UP News Winter 2012

In National News

Parasitic Phorid Fly is a New Threat to Honey Bees

Researchers in California recently determined that a parasitic phorid fly, Apocephalus borealis, previously known to attack bumble bees, also infects and kills honey bees. Flies lay eggs in honey bees, and as the larvae develop, parasitized bees exhibit abnormal behavior, leave their hives at night, and die soon after. The flies are also thought to be a vector or reservoir for the honey bee pathogens Nosema ceranae and deformed wing virus. This discovery, featured in an article published in PLoS ONE, could be important to scientists trying to discover the cause of colony collapse disorder (click here for article).

New Herbicide Oil Tested

Most bioherbicides are essential oils that work by killing the aboveground plant parts, and not the roots. And few have any residual activity. Manuka oil seems to be an exception. It was tested by USDA Agriculture Research Service biologists on several broadleaf and grass weeds. Not only did they find good above ground plant kill, but also pre-emergence activity against crabgrass. The oil has some systemic activity in the weeds, unlike most natural herbicides. Additionally, it will last for 7 days, whereas natural herbicides may last only a few hours.

Amino Acid with Activity Against Pests

Methionine is an amino acid found in many biological organisms, including humans. Its pesticidal activity was discovered in the early 2000s, and it has since been listed as an “inert ingredient” by the EPA due to its lack of effect on humans, and is often used as a food additive. University of Florida researchers tested methionine against the lime swallowtail, a defoliating pest introduced into the Caribbean in 2006 which has the potential to severely impact the U.S. citrus industry. They found that when methionine is sprayed on leaves and the caterpillars ingest the leaves, it killed 100% of the larvae within 2 to 3 days. Methionine would be a new class of pesticide, and has an advantage in that it is a biodegradable nitrogen source. It has shown activity against mosquito larvae, tomato hornworm, and Colorado potato beetle. Phoenix Environmental Care LLC is developing a pest control product for turf and ornamental pests.

Stiffer Plant-Import Screening Recommended to Prevent New Invasive Weeds

Approximately 60% of invasive plants in the U.S. were introduced deliberately through the plant trade. Increasing trade with emerging economies in Asia and Africa will lead to a possibility of many new plant introductions to the trade. Several ecologists have written a review in the recent edition of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment urging USDA to adopt proactive pre-emptive screening of nursery stock before new plants are imported. Pre-import screening has been used in Australia for almost 10 years, and has successfully stopped many new introductions. Stopping invasions before they start is the most effective way of preventing impacts.

Satellites May Help to Certify Organic Crops in Europe

Ecocert, an organic certification organization based out of France, has been working with the Europe Space Agency in testing the use of satellite images as a tool to aid in certifying crops as organic. In Europe, organic farms must comply with set standards, undergo evaluation, and pass a yearly inspection. Specialized satellite imagery was used to highlight several indicators based on crop management practices, including crop spectral reflectance, yield forecasts, and spatial heterogeneity. Testing has shown accuracy rates of 80 to 100% in  discriminating organic from conventional fields. They hope that this method will soon be a reliable and affordable operational service.

Useful Publications and Websites

• eXtension.org has developed eApples as an online resource housing apple research conducted by national university extension services.

• Texas A&M University has launched a mobile phone app called TickApp to help identify, prevent, and remove ticks.

• The IPM Institute of North America has developed a fun, interactive website to help children identify pests.

•  A free, community-supported app called “What’s Invasive” allows people to identify and record what pests they find in their area to share with others in the region.

• “Wisconsin Farm to School” encourages healthy lifestyles in children and support for the local agricultural economy. They have developed “toolkits,” targeted to school nutrition directors and producers, to help in farm-to-school programs.