understanding why mosquitoes bite males more often than females may lead to novel strategies for interrupting disease transmission,” said Burkett-Cadena, an Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty member.

(more …)

Climate, genetics can affect how long virus-carrying mosquitoes live

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Pests, RECs, Research

Culex-emerging--wUFc

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It’s just math: The longer a mosquito lives, the better its odds of transmitting disease to humans or animals.

But as it turns out, factors such as the mosquito’s own genetics and the climate it lives in have a big – albeit complicated and not wholly understood – role to play in its lifespan.

University of Florida researchers, hoping to better understand how West Nile virus affects mosquitoes, set up an experiment they outline in the Journal of Vector Ecology’s current issue.

Mosquitoes can transmit any number of pathogens to humans, including protozoan malaria, West Nile, dengue and chikungunya viruses. Malaria cases range between 350 million and 500 million each year, with 1 million to 3 million deaths every year.

In the experiment, UF researchers examined survival rates for mosquitoes from two laboratory-reared colonies, one from Gainesville and one from Vero Beach.

Half of each of the mosquito colonies was fed West Nile virus-infected blood, the other half kept as a control population, and fed blood without the virus.

They divided the groups once more, this time keeping the mosquitoes at two temperatures, one group at 80.6 degrees, the other at 87.8 degrees Fahrenheit – a rather large difference in temperature for cold-blooded insects.

Their findings were both unexpected and illuminating, said Barry Alto, a UF assistant professor of arbovirology based at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach.

“Our results indicate that interactions between mosquitoes and arboviruses are really complex … these things that haven’t really been taken into account previously might make a difference,” said Alto, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The researchers found that warmer temperature shortened survival.  Also, for the most part, the Vero Beach mosquitoes lived longer than those from Gainesville, indicating that some groups, or strains, of mosquitoes might just be genetically hardier than others.

They found that in general, the mosquitoes fared better at cooler temperatures.

But they also found that the West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes from Gainesville fared worse than their counterparts at the hotter temperatures, and to their surprise, that the Vero Beach-bred mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus lived longer than all other groups at the cooler temperature, including control-group mosquitoes not exposed to the virus.

Ingesting virus-infected blood may take a toll on the mosquito’s health, Alto said, but it’s clear that other factors: immune response, genetics and the environment, are also at play and need more study.

“It’s quite complex, there’s a lot of stuff going on here,” Alto said. “But I think the take-home  message is that these viruses, when they’re in mosquitoes, not only can they alter parameters like survivorship that are really important to disease transmission, but they can alter them in non-intuitive ways — sometimes enhancing, sometimes decreasing survivorship, and that those situations arise when you start considering other factors of the environment, like temperature.”

Adding to scientists’ knowledge base of how disease affects insects is key to finding the best ways to limit its spread, Alto said.

“In the most general sense, in order for humans to control disease, we really need to know how the mosquito interacts with these viruses,” he said. “In the absence of a human vaccine, the best way to control any sort of mosquito-borne virus is to control the mosquito. Simply put, if the mosquito doesn’t bite you, you’re not going to get the pathogen.”

Besides Alto, the research team included Stephanie Richards, an assistant professor at East Carolina University; Sheri Anderson, a former graduate student at the Florida Medical Entomology Lab and Cynthia Lord, an associate professor in modeling of vector-borne disease transmission, also of the FMEL. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and UF/IFAS.

Contacts:

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Who’s fooling who? Species communicate, ‘eavesdrop’ and play tricks near infected trees

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Four species communicate with and sometimes trick each other around a scent produced by greening-infected citrus trees, a new University of Florida study finds.

Communication between species is common but almost always is described between two or three species, said Lukasz Stelinski, associate professor of entomology and nematology at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.

Stelinski wanted know how a fourth species, in this case, a wasp, would vary this interaction ─  a probe that may be one of the few cases where species at four levels of the food chain use one odor to communicate with, and exploit, each other.

(more …)

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