Archive for the ‘Emerging/invasive pests’ Category

Korea Herald

Fire ants found in Korea belong to American species: ministry

By Yonhap

  • Published : Oct 10, 2017 – 13:24
  • Updated : Oct 10, 2017 – 14:32
Red fire ants found in the southern port of Busan are presumed to be identical to a species in the United States, but further inspection is needed to figure out their exact origin, South Korea’s quarantine authority said Tuesday.

Twenty-five fire ants were discovered in a storage container at Busan’s Gamman port Sept. 28, and a nest capable of accommodating 1,000 was also found, raising alarm that the highly invasive insects were inadvertently brought into the country.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said it has conducted emergency quarantine measures and stepped up monitoring to prevent further spread, noting it did not find other ants in the 34 ports and two inland container depots examined so far.

Park Bong-gyun, the chief of the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency, briefs on red ants at a government building in Sejong on Oct. 10, 2017. (Yonhap)

Although the remains of a queen ant were not found, the ministry tentatively concluded that it already died based on the size and scope of the colony discovered in the cracked asphalt.

“Red fire ants are generally found in the United States, but they have since spread to China, Australia and Japan, giving birth to special genetic variations as they evolve in their new environment,” Park Bong-gyun, the chief of the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency, said in a briefing.

“It is premature to say the red fire ants came from the US at this point, as an in-depth epidemiological inspection into their variation is needed to figure out their origin.”

Gamman port received containers from six nations between May and September — China, Japan, Taiwan, the US, Australia and Malaysia — with 60 percent coming from China, the ministry said.

Quarantine officials will continue to sterilize the area within a 100-meter radius of the container depot until next week and conduct inspections on the pavement and other areas.

The ministry said it will work with other related organizations to regularly monitor and inspect major ports to prevent the inflow of red fire ants. (Yonhap)

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CABI Plantwise Blog

New report reveals cost of Fall Armyworm to farmers in Africa, provides recommendations for control


CABI has published an ‘evidence note’ report on the invasive Fall Armyworm pest, showing how the caterpillar could cause maize losses costing 12 African countries up to US$6.1 billion per annum, unless control methods are urgently put in place.

Fall Armyworm: Impacts and Implications for Africa was commissioned by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) to review current evidence of the potential impact of Fall Armyworm in Africa. The document quantifies the likely economic effect on agricultural sectors in affected countries and regions if left unmanaged, and draws lessons for Africa from experience controlling the pest in the Americas.

Fall Armyworm in Africa has the potential to cause maize yield losses ranging from 8.3 to 20.6 million tonnes per annum, in the absence of any control methods, in just 12 of Africa’s maize-producing countries. This represents a range of 21-53 per cent of the annual production of maize averaged over a three year period in these countries. The value of these losses is estimated at between US$2,481-6,187 million.

According to the report, Fall Armyworm should be expected to spread throughout suitable habitats in mainland sub-Saharan Africa within the next few cropping seasons. Northern Africa and Madagascar are also at risk. This month, 28 countries in Africa have confirmed the pest on their territory, compared to only 12 five months earlier. A further nine countries have conducted or are presently conducting surveys, and either strongly suspect its presence or are awaiting official confirmation.

Dr Roger Day, CABI’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Coordinator, says, “Thanks to DFID’s support, we have been able to assemble exactly the information that many people in Africa are looking for. In the smaller-scale farming systems of central and southern America, Fall Armyworm is controlled using an integrated approach, and this is what is required in Africa.”

Immediate recommendations in the report include raising awareness on Fall Armyworm symptoms, early detection and control, and the creation and communication of a list of recommended, regulated pesticides and biopesticides to control the pest. Work must also start to assess which crop varieties can resist or tolerate Fall Armyworm. In the longer run national policies should promote lower risk control options through short term subsidies and rapid assessment and registration of biopesticides and biological control products.

Fall Armyworm’s rapid spread in Africa

FAW Distribution Maps

Download the 10 page summary of the evidence note here→

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Lisa and Cosmo
Parcel inspection dog ‘Cosmo.’

Trained canines are crucial ‘safety net’ for agriculture

Dogs are a crucial piece of our safety net to block invasive pests that threaten California’s farms, forests, and ecology, said A.G. Kawamura.

Cary Blake | Sep 29, 2017

Dogs are often called people’s ‘best friend’ and the shoe sure fits. Many dog lovers can attest to how canines make our lives better and hopefully the reverse is true. Canines can become heroes for many, including those in agriculture who produce, process, pack, and ship our nation’s food and fiber.

Eight years ago, Western Farm Press posted an article about a dog named Tassie, an ‘employee’ of the Sacramento Department of Agriculture. The trained canine intercepted a package of guava fruit and curry leaves sent from Texas to Sacramento with invasive pests inside – 100 Asian citrus psyllids (ACP).

Tassie’s timely find was truly heroic for California agriculture as the pesky half-inch-long ACP is the major vector of the bacteria Candidatus Liberibacter spp which causes the deadly citrus tree disease Huanglongbing.

Following Tassie’s heroic find, then California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Secretary A.G. Kawamura said, “They’re (dogs) a crucial piece of our safety net to block the arrival of invasive pests that continually threaten California’s farms, forests, and ecology.”

Just recently, another canine recently came to agriculture’s rescue. In late September, an Alameda County (Calif.) parcel inspection dog named Cosmo intercepted a package of limes sent from Florida infected with exotic citrus (bacterial) canker. The disease can cause premature fruit and leaf drop in citrus trees, resulting in production losses and economic harm to citrus growers.

Dogs including Tassie and Cosmo, and even a nervous or barking dog when fear nears, can make a major difference in our lives. According to The Washington Post, 18 month-old puppies are taught special skills to help wounded veterans perform everyday skills at home like shutting doors.

The website www.dogguide.net lists 25 heroic dogs that helped protect their humanoids from harm, including Moti, a five-year-old German shepherd who literally took a bullet for his human family when an armed, masked intruder entered the household.

Many agriculturalists can tell stories about how their pets make a big difference in their lives, including this writer. When it comes down to saving agriculture from harm’s way we owe a lot to our canine friends, including our respect, admiration, and hugs – shown in part by a well-deserved box of doggie treats.

TAGS: Insects

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CSIR warns of major resurgence of Fall Armyworm pests

Source: Ghana | Myjoyonline.com
Date: 15-09-2017 Time: 05:09:45:am
 ghana aw

Scientists at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have warned there could be a major resurgence of the Fall Armyworm pests on farms across the country from next month.

Scientists at the country’s premier science and technology institution, therefore, want the government to immediately activate a fight back plan to avert destruction.

Fall Armyworms are pests that wreak havoc on crops if left to multiply.

The caterpillars mainly attack maize crops and eat everything in an area. Once the food supply is exhausted, the entire “army” will move to the next available food source.

Army worms -Akatsi2

Since March this year, the pests have invaded more than 115,000 hectares of farm fields leaving farmers struggling to recoup their investments.

The invasion appears to have died down as the major planting season ended last month.

Related: Fall armyworms have been defeated – Agric Minister

However, Entomologists at the Crop Research Institute of CSIR say the upcoming invasion could be worse than what farmers had to battle with a few months ago.

Dr. Kofi Frimpong Anin, an Entomologist at CSIR, said the pests are likely to strike stronger from next when a new farming season starts.

“Normally, after a major season, we have high residue of the pests in the system. So once you move into the minor season they strike and the infestation is worse compared to the major season.

“It is likely that we are going to have a worse season compared to the minor season if you don’t manage it well,” he told Joy News.

When Agric Minister, Dr. Akoto Owusu Afriyie appeared before Parliament last month to answer questions about the Armyworm invasion, he revealed that some 112,812 hectares of farmlands were affected by the fall army worm but only 14,430 hectares were destroyed.

He also indicated that the pests have been defeated, adding there is an ongoing research into biological control which will be implemented as a long term plan to rid the nation of the pest.

The Minister added that his team will create a strategic stock of chemicals in the regions and districts so control will be issued at any point in time there is another attack.

Again, farmer training he explained, is being intensified when it comes to the detection of the pest to avoid the recurring of the situation.

However, farmer unions have denounced the Minister’s declaration that the pests have been destroyed, accusing him of belittling the debilitating effects of the pests.



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An adult male coconut rhinoceros beetle. Emmy Engasser, Hawaiian Scarab ID, USDA APHIS ITP, Bugwood.org

10 years ago the Coconut Rhinoceros beetle (CRB) was first discovered on the western Pacific island of Guam. Since then, these shoe-shine black, miniature invaders have spread to all parts of the island and are laying waste to the local coconut and oil palm population. The economy, culture and ecology  of Guam and other Pacific islands are intrinsically linked to the native palm species such that the rhino beetle poses a major threat. The indigenous peoples of Guam have a long history of weaving palm fronds, an artistry that is now at risk due to the rhino beetle. These trees are a symbol of tropic paradise, a motif that drives Guam’s primary industry; tourism.

The situation

A Coconut palm damaged by CRB © Aubrey Moore

The principal method of rhinoceros beetle control is through the release of a virus specific to CRB known as Oryctes rhinoceros nudivirus (OrNV). As a biological control strategy, it has been highly effective at keeping CRB populations low and thus lessening palm damage by up to 90% (Bedford, 2013).

Up until Guam, 2007, it had been 40 years since an outbreak of CRB on an uninfested palm growing Pacific island, owing to the persistence of OrNV in beetle populations. Early attempts at disseminating the virus in the new Guam population proved surprisingly ineffective. Upon DNA analysis, the invading rhino beetles were found to be genetically distinct from CRB native to other Pacific regions. The Guam population was deemed a new biotype (CRB-Guam) and was found to be resistant to all available OrNV strains.

This resistance has proved paramount to the invasive ability of CRB. As well as Guam, the new biotype has now been logged in Papua New Guinea (2009), Palau (2014), Hawaii (2014) and the Solomon Islands (2015) (see figure 1). There is now a real threat of a Pacific-wide outbreak of CRB. Smaller islands, where traditional, palm-dependent economies still operate, stand to suffer the most.

Figure 1: “The CRB-Guam biotype has invaded five Pacific Island countries and territories in only eight years compared to the CRB-Pacific biotype, which has not had geographical range expansion for 40 years

The passing of Typhoon Dolphin over Guam in 2015 highlighted the dangers of an event like this triggering rapid growth in CRB populations. Downed trees and vegetative waste make ideal breeding sites for the beetle. A positive feedback system may be initiated whereby more breeding sites allow for larger populations which kill mature palm trees which, in turn, become breeding sites for subsequent generations.

What can be done?

Numerous management techniques have been attempted on Guam since 2007. In March 2012, the Plantwise Knowledge bank reported on a promising new biological control method, the Metarhizium fungus. The fungus is specific to rhino beetles and the CRB-Guam biotype appeared susceptible to it. Unfortunately, it has not proved as effective as once thought and the Guam beetle population persists at damaging levels.

General sanitation practices that involve keeping areas free of green waste help to reduce the number of breeding sites, invariably limiting the potential for CRB population growth. However, this task proves tricky on a 210 square mile island covered in dense jungle and off-limits military bases.

Previously, specially trained detector dogs were used to root out rhino beetle breeding sites. This method, however, proved expensive and hard to reach areas were beyond its capability. More recently, new radio tracking technology has been proposed as a more cost-effective alternative. Small radio transmitters are glued to adult rhino beetles, these are then released and tracked back to previously unknown breeding sites. In August 2015, a 10-day field trial was carried out with some success.

As concern surrounding CRB mounts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has announced funding worth $1.7 million, to go to Hawaii and Guam, with aims at combating the spread of this tenacious pest.

For Guam at least, complete eradication seems evermore unlikely. It appears the island’s best chance is population suppression and management. Aubrey Moore, an entomologist at the University of Guam, who has been working on CRB ever since it’s first appearances on the island, says that current work focuses on finding an OrNV isolate that the CRB-Guam biotype is susceptible to.

Jack Sayers is a Biological Sciences student at the University of Edinburgh, with a particular interest in genetics. He has spent his summers working for CABI as part of the Plantwise team.


Bedford, G. O. (2013) Long-term reduction in damage by rhinoceros beetle Oryctes rhinoceros (L.) (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Dynastinae) to coconut palms at Oryctes Nudivirus release sites on Viti Levu, Fiji. African Journal of Agricultural Research 8(49) pp. 6422-6425

Marshall, S. D. G., Moore, A. and Vaqalo, M. (2016) A New Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Biotype Threatens Coconut and Oil Palms in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Western IPM Center.


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Citrus greening disease found in Trinidad and Tobago

Citrus Greening Disease has been confirmed in several parts of Trinidad and Tobago, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
The disease also known as Citrus Huanglongbing (HLB) is caused by an insect-spread bacterial infection and affects all types of citrus.
A release from the Ministry said the disease has now been declared a reportable disease, making it mandatory that cases be reported to the Ministry.
The Ministry has now embarked upon a public awareness campaign, which has started in Tobago.
The campaign will include surveillance operations to determine levels of HLB pathogenicity in the island. Training in new nursery management protocols and best management practices for citrus greening will also be factored into this exercise, the Ministry stated.
Citrus Greening Disease presents the greatest threat to the citrus industry in Trinidad and Tobago, some 1,200 acres. HLB has devastated millions of citrus orchards in Asia, America and the Caribbean, notably Jamaica and Belize.
The disease reduces yields and compromises the flavor, color and the size of the citrus fruit before killing the citrus tree.

Publication date: 9/18/2017

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Invasive plants change ecosystems from the bottom up

Researcher says Phragmites ‘farm’ their own soil communities

September 5, 2017
University of Rhode Island
Even when two different Phragmite lineages are grown side-by-side in the same ecosystem, the bacterial communities in the soil differ dramatically. This is a discovery that will aid in understanding how plant invasions get started and the conditions necessary for their success.

In a common garden at the University of Rhode Island, Laura Meyerson has been growing specimens of Phragmites — also known as the common reed — that she has collected from around the world. And while they are all the same species, each plant lineage exhibits unique traits.

Now Meyerson, a professor of natural resources sciences, and Northeastern University Professor Jennifer Bowen have revealed that even when two different lineages grow side-by-side in the same ecosystem, the bacterial communities in the soil differ dramatically. It’s a discovery that will aid in understanding how plant invasions succeed and the conditions necessary for their success.

“It’s almost like the different lineages are farming their own microbial communities,” said Meyerson. “What’s amazing is that an invasive Phragmites population in Rhode Island and California will have microbial communities more similar than a native and invasive population living right next to each other in Rhode Island.”

The Phragmites lineage native to North America has inhabited local wetlands for thousands of years, but a lineage introduced from Europe has begun to take over many North American marshes.

“I’m interested in bacteria within salt marshes, but I’ve never thought about these particular plant-microbe interactions and how microbes in the soil work to both facilitate plant success and inhibit growth,” said Bowen. “But it turns out that the evolutionary signatures of the different plant lineages are so strong that it results in similar microbial communities in related plants that are found across the country. And that’s incredible.”

In a research paper published this week in the journal Nature Communications, Meyerson and Bowen outline their field surveys and controlled experiments on native, invasive and Gulf of Mexico lineages of Phragmites. Both methods found that the bacterial communities in the soil are primarily structured by plant lineage rather than by environmental factors, as was previously thought.

“These findings go against the general dogma that says that the environment determines the microbial community you’re going to get,” Meyerson said. “Two populations growing close to each other should have microbial communities more similar than those living farther apart. But our results say that’s not true. In this case for these plants, it’s the plant lineage — below even the species level — that determines the microbial community.”These results are important for understanding more about the success and fitness of invasive species.

“Microbes are really important in terms of determining what happens in a plant community,” explained Meyerson. “By selecting for particular microbial communities, they’re engineering their ecosystem from the bottom up. What happens at the microbial level affects the fitness and chemistry of the plants, and that affects plant interactions.”

The researchers noticed that the microbes associated with the native Phragmites had more kinds of bacteria that are used to defend the plant from enemy attackers than the microbes associated with the invasive variety, which left most of its enemies behind in its native environment.

“The invasive plants didn’t need to cultivate these defense mechanisms among their microbial communities,” Bowen said. “What our research shows is that these plants are successful as invaders, in part, because they are freed from the need to cultivate a microbial defense shield.”

Meyerson said her results provide a new perspective for those managing land and trying to control invasive plants.

“It’s another reason to be cautious about invasive species,” she said. “We have to look beyond what’s going on above ground. We also have to look below at the microbial communities and how they affect ecosystems from the bottom up.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Rhode Island. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Jennifer L. Bowen, Patrick J. Kearns, Jarrett E. K. Byrnes, Sara Wigginton, Warwick J. Allen, Michael Greenwood, Khang Tran, Jennifer Yu, James T. Cronin, Laura A. Meyerson. Lineage overwhelms environmental conditions in determining rhizosphere bacterial community structure in a cosmopolitan invasive plant. Nature Communications, 2017; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00626-0

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