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PPQ Delivers Tiny Wasps to Combat Spiking Asian Citrus Psyllid Populations

By Heather Curlett, APHIS PPQ

When Hurricane Maria thrashed the Caribbean island of Dominica last September, the storm killed dozens of people and devastated the country’s infrastructure. Adding to the misery, plant pest populations exploded after the storm passed. These insects included the Asian citrus psyllid, which spreads the citrus-killing disease Huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening. Because citrus is an economically important crop for the country, Dominica’s agriculture ministry reached out to USDA’s Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) program for help. Continue reading

Natural enemy suppresses kudzu bug population

By Julie Jernigan, University of Georgia

A tiny wasp — known as “Paratelenomus saccharalis” — is cutting down kudzu bug populations and Georgia soybean farmers’ need to treat for the pest, according to Michael Toews, a University of Georgia entomologist based on the UGA Tifton campus.

The wasp, an egg parasitoid and natural enemy of the kudzu bug, is saving soybean farmers time and money. Continue reading

UGA CAES team researching whiteflies statewide

By Clint Thompson, University of Georgia

Silverleaf whiteflies devastated Georgia’s cotton and fall vegetable crops last year. In response to this crisis, a team of University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences research and UGA Cooperative Extension specialists is studying the pests statewide to help cotton and vegetable farmers avoid another year of disappointing crops.

“Teams are an important part of UGA. Many of the issues agriculturists face today require a collection of scientists from differing disciplines with differing expertise to address complex issues. The silverleaf whitefly fits the bill here,” said Phillip Roberts, UGA Extension cotton and soybean entomologist and Whitefly Team member. “Not only are whiteflies a direct pest of plants as a result of feeding, but they also transmit several viruses to vegetables that can have a devastating effect on virus-susceptible crops.” Continue reading

New biopesticide available for bollworms and budworms

A host-specific virus is being used to control bollworms and budworms in Arkansas crops.

Helicoverpa nucleopolyhedrovirus, or just NPV, does not affect humans, plants or other insects, including those that are beneficial. Continue reading

Biological Sciences Technician for Emerald Ash Borer Biological Control Facility

Emerald Ash Borer Biological Control Rearing Facility is looking for a biological sciences technician to support research on emerald ash borer and the natural enemies (parasitoid wasps) that are being reared for release to control this invasive insect.  Research will concentrate on three areas: optimizing rearing production, production of EAB eggs and natural enemies to support field research, and evaluating the establishment of natural enemies throughout the U.S. The position will involve mostly laboratory work but will include trips to the field to collect ash logs and foliage for feeding the beetles. The incumbent will work at the EAB Biocontrol Laboratory in Brighton, MI, but this position is administered by North Carolina State University under a cooperative agreement.

The position is expected to be filled for several years at approximately $41,000 per year.  The incumbent will do the following:

1)     Assist the Emerald Ash Borer Rearing facility in producing EAB natural enemies and EAB eggs for use by researchers in the field.  This will include all aspects of rearing (e.g. rearing EAB adults and collecting eggs, cutting logs, infesting logs with eggs, caring for the natural enemy colonies, etc.).

2)     Process yellow pan trap samples collected by cooperators throughout the country. The incumbent will receive and record yellow pan trap samples and store them for future processing.  The incumbent will learn how to identify EAB natural enemies, go through the samples and collect all suspect EAB natural enemies, and ship potential specimens for positive identification.

3)     Conduct rearing studies to optimize storage of parasitoids. These studies will be designed by an APHIS Science and Technology scientist and the EAB Rearing Facility director. The incumbent will follow experimental protocols and collect and summarize data.

Please send an email with a cover letter and resume to Benjamin.h.slager@aphis.usda.gov

If they have questions about the position they can contact Ben at 810-844-2704.

Periodic charts bring new meaning to Texas A&M wildlife researcher, others

by Steve Byrnes, Texas A&M AgriLife

To many of us, the mere mention of a “periodic table” conjures up pop quizzes, dread and the queasiness associated with past ninth grade chemistry classes dealing with the famous element chart, but to a Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist and his colleagues, the term has taken on a whole new meaning.

Dr. Kirk Winemiller and doctoral students Dan Fitzgerald and Luke Bower, scientists within the department of wildlife and fisheries sciences at Texas A&M University, College Station, and Dr. Eric Pianka, ecologist at the University of Texas, Austin, published a paper two years ago in the journal Ecology Letters, that proposed a rationale for periodic tables of niches and offered ways to create them. Continue reading

Collaring the Mice that Carry Lyme Disease-Causing Ticks

White-footed mice in Howard County, Maryland are being collared as part of a study to improve control of the ticks that spread Lyme disease. The mouse collaring research, never before done in Maryland, is a partnership of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks (HCRP), and University of Maryland (UMD).

The mouse tracking is part of a larger five-year ARS Tick Management Project evaluating the use of minimal pesticide or integrated pest management methods to lower the number of black-legged ticks. Some of those ticks carry Lyme disease-causing bacteria and are around single-family yards and gardens adjacent to large Howard County parks. Continue reading