Utah Pest News Winter 2011

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 In the National News


As interest in using switchgrass for biofuel grows, so does concern about managing switchgrass pests. The switchgrass moth (Blastobasis repartella) was first described in 1910, and is only now getting some interest. Its larvae bore into switchgrass stems, and seem to be host specific. As production of switchgrass for cellulosic ethanol increases, populations of the moth are also expected to increase. Losses of up to 10% have already been seen in some research fields. An October 2010 journal article in Zootaxa describes the life stages and biology of the moth.


Corn rootworm is one of the most severe pests of corn. USDA Agriculture Research Service entomologists and colleagues have discovered that many predatory insects avoid feeding on corn rootworm larvae because of its sticky, distasteful blood. Predators such as ground beetles and ants that do attempt to feed on the rootworm immediately stop because the foul-tasting blood coagulates in the predators’ mouths, sealing them shut. Wolf spiders, however, have a voracious appetite for corn rootworm. They bypass the effects of the blood by sucking the rootworm’s fluids rather than chewing. These results reveal the importance of encouraging a diverse predator population to allow for better corn rootworm control.


“Invasive pests” in the U.S. may originate in foreign countries or in neighboring states. A recent report from researchers in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand looked at the top 100 known exotic pest species and says that most already exist in the U.S. and that pests crossing state borders is the most immediate threat to spread. U.S. border quarantines and screening of imports receives much attention, but transport of materials across state lines should perhaps get more attention. The author believes that the findings have significant implications for biosecurity policy and the need to consider security measures beyond established national borders.


Syngenta researchers have developed a novel insect management tool for corn: a protein trait called Agrisure Viptera that is now available in several hybrids including Garst and Golden Harvest. The discovery came from years of deliberate testing of a wide variety of materials that might harbor bacteria with novel toxins. They isolated a particular bacteria from spoiled milk that produces the Vip3A protein, which has activity against not only black cutworm, corn earworm, and western bean cutworm, but a wide range of insect pests. Syngenta received the “Best Novel Agricultural Biotechnology” award at the 2010 Agrow Awards ceremony for developing this trait.


A recent report in BioScience reveals that more than 455 invasive insects and 16 invasive pathogens are causing severe losses in U.S. forests. Examples are laurel wilt disease that is killing redbay, sudden oak death, and the emerald ash borer. Based on the pattern, the researchers predict one especially destructive pest will sneak into the nation every two years. The authors ask for improved enforcement efforts to prevent further importation.


Colony collapse was first identified in late 2006 and the exact cause is still unknown. A large team of biologists from Texas Tech, Montana, the U.S. Army and Mexico have published a report that the bees may be affected by a lethal combination of both an insect virus and a fungus. Though an association between exposure and death was found, scientists don’t yet know if the two pathogens cause CCD or whether CCD-affected colonies are more likely to succumb to the two pathogens. The virus, found in ground bees, is called insect iridescent virus (IIV) 6 and the fungal parasite is Nosema. The insect virus is closely related to another virus that wiped out bee populations 20 years ago in India. Unlike previous research that found the deaths may be caused by a virus with RNA, the IIV 6 contains DNA.


 Useful Publications and Web Sites


• EPA has launched a new website with a search tool that can help you choose an EPA-registered bed bug product. Users can search for a product by its name, company, site of application, and pesticide type. Access the site here.

• The EPA has published a report on “Protecting Children's Health” by preventing pesticide exposure.

• General Concepts in Integrated Pest and Disease Management (Integrated Management of Plant Pests and Diseases) is a newly published first volume of a book series, with information on pest models, epidemiology and effects of climate change. A. Ciancio and, K.G. Mukerji, editors.