In the National News
Banana Resistance to Nematodes
Bananas are among the world’s most important food crops; however, yields can be reduced by 75% from infections by the parasitic root nematode, Radopholus similis. In looking for plant resistance, an international team of researchers in Europe discovered plant toxins found in the root tissue in some varieties of bananas. The toxins only occurred in localized plant tissue being attacked by the nematode, and were able to kill the feeding parasites. This discovery may significantly aid in furthering the development of pest-resistant banana varieties.
Plant Virus Controls Aphids
University of Cambridge biologists have been studying the interaction between viruses and aphids and found that the cucumber-mosaic virus—which is vectored by aphids—“forces” aphids to migrate to other plants, thus spreading the disease. The virus alters its host plant biochemistry, causing the plant to smell and taste unpleasant to aphids. After an initial feeding and “contracting” the virus, the aphids are repelled and transport the virus to neighboring plants. These findings cite the need to develop "aphid-decoy plants" that could draw the insects away from crucial crops and halt the spread of viral infections.
Traps for Sweetpotato Weevil
Sweetpotato weevil (Cylas formicarius) is the most serious pest of sweet potatoes. It is not easily controlled with insecticides and in the past, mass trapping had not reduced damage. In a paper published in Annals of the Entomological Society of America, the Montana State University authors found that sweetpotato weevils are attracted to trap colors depending on the environment. The researchers found green pheromone traps were most effective in attracting the weevils in indoor conditions, and light red traps were most effective outdoors. They believe this finding will allow for improved mass trapping results and they plan to investigate the reason for the color differentiation.
Example of Invasive Bumblebee
The buff-tailed bumblebee, Bombus terrestris, is a European species that was introduced into Chilean greenhouses to perform pollination services. Bees that escaped the greenhouses began to establish colonies in the wild at a rapid pace. Ecologists have studied this bee’s spread for the last 10 years and have recently published their work in the Journal of Animal Ecology. They concluded that this bumblebee spread throughout South America at a rate of 200 km/year and is displacing native bumblebees. It is said to be one of the most spectacular examples of an introduced species invading an entire continent.
Cockroach Species Shift
The life history and biology of Turkestan cockroaches was recently described in a new article in the Journal of Economic Entomology. This pest was first reported in the U.S. in California in 1978, and has since spread throughout the southwest and into the southern U.S. It is outcompeting the Oriental cockroach in the southwest due to its rapid nymphal growth and life cycle, and greater egg production.
Adapting to Climate Change
A UNC-Chapel Hill biology professor has shown, for the first time, changes in physiological traits of an organism due to recent climate change, as reported in Functional Ecology. Caterpillars of two species of Colias (sulphur) butterflies in California and Colorado have been evolving over the past 40 years to change their feeding habits. They have broadened their range of ideal feeding temperatures have also shifted their optimal feeding temperature to a higher one, making them better suited to a hotter, more variable climate than their ancestors.
Useful Publications and Apps
• Videos for Teaching IPM is an eXtension web page that offers dozens of training videos for teaching IPM, particularly in schools, on topics such as pest proofing, monitoring, bed bugs, bees, and more.
• Airblast 101 is a website that offers a self-directed course on the best practices for safe, efficient and effective operation of airblast sprayers in agriculture. It also houses a library of current information in the form of articles, fact sheets, videos and slideshows from researchers and extension specialists across North America.
• Integrated Pest Management: Current Concepts and Ecological Perspective, edited by Dharam P. Abrol, is a new book that presents an overview of alternative measures to traditional pest management practices using biological control and biotechnology.
• Created by USDA-APHIS' Identification Technology Program, the ID Tools website houses a database of more than 30 tools to quickly identify pests, including insects, diseases, harmful weeds, and more, using taxonomic identification key software called "Lucid".