News, Publications, Apps, & More
Honey Bee Diseases Threaten Bumblebees
Entomologists in Austria and England have mapped the distribution of honey bees and bumble bees affected by the disease, deformed wing virus (DWV), and found that the occurrence of this disease overlaps between the two species. The results, published in Nature, suggest that the disease is being spread by honey bees, perhaps during foraging on flowers. Bumble bees infected with DWV are impacted more significantly than honey bees, and have a 6-day shorter life span. The study, underlines the importance of threatened wild pollinators, including bumblebees, which are estimated to provide $3 billion in pollination services to crops such as tomato, blueberry, melon, soybean, cucumber, squash, apple, peach, and bell pepper in the U.S.
Agriculture Pest Control Option Used on Stored-Food Pests
Mating disruption, used for decades against certain crop pests, is now available for stored-food moths. Mating disruption works by mimicking the female pheromone used to attract males for mating. Dispensers are attached to small hooks on walls and inside cabinets. Males are attracted to the dispensers and are unable to find females, delaying or preventing mating. The product, called Moth Disruption System, is manufactured and sold by Rentokil. It is currently available in the UK and unknown when it will be available in the U.S.
Pesticide Resistance on the Increase
The recorded cases of resistance in insects, mites and other arthropods, which include resistance to multiple pesticides per species, more than doubled between 1990 and 2013, from 5,141 to 11,254. To date, resistance to pesticides has been recorded in more than 500 insects, 218 weeds, and 190 fungi that attack plants. In the past, there has been confusion about the occurrence and severity of resistance due to lack of standardization in terms defining resistance. Authors of a recent Journal of Economic Entomology paper say that a new glossary of updated definitions is needed to clear confusion between scientists, industry, and government on the multitude of resistance levels.
Finding Value in Stink Bug Spit
As stink bugs feed, a toxin in their saliva damages plant tissue. Researchers from the Department of Entomology at Penn State reported in PLoS One that, for the first time, they have characterized the saliva of stink bugs, in particular the brown marmorated stink bug. They identified proteins from two types of saliva: watery saliva and sheath saliva. Water saliva helps stink bugs to digest their food while sheath saliva surrounds stink bugs' mouthparts and hardens to prevent spillage of sap during feeding. The interaction between the sheath saliva and the plant is what causes injury to crops. By understanding the specific details of feeding and the damage it causes, researchers can begin to develop targeted control methods for these pests.
Plant-Speak May Control Insects
Christer Lãfstedt, a chemical ecologist at Lund University in Sweden, and his team, have devised a method that enables them to produce pheromones from plants themselves, a safer and potentially more economical approach than producing pheromones from insects. This breakthrough technology involves extracting components from genetically modified plants. The researchers used GM tobacco plants to produce pheromones for two ermine moth species, and then tested them against synthetically-produced pheromones in traps. The plant-derived pheromone traps attracted about half as many moths as the synthetic pheromone traps, which was better than expected. This technology would engineer plants for both synthesis and sustainable release of insect pheromones, bypassing the need to produce the compounds in the laboratory using harmful compounds.
The Key to Reducing Pest Resistance to Bt Crops
Increased use of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) crops has prompted concern that pests will develop resistance to the proteins in the plants that kill them, making Bt plants ineffective. Research by Cornell University entomologists has demonstrated the first example of a predator being able to delay the evolution of resistance in an insect pest to a Bt crop. In particular, they looked at lady beetles and showed that they can reduce the number of potentially resistant diamondback moth pests in the population. The ability to slow pest resistance would significantly increase plant production, as well as relieve pressure off of the GM plant industry.
Farm Worker Protection Standards to be Updated
The EPA, in February 2014, released the first proposed update to the Farm Worker Protection Standards in 20 years. The WPS protects farm workers from pesticide exposure through training and application requirements. The update proposes a revised training program that is required every year rather than every 5 years. Other updates include requiring posting of no-entry after spraying, setting a minimum age of pesticide applicators to 16, and expanding no-entry buffer areas around pesticide-free zones to farms and forests. The EPA did not announce when the new standards would be implemented.