Researchers Learn to Remotely Control Cockroaches

Researchers from NC State have developed a technique that uses an electronic interface to remotely control, or steer, cockroaches.

“Our aim was to determine whether we could create a wireless biological interface with cockroaches, which are robust and able to infiltrate small spaces,” says Alper Bozkurt, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and co-author of a paper on the work.

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Halyburton to pull nonnative mimosa trees

Several dozen mimosa trees, a non-native invasive species, have taken root in Wilmington’s Halyburton Park and will be removed during the coming months, according to park officials.

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Fifty Years of Silent Spring: Its contribution to IPM

On this date 50 years ago, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published, launching a new awareness about the environment and pesticide use. As many of you have probably already read on the many articles about this subject that have appeared in the past few weeks, her book sparked a hot controversy about the use of pesticides. Many in IPM professions credit her with bringing attention to the concept of integrated pest management.

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Spotted wing Drosophila found in south central Kentucky

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed a spotted wing Drosophila fly was found in south central Kentucky. Originally from Asia, this particular fruit fly species can be destructive to softer skinned fruit. The fly was captured in a University of Kentucky Integrated Pest Management trap in a peach orchard.

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Breakfast program in Lake Worth, TX, schools keeps pests out

Lake Worth Independent School District (ISD) in Lake Worth, Texas has run a successful breakfast program for more than 15 years.  Every morning, kitchen staff prepares bagged breakfasts for students, including juice, milk, crackers, and yogurt or donuts.  The bags are then put inside large plastic totes and placed on carts outside each classroom five to ten minutes before school starts.  After calling roll, the teacher collects the cart from the hallway and distributes the bags.

When children have finished eating, all trash is placed back in the tote and left on a trash cart outside the classroom door.  Custodians collect trash from the hallways, usually no more than an hour or two after breakfast, and take it outside to the dumpster.  According to Jeff Thomas, director of operations and IPM coordinator for Lake Worth ISD, “If the food was left in the classroom trash, it would be an open invitation to any roaches and rodents in the area.”  Ideally, no food or food scraps will be left in the classroom after breakfast.  Any teachers who keep leftover food are required to use airtight containers.  Any beverages are kept in a small refrigerator in each classroom.  Read More

UK researcher receives grant to study biological control’s effectiveness

For many decades, non-native, predatory insects have been released in the United States to decrease or eliminate the impacts of exotic insect pests in crops and gardens. Due to their high population densities and widespread distributions in the United States, some of these predators are now considered invasive species.

A University of Kentucky College of Agriculture scientist is beginning a study to examine the environmental and economic costs of introducing non-native, predatory insects into sustainable agricultural systems with the ultimate goal of making biological control more effective and economical.

The National Science Foundation named Yukie Kajita, research scientist in UK’s Department of Entomology, as a Fellow in their Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability program. The research award provides her with more than $424,500 for the three-year study. Kajita is the only UK researcher to receive this award, and she is one of 20 individuals in the U.S. to be recognized as a Fellow in 2012.

“Despite a long history, classical biological control has not developed as a predictive science, frequently resulting in unexpected ecological and economic costs,” she said.

Kajita’s study specifically focuses on Coccinella septempunctata, more commonly known as the seven-spotted lady beetle. Since the 1950’s, the beetle, native to Europe and Asia, has been released periodically in the United States to control aphids. This beetle is now in all 50 states and considered an invasive species. There are several reports that the densities of native predatory lady beetles have declined and been displaced in North America by the seven-spotted lady beetles.

Since the seven-spotted lady beetles are from several foreign countries, she will work with UK biologist David Weisrock and biology post-doctoral scholar Eric O’Neill to use genetic markers to identify the origin of the beetles that continue to thrive and some of the factors that help them easily adapt to their new environment.

She is partnering with UK agricultural economist Roger Brown to develop a cost-benefit analysis to determine the economic and environmental costs of releasing the seven-spotted lady beetles and to compare these costs to the benefits of reducing the use of insecticides.

Kajita will use the results of the research to develop a course for UK graduate students.  Additionally, in cooperation with Carol Hanley, director of UK’s Environmental and Natural Resource Issues Task Force, she will develop curriculum and teach middle school students at Lexington’s Carter G. Woodson Academy how to conduct hands-on research on this topic.

John Obrycki, chair of the UK Department of Entomology, is Kajita’s mentor for the project.

Contact: Yukie Kajita, 859-257-7450

Writer: Katie Pratt, 859-257-8774

USDA Laboratory, Florida Students Release Beetles to Combat Invasive Vine in Florida

from USDA ARS

By Susan Burgess

DAVIE, Fla., September 21, 2012 — U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists teamed with Broward County students today to release beneficial beetles that are proving to be an effective biological control against the air potato vine, an aggressive, invasive exotic plant that is displacing native plant species and disrupting ecological functions throughout Florida. The event at the Long Key Natural Area and Nature Center was hosted by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the chief intramural scientific research agency of USDA.

Scientists from ARS’ Invasive Plant Research Laboratory (IPRL) at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and the students released air potato leaf beetles (Lilioceris cheni) in an area infested by the vine, and visited a nearby beetle establishment site to observe the beneficial impact of the biocontrol program. Sixteen beetles released on March 1, 2012, produced thousands of offspring which have caused nearly complete defoliation of the plants in the release area.

ARS’ partners in the battle against the air potato vine included the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which funded the project; the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Dade County Department of Environmental Resource Management (DERM), the South Florida Water Management District, and Broward County Parks and Recreation.

Today’s beetle release resulted from ARS research on environmentally friendly ways to combat air potato vine, with support on the final collections of the beetle in southern China by ARS’ Australian Biological Control Laboratory. The vine takes its name from the potato-like aerial formations it produces during late summer. Each of these formations can weigh up to two pounds. The vine has been found in most of the Gulf Coast States, Puerto Rico, and as far north as the Carolinas.

Air potato vine intermingles with important native plant species, so many traditional approaches used to control weeds, such as use of herbicides, aren’t viable options in this case,” said Ted Center, research leader at the Fort Lauderdale lab. “Using a biological control agent such as the air potato leaf beetle specifically targets the invasive vine while giving native plants room to grow and become more competitive. Air potato vines die back in the fall and sprout in the spring, but the beetles are able to survive the winter months without food. We think the overwintering beetles will quickly attack new vine sprouts when they appear in the spring.

Center said the laboratory invited the students to participate in the beetle release to stimulate their interest in nature and biology, and to provide them with a deeper understanding of biological control and its benefit to the environment. This activity supports USDA’s commitment to the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) educational pipeline to help develop the scientists who will be needed in the future to ensure U.S. food security, innovation and agricultural sustainability for years to come.

The ARS laboratory conducts research into the impact of exotic plants as well as the safety and effectiveness of biological control and other methods used to manage invasive plants. The laboratory also collaborates with the public, land management organizations, other government agencies, and the scientific community on all aspects of exotic plant management.

As USDA’s chief scientific research agency, ARS is leading America towards a better future through agricultural research and information. ARS conducts research to develop and transfer solutions to help answer agricultural questions that impact Americans every day. ARS work helps to:

  • ensure high-quality, safe food and other agricultural products;
  • assess the nutritional needs of Americans;
  • sustain a competitive agricultural economy;
  • enhance the natural resource base and the environment, and
  • provide economic opportunities for rural citizens, communities and society as a whole.