Archive for the ‘Insects’ Category

T. S. Park et al./Nature Communications, 10.1038

This ancestor of today’s insects, spiders, and crustaceans had a simple brain, but complex eyes

Although it’s hard to believe that delicate nervous tissues could persist for hundreds of millions of years, that’s exactly what happened to the brains and eyes of some 15 ancestors of modern-day spiders and lobsters, called Kerygmachela kierkegaardi (after the famous philosopher Søren Kierkegaard). Found along the coast of north Greenland, the 518-million-year-old fossils contained enough preserved brains and eyes to help researchers write a brand-new history of the arthropod nervous system.

Until now, many biologists had argued that ancient arthropods—which gave rise to today’s insects, spiders, and crustaceans—had a three-part brain and very simple eyes. Compound eyes, in which the “eye” is really a cluster of many smaller eyes, supposedly evolved later from a pair of legs that moved into the head and was modified to sense light.

But these new fossils, which range from a few centimeters to 30 centimeters long, had a tiny, unsegmented brain, akin to what’s seen in modern velvet worms, researchers report today in Nature Communications. Despite the simple brain, Kerygmachela’s eyes were probably complex, perhaps enough to form rudimentary images. The eyes, indicated by shiny spots in the fossil’s small head, appear to be duplicated versions of the small, simple eyes seen today in soft, primitive arthropods called water bears and velvet worms.

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This legless insect can jump 30 times its body length

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA—U.S. figure skater Nathan Chen may wow crowds with his endless quadruple jumps, but the Olympic hopeful can’t hold a candle to the legless gall midge larva (Asphondylia sp). The 3-millimeter-long larva—which startled scientists when it started hopping out of its lab dishes—plants its rear end on the ground, slides its head toward its nether regions, and latches its body into a loop, which it then flattens by shifting fluids inside its body. After enough pressure builds up, the midge releases the latch, straightens, and flies into the air at 1 meter per second for a jump as much as 30 times its body length. On a human scale, that distance would be 60 meters. (Consider: The current long jump record is less than 9 meters, with a running start.) Researchers discovered the feat with super–high-speed video cameras that shot 20,000 frames per second. The secret to the midge’s success is power amplification—the ability to build up force and then release it all at once, they report here today at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. It’s like an archer pulling back a bowstring, temporarily storing the energy for shooting the arrow in the elastic string. No one knows yet why the midge larva jumps—until it matures into a fly, it never leaves its home, an abnormal growth on a type of goldenrod called silverrod. But documenting its Olympian performance could help scientists understand the movements of similar larval flies—and design better robots.

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Researchers find moth last seen 130 years ago

A moth masquerading as a shimmering blue bee has been rediscovered after 130 years. A damaged museum specimen collected in 1887 is the only previous evidence such a creature existed, The Guardian reports. Now, Polish researchers have spotted 12 of the oriental clearwing moths in Malaysia’s lowland rainforest collecting salts and minerals among the bees they look, act, and sound like. But how much longer this lost species lingers is tenuous, the researchers suggest in Tropical Conservation Science. The moth’s habitat is disappearing from rapid deforestation.

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22 November 2017 10:42:18 22 November 2017 10:42:18 |Agri Safety,Crops and Cereals,News

Crop damaging ‘super pest’ now capable of surviving wintry conditions

Resistant diamondback moths now capable of surviving winter

Resistant diamondback moths now capable of surviving winter

A ‘super pest’ moth resistant to a class of common plant protection is now also capable of surviving through the UK’s cold winter conditions, according to new research.

Diamondback moth (DBM) caterpillars feed on crops including cabbage, broccoli, swedes and Brussels sprouts, causing cosmetic damage, which could result in the loss of up to 100 per cent of the crop. Brassicas were worth more than £200m to UK agriculture last year.

The pests, which have developed resistance to the pyrethroid class of plant protection products often have reduced fitness levels so don’t survive through winter.

However, experts from Rothamsted Research and AHDB are concerned because this is not the case with this new strain of moth.

Growers are being asked to submit samples of the DBM either when seen through winter, or in spring when numbers start to rise, to aid the continued monitoring and development of control strategies to manage the pest.

Dr Dawn Teverson, Knowledge Exchange Manager at AHDB, said: “This new research reconfirms what we found last year. It’s important that Brassica growers are aware of this pyrethroid resistance and plan their crop protection programmes to treat against diamondback moths, accordingly.

“If pyrethroids are used, not only does this now fail to control DBM but it could also kill beneficial insect predators which would naturally help control the pest, further exacerbating the problem.”

Surviving winter

Pyrethroid resistant DBM have been found overwintering on swede crops grown under insect netting.

Dr Steve Foster, research entomologist at Rothamsted Research, said: “We have seen in aphids that those which have developed resistance may not survive the winter, however this doesn’t seem to be the case with this new strain of DMB.

“The identification of pyrethroid resistance in this season’s population of moths suggests that they are descendants of 2016’s migrating diamondbacks and therefore that the resistance hasn’t stopped them from surviving over winter.”

Andrew Rutherford, farm and agronomy manager at K. S. Coles, said: “This study has been extremely helpful to growers, allowing them to increase their understanding of the pests they are trying to control and which actives will be effective.”

The diamondback moth is often described as a ‘super-pest’ because it has a rapid lifecycle, providing more opportunities for resistance to develop through gene mutation.

In 2016, Steve Foster at Rothamsted Research tested three diamondback moth samples for resistance from Lincolnshire, Suffolk and Scotland. All three samples were resistant to pyrethroids

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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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Machine Learning Helps Small Farmers Identify Plant Pests And Diseases

A new app aims to help smallholder farmers fight pests and diseases that are killing their crops.

Machine Learning Helps Small Farmers Identify Plant Pests And Diseases
[Photo: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg/Getty Images]

The world’s 500 million smallholder farmers have a new weapon in their never-ending fight against pests and plant diseases: an app called Plantix. By uploading pictures of affected crops to the mobile service, they can quickly diagnose unwanted funguses and insects and get ideas about how to deal with infestations before they get out of control. Three years after launch, the app is being used more than 1 million times a month, particularly in India, Brazil, and North Africa.

[Photo: courtesy Plantix]

In Africa, the current number-one enemy pest is the fall armyworm–so-called because it marches like an advanced military unit, eating everything in its path. The colorful caterpillars are munching through maize, sorghum, rice, and legume fields in 24 countries. If farmers don’t react in time–for example by spraying with the appropriate pesticides–economic losses could reach more than $5 billion this year, estimates show.The UN Food & Agricultural Organization says 20% to 40% of all global crops are lost each year because of plant pests and diseases that aren’t managed properly. Developed by a small team in Germany, Plantix offers guidance to farmers who don’t have the privilege of human consultants.


“There’s a huge gap between agricultural consultancy and people’s needs on the ground in emerging countries,” says Korbinian Hartberger, one of four cofounders of PEAT, the startup that develops the free-to-use app. “There’s a lot more demand than what’s on offer. They can’t wait for someone to come along two months [after the infestation] and say, ‘yes, I think you should have sprayed this.’”

The Android interface is simple but makes use of sophisticated machine learning technology working in the background. PEAT has trained its algorithms using thousands of pictures of affected plants, allowing the app to recognize telltale patterns as farmers upload new pictures. They’re currently sending in about 5,000 pictures a day and the app is able to recognize up to 400 diseases or pests. The most common include soya bean and wheat rust, powdery and downy mildews, and aphids, Hartberger says.

As well as automated image recognition, the app also features community forums, where users help each other diagnose problems from uploaded photos. About 200,000 users are actively using the service, according to the startup.

PEAT was initially funded through a grant from the German government and it doesn’t generate revenue currently. Hartberger says that could change in the future. For instance, the system could be adapted for use in aerial drones or on-the-ground robots, or it could help connect farmers with sellers of agricultural products. Currently, it suggests generic pesticides, but not brand names.

“People may use more pesticides [after using the app], but they’re less likely to use the wrong pesticides. Our contribution is to smallholders with fast and reliable information, so they’re not just going to shop and asking the guy behind the counter for advice. It gives them something more specific they can work with,” Hartberger says.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.


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USDA APHIS ITP’s web-based tool, Antkey

The team is pleased to announce the latest addition to our mobile app collection: Antkey Mobile. Developed in cooperation with the tool’s author, Eli Sarnat, and Australia’s Identic team, this app is based on ITP’s

Lucid Mobile apps offer you the identification keys you’ve come to rely on from the convenience of your smartphone or tablet. Antkey Mobile (free for Android or iOS) allows you to take your Lucid key with you into the field for surveys and screening, even if your field site lacks internet access.

This key allows both specialists and novices to easily identify invasive, introduced, and commonly intercepted ant species from across the globe. You can help confirm whether you have found the correct species by comparing your specimen with the images and descriptions on the fact sheets, which are included for each species.

Antkey Mobile is one of 13 apps ITP has developed for use in field identification of plant pests and diseases. Please visit http://idtools.org to see all of ITP’s apps or to learn more about ITP. For technical questions about Lucid Mobile, please contact Identic (enquiries@lucidcentral.org) or visit their website. For questions or comments about this or any of ITP’s other mobile apps, please contact Amanda Redford (itp@usda.gov).Antkey

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