IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS researchers head to Cuba for scientific exchange to benefit Florida agriculture

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

Bill Messina, agricultural economist with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, surveyes a map of Cuban farming areas, Tuesday 3/24, that could compete with Florida producers if and when the United States trade embargo against Cuba is lifted. During the past four years, he has led a team of UF researchers working with the University of Havana to study the economic impact of lifting the embargo.   Photography by, Thomas Wright  UF/IFAS

Please see caption below story.

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.

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Screwworm life cycle and habits contribute to insect’s threat, UF experts say

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, CALS, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Livestock, Pests, Research
A cow grazing in a beef cattle pasure at the Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona, Florida.

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 …)

‘Come home’ to UF-UF/IFAS Agriculture and Gardening Day, Oct. 15

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

ag-and-gardening-day-101016

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Agriculture and natural resources interests are invited to come home to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and see some informative exhibits during Agriculture and Gardening Day Oct. 15, outside The Swamp.

“Come home” because it’s homecoming weekend at UF, and the Gators are playing the Missouri Tigers. People affiliated with agriculture and natural resources have bought discounted tickets to the football game.

Before kickoff, those parties can view a display from UF/IFAS, which will feature information about the organization’s three arms: education, research and Extension.

There will also be displays from the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department, said Ruth Borger, UF/IFAS assistant vice president for communications. Those exhibits include a bug zoo at which you can pet a roach, if that tickles your fancy. The department also will bring microscopes so you can view nematodes.

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New UF/IFAS document profiles destructive screwworm fly recently detected in Florida Keys

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Livestock, Pests

screwworm

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — To educate Florida agricultural producers, livestock owners, pet owners and concerned residents about the destructive screwworm fly recently detected in the Florida Keys, experts with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have published a profile on the insect, available online at http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/livestock/primary_screwworm.htm.

The free resource provides a scientific overview of Cochliomiya hominivorax, commonly known as the primary screwworm fly or New World screwworm fly, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. The species was a major challenge for Florida ranchers until the late 1950s, when it was eradicated from the state with controlled releases of sterile male flies.

“Since the announcement earlier this week that this pest had re-emerged, we’ve had people working virtually around the clock to get accurate information to producers, pet owners and the public – this document is yet another example of UF/IFAS at work,” Payne said. “Knowledge is power, and state residents can aid the eradication effort by learning to recognize the symptoms of infection.”

A member of the blow fly family Calliphoridae, the primary screwworm fly is a threat to warm-blooded animals, including people, because its larvae feed on living tissue to develop, said Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman, an associate Extension scientist with the UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department and one of the profile’s authors.

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Florida residents should be vigilant for signs of screwworm on livestock and pets, UF experts say

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Livestock, Pests
Adult horses grazing in a pasture at the Horse Teaching Unit.

Adult horses grazing in a pasture at the Horse Teaching Unit.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Screwworms infecting wild deer in the Florida Keys have captured headlines, and experts with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine say livestock and pet owners in Peninsular Florida should keep a watchful eye for signs of infection in their animals, to aid in the eradication effort.

Florida residents who own cattle, horses, goats, sheep, dogs, cats, poultry, exotic birds or other warm-blooded animals should know the symptoms animals exhibit when infected by the larvae of the New World screwworm fly, said Jack Payne, Ph.D., UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“We have every reason to believe that the current outbreak will be contained and eradicated,” Payne said. “Our UF/IFAS Extension Monroe County office is doing a terrific job of informing residents and interfacing with all the key players, there are relatively few livestock animals in the Keys, and the eradication effort uses proven, effective methods. Having said all that, we need state residents to provide an extra measure of protection, just by observing their animals.”

James Lloyd, D.V.M., Ph.D., dean of the UF veterinary college, explained that screwworm infestations occur when an adult female screwworm flies lays eggs on an open wound or mucous membranes in a warm-blooded animal. When the eggs hatch, screwworm larvae burrow into the host animal’s flesh to feed. Infestations can strike otherwise healthy animals, he noted.

“The symptoms of a screwworm infestation might include a festering wound or sore or an unexplained lump under the skin, particularly if there’s a discharge or foul smell associated with it,” Lloyd said. “Also, you may observe fly larvae on the animal or in its quarters.”

Any animal with a suspected screwworm infection should be evaluated by a veterinarian immediately, said Wendy Mandese, a clinical assistant professor with the UF veterinary college’s Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences.

“Open wounds and unexplained lumps can indicate serious health issues other than screwworm infection, so the key point is to get treatment for the animal as soon as possible,” Mandese said.

Time is of the essence from an entomological perspective as well as a veterinary one, because delayed treatment gives screwworm larvae more time to develop and cause damage to the host animals, said veterinary entomologist Phil Kaufman, an associate professor with the UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department.

“The pest we’re talking about, the New World screwworm fly, Cochliomiya hominivorax, is not something you can ignore, because there’s no such thing as a tolerable infestation,” Kaufman said. “The larvae of this species consume healthy tissue – they create wounds. They are also capable of burrowing deep into the host’s body tissues to reach previously uninfected areas. Untreated cases can lead to death within a matter of weeks, maybe less.”

Clinical treatment of infected animals typically involves application of medication to the animal’s wounds to kill the larvae, larvae removal, administration of antibiotics and general supportive care, Mandese said.

“When caught in time, screwworm infections are treatable,” she said. “Even if it turns out your animal has a different health issue, immediate attention is appropriate for any unusual wound, sore or persistent discomfort you notice in a pet or livestock animal.”

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Contacts

Writer: Tom Nordlie, 352-273-3567, tnordlie@ufl.edu

Sources: For interview requests, please contact Tom Nordlie at 352-273-3567 or after hours at  352-375-1415 or tnordlie@ufl.edu, or contact Sarah Carey at 352-294-4242 or careysk@ufl.edu or after hours at 352-273-5810

UF experts addressing outbreak of New World screwworm fly in Florida Keys

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Livestock, Pests

screwworm-larva

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Responding to the announcement yesterday that the New World screwworm fly has been detected in Florida for the first time in a half-century, experts with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and College of Veterinary Medicine are taking steps to educate ranchers, property owners and residents about the pest, and assist in eradication efforts in the Florida Keys, where the fly’s larvae were found infesting wild deer.

Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, noted that the outbreak appears to be limited to a small area but affirmed that strong, immediate action is needed to manage the outbreak and resolve the situation. He confirmed that UF/IFAS personnel will be assisting colleagues with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which made the initial announcement in a news release found at http://www.freshfromflorida.com/News-Events/Press-Releases/2016-Press-Releases/USDA-Confirms-New-World-Screwworm-Cases-in-Big-Pine-Key.

“Florida producers know all too well that we can almost never completely rule out the reappearance of pests and pathogens that were believed to be eradicated,” Payne said. “The good news is, UF/IFAS has dealt with this kind of unexpected crisis before and we’re already fully engaged in this effort.”

James Lloyd, D.V.M., Ph.D., dean of the UF College of Veterinary Medicine echoed Payne’s sentiments and noted that a member of the college’s faculty, parasitologist Heather Walden, was involved in confirming the initial identification of specimens collected from infected deer.

“There’s no cause for alarm, but we are very concerned because the New World screwworm fly, historically, was one of the most serious pests affecting Florida livestock production,” Lloyd said. He added that no screwworm cases have been reported in livestock or people as part of this outbreak.

Known scientifically as Cochliomiya hominivorax, the New World screwworm fly is a significant pest of domestic animals, wildlife and even people in areas where the insect is well-established. It has not been widely present in the U.S. since the 1960s but is still found in most of South America and in five Caribbean countries.

Adult females lay eggs on open wounds or mucous membranes in live warm-blooded animals, and the fly’s larvae consume flesh from the host, which can lead to disability or death. The fly is not considered a serious vector for pathogens, but tissue damage caused by larvae can make affected animals more susceptible to opportunistic infections.

Payne noted that entomologists are preparing a background document for the UF/IFAS online library, the Electronic Data Information Source, or EDIS. When completed and posted later this week, the document will detail the appearance, life cycle, habits, and ecology of the New World screwworm fly.

Extension personnel are being informed about the screwworm outbreak and information on management will be distributed to UF/IFAS Extension county offices statewide, so that Extension personnel can address concerns from ranchers, livestock owners and concerned residents.

Numerous faculty members with UF/IFAS academic departments and Extension offices, and clinical faculty with the UF College of Veterinary Medicine are working on the situation and are potentially available for interviews with reporters, as their schedules allow.

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Contacts

Writer: Tom Nordlie, 352-273-3567, tnordlie@ufl.edu

Sources: For interview requests, please contact Tom Nordlie at 352-273-3567 or after hours at  352-375-1415 or tnordlie@ufl.edu, or contact Sarah Carey at 352-294-4242 or careysk@ufl.edu or after hours at 352-273-5810

 

Photo by Heather Walden, UF College of Veterinary Medicine

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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