Archive for the ‘Biological control’ Category

Foreign wasp reducing vegetable damage

Sigrid Brown

Posted Thu 10 Feb 2011 at 6:38pmThursday 10 Feb 2011 at 6:38pm

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Queensland Government researchers say vegetable growers in Bowen and the Burdekin region in the state’s north have been able to reduce pest damage by introducing a foreign wasp species.

Dr Siva Subramaniam says the silverleaf whitefly poses a significant threat to Queensland’s billion-dollar vegetable industry.

Dr Subramaniam says the whitefly sucks nutrients and injects toxic saliva into vegetables, decimating tomato, pumpkin, eggplant and cucumber crops.

He says the wasp, from Pakistan, has proved to be safe and may be introduced to more farms.

“It has been very rigorously tested by the CSIRO around four or five years ago,” he said.

“After that, it has been tested widely in the field.

“There’s not any negative impacts – mainly the wasp attacks only the silverleaf whitefly, not any other native species.”

Dr Subramaniam says the introduction of the wasp means farmers have been able to use less pesticides on crops over the four-year program.

He says the wasp may now be introduced to farms in Bundaberg and the Lockyer Valley.

“What the wasp is doing is they go and attach to the whitefly and feeding on them and utilising the whitefly to breed their own generation,” he said.

“The whitefly is not breeding in the fast and large numbers.”

Posted 10 Feb 2011

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Butterflies may lose their ‘tails’ like lizards

The spindly parts seem to be a magnet for birds and may break off easily, facilitating escape

yellow and black sail swallowtail butterfly on a pink flower
The sail swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius) has tail-like projections on its hind wings that may divert attacking birds away from the butterfly’s vital parts.CAROLINE GAUVIN/MOMENT/GETTY IMAGES PLUS

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By Jake Buehler

JUNE 15, 2022 AT 7:00 AM

On some butterfly wings, “tails” may be more than just elegant adornments. They’re survival tools too, a study suggests.

The tails seem to attract the attention of attacking birds, keeping them away from a butterfly’s more vital body parts, researchers report May 25 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The finding could help explain why wing tails have independently evolved multiple times across different moth and butterfly groups. 

Evolutionary biologist Ariane Chotard of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris studies the wings of swallowtail butterflies, which make up the hundreds of species in the family Papilionidae. “A lot of these butterflies display tails,” Chotard says. “And we don’t really know why.”

Some butterfly species with false head or eyespot patterns on their wings are known to receive more attacks from predators in those regions. And Chotard and her colleagues wondered if tails were also a target.

So in the summer of 2020, the researchers collected 138 sail swallowtail butterflies (Iphiclides podalirius) from the wild in Ariege, France. Sail swallowtails — found throughout Eurasia — sport two, conspicuous black tails on hind wings with some blue and orange spotting, contrasting greatly with the rest of the insects’ yellow, striped coloration. 

Among the collected swallowtails, 65, or 41 percent, had damaged wings, all of which had at least one tail damaged. When all 130 wings in this group of damaged butterflies were counted, more than 82 percent of the wings had damaged tails, suggesting that predators may be targeting the spindly parts.

To test that idea, the team kept wild-caught songbirds called great tits (Parus major) in cages. The researchers then showed the birds dummy butterflies made from gluing real swallowtail wings to a fake body made of small pieces of black cardboard, and filmed the birds’ attacks on the faux insects.

Forty-three out of 59 beak strikes, or nearly 73 percent, were on the hind wings. Twenty-three, or 39 percent, of the strikes touched both a tail and colored areas on the upper part of a hind wing simultaneously, more than any other body area on the dummies. 

https://www.youtube.com/embed/sshOdQv5ypI?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1&origin=https:%2F%2Fwww.sciencenews.orgA captive great tit (Parus major) attacks the hind wings and “tails” of a dummy made with real wings from a sail swallowtail butterfly (Iphiclides podalirius). A new study suggests that the tails deflect attacks away from key body parts to brittle extensions that easily tear off, allowing the insect to flee.

Chotard and her colleagues also measured how much force was needed to tear various sections of the swallowtail wing. They found that the vein of the hind wing tail was the most fragile part of the wing and is probably the location most apt to break off in a hungry bird’s beak. 

Taken together, the findings suggest that swallowtail tails deflect attacks away from the butterfly’s vulnerable body to brittle extensions that easily tear off, allowing the insect to escape, the researchers say. This may be similar to the strategy some lizards use when sacrificing their detachable tails to hungry predators. 

It’s unclear if there are any costs to losing one or two tails, Chotard says. “You survived, you escaped from a predator, but maybe there’s a trade-off and maybe your flight will be [slower].”

Some moth tails can deflect the attacks of echolocating bats (SN: 2/16/15). “Now we have evidence that butterfly tails provide a similar benefit against visual predators,” says evolutionary biologist Juliette Rubin of the University of Florida in Gainesville who was not involved with the study.

Future work determining the survival benefits of the tails could be one next step, Rubin says. “It would be informative to see how live swallowtail butterflies — both with and without tails — fare against bird predators.”

Questions or comments on this article? E-mail us at feedback@sciencenews.org


A. Chotard et alEvidence of attack deflection suggests adaptive evolution of wing tails in butterflies. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Vol. 289, May 25, 2022. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2022.0562.

About Jake Buehler

Jake Buehler is a freelance science writer, covering natural history, wildlife conservation and Earth’s splendid biodiversity, from salamanders to sequoias. He has a master’s degree in zoology from the

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Pests Stay In, Parasitoids Fly Out: The Augmentorium for Biological Control in IPM

Entomology Today Jun 10 A simple tent equipped with a carefully selected mesh can be a helpful tool in augmentative biological control efforts. With infested fruit placed inside, the mesh keeps pest insects in but allows parasitoids to escape and continue their work as natural enemies of target pests. Read more of this post

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Saturday, 04 June 2022 15:33:07

Grahame Jackson posted a new submission ‘Below ground efficiency of a parasitic wasp for Drosophila suzukii biocontrol in different soil types’


Below ground efficiency of a parasitic wasp for Drosophila suzukii biocontrol in different soil types



The parasitoid wasp Trichopria drosophilae is promising as a biocontrol agent for controlling the ubiquitous pest Drosophila suzukii (Matsumura). Crucial for the successful implementation of any biocontrol agent is a high parasitisation rate by the parasitoid. Most studies investigating the parasitisation rate of D. suzukii pupae have focused on parasitisation in the fruit or in a petri dish. However, the predominant pupation site of D. suzukii in the field is the soil. Unfortunately, little is known on how well parasitoid wasps can detect and parasitise pupae of D. suzukii buried in the soil. Therefore, we conducted soil parasitisation experiments of T. drosophilae on D. suzukii pupae using two pupation depths in three different soil types (loamy sand, loam, and clay). In all three soil types, we found generally low D. suzukii pupae parasitisation rate by T. drosophilae, independent of the pupation depth. The pupation behaviour of D. suzukii and the parasitisation behaviour of T. drosophilae are discussed in detail. For pest control in most soil types, our results mean that the number of D. suzukii larvae pupating in the soil should be reduced, e.g., by adding a layer of sandy soil or covering the soil with plastic mulch. This might increase the probability of success when using T. drosophilae as a biocontrol agent.

Read on: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-12993-w

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Jewel Beetles’ Iridescent Shells Deter Hungry Birds—By Freaking Them Out

Weirdly shifting colors may serve dual evolutionary purposes, providing both camouflage and conspicuous warning

Jewel Beetles' Iridescent Shells Deter Hungry Birds--By Freaking Them Out
Jewel beetle. Credit: Karin Kjernsmo

For insects trying to avoid hungry birds, flashy iridescent shells might not seem like the best evolutionary strategy. But in recent years, biologists have shown that iridescence—lustrous shifts in color, depending on the angle of view—can actually camouflage green jewel beetles among sun-dappled leaves. Now a new study published in Animal Behavior suggests iridescence also works another way to protect these insects, even when they step into plain sight: birds appear to have an innate wariness of the color changes themselves.

This is the first time iridescence, as opposed to simple glossiness or bright colors, has been shown to deter predators. “It’s actually the changeability, the very hallmark of iridescence, that is important for this protective function,” says Karin Kjernsmo, a researcher at the University of Bristol in England and the study’s lead author.

To test how birds reacted to iridescent beetles’ varying colors, Kjernsmo and her colleagues set out real Sternocera aequisignata jewel beetle shells, along with three types of artificial shells: one a glossy green, one a matte green and one color-shifting but matte. They baited the shells with mealworms, then offered this buffet to day-old domestic chicks (this was to ensure any reactions were innate, not the product of learned predation tactics).

Iridescent green shell of a jewel bettle of the species Sternocera aequisignata and three artificial shells used to test how chicks would respond to iridescence. Credit: Karin Kjernsmo

The chicks scarfed down the mealworms under the matte green shells but hesitated at the glossy shells and both types of color-changing ones. A 2017 paper from another lab had shown that birds shy away from glossiness, yet the specific avoidance of the color-shifting nature of iridescence had never been documented before.

Johanna Mappes, a University of Helsinki biologist who worked on the 2017 study but was not involved with the new paper, praises the way Kjernsmo’s team controlled for each type of shell finish, “especially creating matte iridescence signals—it’s really genius.”

The new findings suggest iridescence is an evolutionary two-for-one deal: it helps the jewel beetles hide but can also scare off predators that still spot them. Kjernsmo speculates that this might help explain why so many insects are iridescent: it “allows them to be protected in many different contexts.”

This hypothesis might also explain why these jewel beetles evolved to use iridescence rather than a more typical warning color such as bright red or orange. While some poisonous insects, such as ladybugs and monarch butterflies, use these vivid hues to advise birds to back off, such colors also stand out more. These insects’ poison provides a backup in case they do get noticed. For this species of jewel beetle, which does not have chemical defenses, the extra attention from a traditional warning color might not be worth it—better to blend in when possible.

It is still not clear exactly what it is about iridescence that seems to frighten birds. These jewel beetles may be mimicking other iridescent insects that do have chemical defenses. Kjernsmo says this idea might be confirmed by analyzing the insect family tree to see how often iridescence coincides with poison. Alternatively, Mappes posits, iridescence might simply confuse predators: if a beetle’s color shifts, a predator might not be able to classify it as safe or dangerous.

Baby chick reacts to the different shell finishes—avoiding the iridescent ones—when tempted by mealworms placed underneath them. Credit: Karin Kjernsmo

Though more work is needed to fully understand iridescence as a warning, Kjernsmo says she is proud of how this study demonstrates nature’s nuance and complexity. It can be tempting to find one answer and stop looking, she says, but “it’s really important to realize that colors can actually serve multiple purposes at the same time—that they don’t necessarily evolve for one particular purpose.”

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Kate Golembiewski is a science writer based in Chicago. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the AtlanticDiscoverNational Geographic‘s Voices blog and Atlas Obscura. Follow Golembiewski on Twitter@kategscience



Hummingbirds’ Iridescent Feathers Are Still a Bit of a Mystery

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New research confirms that GM corn is safe for beneficial insects

Joan Conrow | Cornell Alliance for Science | June 9, 2022

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Credit: Edwin Remsberg
Credit: Edwin Remsberg

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news,
opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation. It is posted under Fair Use guidelines.

Growing genetically modified (GM) corn has virtually no impact on the abundance or ecological function of beneficial insects, according to an extensive review of existing research.

And it is far less harmful to non-target organisms than growing corn through conventional methods, where insecticides are used to fight off pests that can destroy the crop, the study found. It was conducted by a researcher with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA-ARS) and his Swiss colleagues.

The meta-analysis, published in the journal Environmental Evidence, attempted to address concerns raised by critics of GM corn, including contentions that previous assessments of potential impacts were limited in scope.

screenshot pm

In response, researchers reviewed hundreds of international studies published between 1997 to 2020 that looked at whether growing genetically modified Bt corn changed the abundance of non-target animals such as arthropods, earthworms and nematodes.

“But after all the number crunching was done, what we found was that, overall, Bt corn just does not have negative impacts on nontarget organisms,” said Steve Naranjo, an ARS entomologist and director of the Arid-Lands Agricultural Research Center in Maricopa, Arizona, who co-authored the study.

Bt corn controls harmful insect pests by producing proteins from a common soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, that is also used for pest management in organic farming. It is the most widely grown GM crop in the world. While Bt corn is successful in warding off attacks by corn borers, corn rootworms and other major corn pests, it has no negative effects on ladybeetles, flower bugs, lacewings and other non-target insects, researchers found.

The analysis compiled the largest pool of high-quality data ever analyzed for the purpose of assessing GM corn’s impact on non-target organisms. The data set, comprising 7,279 individual invertebrate records from 233 experiments in 120 articles, three-quarters of which were published in peer-reviewed journals, was published in BMC Research Notes.

The researchers also investigated claims that studies showing no impact were authored by scientists working for companies that produce GM seeds and so might have conflicts of interest.

“It might be a bit surprising, but according to the analysis, when any negative effects by Bt corn on nontarget organisms were found in the data they were attributed more often in studies with private sector support than when no backing by biotech companies was declared,” said co-author Michael Meissle, a senior scientist with Agroscope, ARS’ Swiss counterpart.

In a further attempt to ensure the impartiality and thoroughness of the review, scientists who were not involved in the meta-analysis project, various stakeholders and members of the journal’s review board vetted the quality standards for which studies would be included in the meta-analysis. None of them knew whether any particular study’s data showed a negative impact on non-target organisms, helping avoid inadvertent bias.

“The effects of Bt maize on the community of non-target invertebrates inhabiting maize fields were small and mostly neutral, especially when compared with the effects of broad-spectrum pyrethroid insecticide treatments,” the authors concluded.

Joan Conrow has more than 35 years of experience as a journalist and editor. She specializes in environmental issues, biotechnology, and agriculture, and is especially interested in how these highly charged topics are playing out globally. Joan holds a BA in history and journalism and is certified in beekeeping, mediation, and facilitation. Find Joan on Twitter @joanconrow

A version of this article was originally posted at the Cornell Alliance for Science and is reposted here with permission. The Cornell Alliance for Science can be found on Twitter @ScienceAlly

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Biocontrols ‘could lead to new food protection era’

Megan O

Megan O’Brien

June 2, 2022 4:24 pm

Biocontrols ‘could lead to new food protection era’

Development of alternatives to traditional pesticides such as biocontrols is “essential, to maximise yields while minimising environmental damage”, according to the CEO of a company that develops the substances.

Biotalys CEO Patrice Selles was speaking about the development of protein-based biocontrols and how they can compare to traditional, chemical pesticides, as well as microbials and other existing biologicals.

“The demand for cleaner, more sustainable produce has surged among consumers and there has been widespread encouragement to move away from chemical pesticides which often pose many environmental and safety risks,” he argued.

This, combined with a growing resistance to these substances, has caused many growers around the world to search for other options. However, the alternatives are not always perfect, Selles claimed.

“While many advocate for a move to non-chemical solutions, some seemingly innocuous biological solutions can actually cause severe environmental, economic or societal concerns,” he said.

“However, microbials and other existing biologicals do not always offer a more sustainable option, and they often lack the consistency, quality and efficiency today’s growers need.”

Protein-based biocontrols are substances that are developed to combine the characteristics of chemical pesticides with the safety profile of biologicals.

According to Selles, these substances can be used in both pre and post-harvest applications and can be integrated into existing pest management programmes to protect yields and reduce waste. He argued that biocontrols meet a number of criteria to “make them a desirable option for farmers”.

“Growers do not need to compromise on efficacy as quality biocontrols have no negative impact on yield and provide the same protection as chemical options. They also ensure safety for all by reducing chemical residues and leaving no trace,” Selles continued.

“Biocontrols are also delivering on the promise of the new food production era and can meet the prongs of sustainability, environmentally, economically and socially.”

However, Selles warned that converting to strict, non-chemical farming overnight would be a mistake. He said that a combined approach is essential to find the most sustainable management system.

“The full value of implementing new technologies in agriculture will come from the ability to use both new and existing practices to find a more sustainable, combined solution.

“While bio-based solutions won’t fully replace traditional chemical solutions anytime soon, there is a prime role for nature in farmers’ ongoing fight to protect crops and ensure a safe food supply,” Selles added.

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Group aims save ash trees with release of 209 wasps in Pascoag conservation area


 Editorial team


June 7, 2022

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From left to right are Paul Roselli, president of the Burrillville Land Trust; URI research assistant Saffron Zaniewski, and Alana Russell, manager of the URI Biocontrol Lab.

BURRILLVILLE – With exotic beetles that have the potential to destroy all of the area’s ash trees discovered in four Rhode Island counties, local conservationists and those who study the bugs have taken action.

The Burrillville Land Trust and experts with the University of Rhode Island Biocontrol Lab recently released 209 parasitoid wasps at the Edward Vock Conservation Area in Pascoag in hopes to protect the trees from extinction.

“With the release of these parasitoid wasps, all hope that we save our native ash trees,” said BLT President Paul Roselli.

Roselli took part in the release of the wasps, adult Spathius galinae – which are a parasitoid of the invasive beetle known as the emerald ash borer. The wasps attack the larvae of beetle, and kills them before the can mature.

The beetle reportedly arrived accidentally in the early 1990s in cargo imported from Asia.

The Burrillville conservation area on Jackson Schoolhouse Road has been the sight for much of the research and release of these parasitoid wasps in northwestern Rhode Island. The two other species of parasitoids that were released in past years at the Vock Conservation Area were Tetrastichus planipennisi – another larval parasitoid, released from the small ash bolts hung from the trees – and Oobius agrili – an egg parasitoid, released from the small medicine bottle-looking implements that also hang from trees.

Emerald Ash Borer have been found in four of the five counties in the state, with none of the beetles detected as of yet in Bristol County.

Alana Russell from the URI Biocontrol Lab; URI graduate Saffron Zaniewski, who also works at the lab; and Paul Ricard from URI will be conducting detection trapping in Bristol this year.

One of the first properties where the beetles were detected in 2018 was a second lot owned by the land trust on South Shore Road. The EAB was discovered using a purple prism trap, devices visitors to the area may have noticed high above in the tree canopy. Ricard went back in 2019, girdled trees and collected larvae.

“So far, the trees at the Vock conservation area are still in good condition, given that the first state detections were not far away near Wallum Lake,” Roselli said.

Other sites of interest along Round Top Pond are showing signs of decline due to the EAB infestation, he noted.

“We are hopeful that these little creatures will help save these majestic ash trees from extinction,” said Roselli.

For more information, a forest service brochure on EAB biocontrol and ash regeneration can be found here. Those interested in saving their own trees from the Emerald Ash Borer can also find an article on the beetles from Northern Woodlands here.

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Welcome Wasps: Parasitoids Show Promise for Management of Invasive Fruit Fly


In Washington state and British Columbia, Canada, two species of wasps from Asia have been found to be successfully parasitizing the invasive fruit fly spotted-wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii), pictured here. (Photo by Sam R via iNaturalistCC BY-NC 4.0)

By Ed Ricciuti

Ed Ricciuti

It is still too early to say for sure, but North American fruit growers may have caught a big break in their daunting battle against the invasive fruit fly known as spotted-wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii), which has cost more than $700 million in crop damage annually since its arrival in 2008. The stroke of luck is that two small wasps that parasitize the fly’s larvae in its native Asia have established a beachhead astride the border of British Columbia and Washington state and could serve as natural allies for embattled growers.

A change in scene from its original home has not helped the fly escape the lethal attention of the wasps, Leptopilina japonica and Ganaspis brasiliensis, according to a new study published in May in Environmental EntomologyWithin the area of southwestern British Columbia where the researchers carried out their study, both wasps parasitize the fly at the same level as in their natural Asian range.

A team of scientists from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, the University of British Columbia, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture collaborated on the study, which explored the associations between spotted-wing drosophila (SWD), its host plants, and the wasps in several habitats. The researchers say “the close association between the two larval parasitoids and D. suzukii that exists in Asia has evidentially been reconstructed in North America, resulting in the highest parasitism levels of D. suzukii yet recorded outside of its area of origin.” Their findings suggest the wasps potentially are an effective biological of SWD around the globe.

“Remarkable,” is the way the researchers describe how the wasps have fit in to the ecology of their introduced range in North America. “They have evidently re-formed a close association with D. suzukii across a wide range of host plants including cultivated and wild shrubs, trees, and low-growing plants in a wide variety of habitats and seem to be co-existing with each other in a manner very similar to their native range,” they write in their journal article.

For an entire growing season, the research team carried out their work in a wide range of habitats, ranging from farmland to forest. Plants used by SWD included both cultivars such as raspberries and wild types such as salmonberry. The study suggests that wild plants serve as a key reservoir for populations of SWD that then disperse to fruit crops so control likely must extend beyond farm fields.

The wasp Ganaspis brasiliensis is one of two species of parasitoid wasp species, native to Asia, that has arrived in Washington state and British Columbia, Canada, and been found to be successfully parasitizing the invasive fruit fly known as spotted-wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii). (Photo by Matthew L. Buffington, Ph.D., U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Systematic Entomology Laboratory. Image originally published in Buffington and Forshage 2016, Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington)

The United States Department of Agriculture recently approved use of G. brasiliensis as a control agent, with releases planned for this year. L. japonica is under consideration as well. Both wasps have been introduced in a few other parts of the world where SWD also has shown up, but not extensively.

Although it all bodes well for fruit growers, there could be a hitch because the majority of the parasitism observed occurred after SWD infested fruit, says one of the researchers, Paul Abram, PhD., of the federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

“We do not yet know exactly how this delay between infestation and parasitism will play out in terms of its effect on biological control efficacy, and we still need to verify that this is a consistent feature of the system in multiple years,” he says. “Theoretically, it can allow the pest to stay one step ahead of the biological control agent as they move between different fruiting plants over the course of the season and start reproducing in a new time and place before the parasitoids’ impact sets in. We are planning experiments for the upcoming field season where we directly test the population dynamics consequences of delayed parasitoid arrival on pest suppression.”

Pest managers must act fast to control SWD, which strikes fruit just as it is about to ripen, unlike other fruit flies that prefer damaged fruit and fruit well past ripening. Worse, SWD hits fruit with a one-two punch: first when the female’s serrated ovipositor penetrates the skin of the fruit and again when the white larvae hatch and start feeding while hidden inside the fruit, impervious to treatment.

Spotted-wing drosophila was introduced in North America in 2008. The parasitoids arrived, presumably by accident, in British Columbia within the past five years or so. Ganaspis brasiliensis was discovered last year in Washington State just over the Canadian border in wild blackberries. Leptopilina japonica showed up in Washington the year before in a trap set to catch the much-ballyhooed hornet Vespa mandarinia. Both probably belong to the same populations north of the border.

Whether the wasps were interacting with SWD in North America as they did in their original home was not previously clear, which was the motivation behind the study. More work is necessary before the full impact of the wasps can be determined. Control of mobile pests like SWD requires management over a large landscape against a known ecological background. Researchers need to learn more about the level of parasitism in and out of cultivated areas and how the wasps interact with the fly’s seasonal ecological relationships and its population dynamics. Beyond that, the ability of the wasps to tolerate climatic conditions outside of the study area is an open question, requiring years of additional sampling to answer.

Read More

Adventive Larval Parasitoids Reconstruct Their Close Association with Spotted-Wing Drosophila in the Invaded North American Range

Environmental Entomology

Ed Ricciuti is a journalist, author, and naturalist who has been writing for more than a half century. His latest book is called Bears in the Backyard: Big Animals, Sprawling Suburbs, and the New Urban Jungle (Countryman Press, June 2014). His assignments have taken him around the world. He specializes in nature, science, conservation issues, and law enforcement. A former curator at the New York Zoological Society, and now at the Wildlife Conservation Society, he may be the only man ever bitten by a coatimundi on Manhattan’s 57th Street.

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Crop scouting app for faster data collection

These days – whether it’s due to covid or other reasons – growers often have less staff at their farms. But when under pressure to deliver more with less, digitizing and expediating manual tasks is key to optimizing labor.

The FarmRoad mobile app aims to streamline crop scouting and crop registration so your team can work faster without pens or clipboards. Record crop measurements, pest numbers, and disease outbreaks using your phone. Upload photos, type comments then instantly share with your team so you can act fast to address the issues.

Speed up and simplify crop data capture
The FarmRoad mobile app provides a simple solution to streamlining crop scouting tasks. The app works on both phones and tablets and collects data on:

  • Pests
  • Beneficial insects
  • Pest traps
  • Plant diseases
  • Plant disorders

Record pest types and infestation locations
Understanding pest pressure relies on comprehensive monitoring of different types of pests (e.g., whitefly, thrips) and their numbers. Use the FarmRoad mobile app to log the location of infestations and record pest types and their prevalence to evaluate the effectiveness of your beneficial insects. 

Collect pest trap data faster
Insect traps are essential to directly reduce the populations of the insects and other anthropods that affect your crop. Using traps as part of your pest management reduces the need for pesticides. Use the FarmRoad mobile app to collect pest trap data faster.

Document plant disease threats
Managing plant disease outbreaks keeps every grower on their toes. Monitoring environmental conditions and pathogen transmission at your farm enables you to track outbreaks to keep them under control. Use the FarmRoad mobile app to upload photos, dates and write comments to keep your team updated on disease occurrences in your greenhouse.

Faster identification and communication of potential crop problems
Crop scouting is necessary to keep plants healthy and to prevent pests or pathogens from reaching dangerous levels. Arm your team of scouts with the app to record crop threats at precise locations. Staff can upload photos, comment, and share immediately so swift remedial action can be taken.

Visualize and track your scouting info
Scouting data collected with the FarmRoad Mobile app is visualized inside the FarmRoad platform. Graphing crop information helps you spot trends and patterns in the lifecycle of your crop.

Digitize crop measurements
Collecting regular crop measurements helps agronomists and farm managers understand how to steer the growth of their plants. Use the FarmRoad mobile app to digitize over 20 crop measurements with your phone to speed up crop registration.

For more information:

Publication date: Wed 25 May 2022

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Tiny wasps could help save trees under attack

Emerald ash borers have killed millions of trees in North America. Another insect might solve the problem.

Tiny wasps could help control emerald ash borers – The Washington Post

By Gina Rich

March 23, 2022 at 7:30 a.m. EDT

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An adult emerald ash borer feeds on an ash leaf. The beetles eat only ash trees, and they have killed millions of them in North America. Scientists have found wasps that feed on the beetles’ young, keeping the ash borers from killing all the ash trees in Asia and Russia. They are experimenting on releasing those wasps in parts of the United States. (Jian Duan/USDA ARS)

Up close, the emerald ash borer is a strikingly beautiful insect. It’s also a dangerous pest.

The metallic green beetles entered the United States from northeast Asia in the 1990s, likely hitching a ride on wood-packing materials. By the time researchers identified them in 2002, the insects were widespread. They’ve destroyed millions of ash trees across North America.

Ash borers damage trees by “essentially both dehydrating and starving the tree,” says Elizabeth Barnes, anexotic-forest pest educatorin the Purdue University Department of Entomology. Adult ash borers lay eggs on ash trees. The larvae then tunnel under the bark to feed on the tissue that transports the trees’ nutrients. (Larvae are the juvenile form of an insect.)

You’ll see zigzag patterns in the bark of affected trees, Barnes says. When the trees fall, “it looks like they’re exploding. They just absolutely shatter.”

Natural enemies

But there’s good news. As researchers studied the emerald ash borer, they noticed something interesting: Both China and the Russian Far East had abundant ash trees and ash borers, yet fewer trees were dying there.

An adult wasp drills through ash bark to lay eggs inside the emerald ash borer larvae feeding beneath the bark. Wasps use their antennae to figure out where to drill. (Jian Duan/USDA ARS)

Researchers think there are two reasons. First, because trees in those regions evolved alongside the insects, the trees probably developed defenses against them, says Jian Duan. Duan is a research entomologist with the Beneficial Insects Introduction Research Unit at the United States Department of Agriculture.

Second, with insect pests such as ash borers, “there are a lot of natural enemies,” Duan says. Researchers suspected the beetles had a predator that was keeping them in check. If that was true, a biocontrol program — bringing the predator to the pest — could help trees in the United States.

“The purpose of biocontrol is not to eradicate the emerald ash borer,” Duan says. Instead the goal is to keep the pests’ populations low enough for trees to survive.

Stingless wasps

Scientists discovered the ash borers’ natural enemies are small parasitoid wasps, native to China and the Russian Far East. Parasitoids (para-sih-toyds) lay their eggs inside or on the host — in this case, ash borer eggs or larvae. The wasp babies feed on and ultimately kill the host.

The wasps were taken to a quarantine facility, where they were tested to ensure that they would attack only ash borers, not other species. Then researchers worked in the lab to produce thousands of wasps, plus their food source — emerald ash borers. Finally, to make sure the wasps connected with their target, scientists carefully synchronized their release into nature with the ash borers’ activity.

This emerald ash borer larva was eaten by wasp larvae. The wasps don’t kill all the emerald ash borers, just enough to save some of the ash trees. (Jian Duan/USDA ARS)

Because the wasps are only interested in emerald ash borers, “they don’t sting,” Duan says. “Their purpose is to reproduce.” When an adult wasp locates ash borer eggs or larvae, it uses a tubelike organ called an ovipositor to deposit its babies.

U.S. regulators have approved four wasp species for biocontrol: three from China and one from Russia. At test sites in Michigan and New England, the wasps are starting to make an impact, reducing ash borer populations.

Though the pests greatly outnumber the wasps for now, Duan is optimistic. “We still think the natural enemy eventually will catch up with emerald ash borer populations.”

Learn more

You can see a video about ash borer biocontrol by the Virginia Department of Forestry at wapo.st/ash_borers.

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