Archive for the ‘Insects’ Category

Jun 26, 2021 – Energy & Environment

West coast drought leads to grasshopper plague

Oriana Gonzalez

Picture taken up-close of a grasshopper

Photo: Edwin Remsberg/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

As the Southwest remains stuck in the most intense drought of the 21st century, a plague of grasshoppers has emerged, threatening farmers’ rangelands, AP reports.

Driving the news: The Department of Agriculture has responded by launching an extermination campaign against grasshoppers, the largest since the 1980s. Authorities have started to spray thousands of square miles with pesticide to kill immature grasshopper before they become adults.

  • But, but, but: Some environmentalists worry the pesticides could kill other insects, including grasshopper predators and struggling species such as monarch butterflies, AP notes.
  • The USDA said it would spray rangelands in sections to prevent other insect wildlife from being affected by the pesticide.

State of play: The USDA released a grasshopper hazard map that shows some areas have more than 15 grasshoppers per square yard in Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado and Nebraska.

Why it matters: “Left unaddressed, federal officials said the agricultural damage from grasshoppers could become so severe it could drive up beef and crop prices,” AP writes.

What they’re saying: “Drought and grasshoppers go together and they are cleaning us out,” Frank Wiederrick, a farmer in Montana, told AP.

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Click Here for Japanese Translation

French ‘bug farm’ thrives on demand for pesticide-free fruit

昆虫ファームが無農薬トマトを後押し フランス

Farmers in western France are doubling down on an unusual crop: breeding millions of tiny predatory bugs and wasps to protect tomato plants without resorting to the insecticides that consumers are shunning.
Here, we’re in one of the greenhouses for a bug that’s called the macrolophus, says Pierre-Yves Jestin, as clouds of the pale green insects swarm around his hands.
Jestin is president of Saveol, the Brittany cooperative that is France’s largest tomato producer, cranking out 74,000 tons a year.
For several years the cooperative has promoted pesticide-free harvests in response to growing concerns about the impact of harsh chemicals on humans and the environment.
It does so thanks to its own bug farm, launched in 1983, that now stretches across 4,500 square metres (just over one acre) outside Brest, where the tip of Brittany juts out into the Atlantic.
Plans are in the works to add 1,200 square metres more this year, producing macrolophus as well as tiny wasps that feed on common tomato pests such as whiteflies and aphids.
Every week the insects are packed up in plastic boxes and shipped to the cooperative’s 126 growers.
This new extension will allow us to increase our breeding of macrolophus, which are increasingly in demand for the pesticide-free range, said Roselyne Souriau, head of the insect programme at Saveol — whose name means ‘sunrise’ in the local Breton language.
At the same time, it will let us develop a new range — at least we hope — better suited to strawberries, with parasitic micro-wasps that feed on aphids, she said.
– ‘A third way’ –
Because the vast majority of Brittany’s tomatoes are grown in greenhouses, they do not qualify for an organic label, which requires plants to be grown under natural conditions in the ground.
That prompted Saveol to team up with two other Brittany cooperatives, Sica and Solarenn, two years ago to promote their pesticide-free offerings.
In 2020, we didn’t use any chemical treatments at all, said Francois Pouliquen, whose eight hectares at the Saveur d’Iroise farm are part of the Saveol network.
Consumers are now looking to eat healthily, he said. Organic produce exists of course, but it isn’t always within reach for people on a budget.
Pesticide-free is an alternative, a third way, for mass production that is still healthy, he said.
Overall, use of predatory insects by French farmers has soared, with regulators approving 330 species as plant pest treatments in the first quarter of this year, up from 257 in 2015, according to the agriculture ministry.
At Saveol’s insect farm, the predatory bugs feast on moth eggs spread over hundreds of tobacco plants, which are in the same family as tomatoes and eggplants.
The broad leaves make it easy when workers cut the tops off the plants and shake the insects into a giant metal funnel for packing.
Some 10 million macrolophus and 130 million micro-wasps are produced each year, and Saveol claims it is the only growers’ cooperative in Europe with its own insect-raising facility.


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Video: Confronting the ‘insect apocalypse’

by University of Connecticut

Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

It’s not just bees and butterflies that are under threat: UConn entomologist and Professor David Wagner says all kinds of insects are at risk for “a death by a thousand cuts.” This is alarming, since insects play vital roles in earth’s ecosystems, including pollination of plants, driving food webs around the planet, and cycling nutrients.

The insect decline is attributed to multiple factors, including the climate crisis, agricultural intensification, development, deforestation, and the introduction of exotic and invasive species into new environments. Wagner cautions that many of these creatures will not be with us for much longer, and says people must act swiftly to help prevent these tremendous losses before it is too late.

Wagner remains hopeful, and says there are many actions that can be taken now—from encouraging political leaders to enact policy changes, to simply letting part of the front lawn grow freely to provide a food-rich environment for insects.

“This planet isn’t here for us to exploit,” Wagner says.https://www.youtube.com/embed/Osg-8HRN8l0?color=whiteCredit: University of Connecticut

Explore furtherScientists decry death by 1,000 cuts for world’s insects

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons, credit to Seychelles Island Foundation

“Crazy” ants that kill birds eradicated from Pacific atoll

Friday, June 25th 2021, 12:09 PM CDT

Honolulu, Hawaii (AP)– An invasive species known as the yellow crazy ant has been eradicated from a remote U.S. atoll in the Pacific.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday that the ants have been successfully removed from Johnston Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

The ants stalk seabirds on the uninhabited atoll and prevented nesting on about 70 acres of land.

“This is the first time an invasive ant species has been eradicated on such a large land area in the U.S,” said Kate Toniolo, superintendent for the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, in a statement. “To ensure the eradication was successful, the teams have been monitoring, searching, and surveying for yellow crazy ants.”

For about a decade, the ants have threatened the seabirds by swarming their nests — and anything else on the ground. The ants spray formic acid on the birds, causing injuries including blindness and even death, Fish and Wildlife Service officials said.

Volunteers and federal workers comprised so-called Crazy Ant Strike Teams that experimented with baits and other techniques to get rid of the pests. After the teams killed off the yellow crazy ants, two dogs trained to sniff out the species were brought in to search the grounds. The dogs sniffed nearly 120 miles without finding any ants, according to federal officials.

“While the mission of the Crazy Ant Strike Team is complete, the (U.S. Fish and Wildlife) Service will continue to focus on habitat restoration, preventing the spread of other invasive species,” said Stefan Kropidlowski, deputy superintendent for the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. “For now, we celebrate that the refuge is once again a safe haven for the amazing seabirds that call this incredible place home.”

Johnston Atoll is a refuge for tens of thousands of seabirds from 15 different species, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s home to the world’s largest colony of red-tailed tropicbirds and is the only seabird habitat in over 570,000 square miles (nearly 1.5 million square kilometers) of open ocean.

The yellow crazy ant is native to Southeast Asia but has been unintentionally introduced to other parts of the Pacific, including Hawaii.

Yellow crazy ants “are a widespread and extremely harmful invasive ant. They have spread throughout all the main Hawaiian Islands and cause significant ecological harm to plants and animals, like the endangered Hawaiian yellow-faced bee and nesting birds,” said Sheldon Plentovich, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Islands Coastal Program Coordinator.

Plentovich said the ants have not made their way to Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, but they “are very good hitchhikers and we are vigilant about biosecurity and monitoring for early detection within the monument.”

Plentovich said crazy ants got their name because of their fast and erratic movements, especially when disturbed.

Johnston Atoll is one of the most isolated places on Earth and part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. It’s about 820 miles (1,320 km) southwest of Honolulu.

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Insects are bugging alfalfa fields

Curt ArensField of alfalfaMONITOR PROBLEMS: Be sure to keep a close watch on alfalfa fields this season for a variety of insect and disease issues that are popping up. Scout and identify which insects and diseases are affecting your fields.

Melissa Bartels | Jun 24, 2021

Events Page - Farm Progress Show 2021

Insects are causing problems for alfalfa. From alfalfa weevil larvae and adults, to potato leafhoppers, armyworms, cutworms, alfalfa caterpillars and all kinds of aphids, somebody somewhere has had enough of each of these insects feeding on their alfalfa, damaging new seedlings or regrowth. 

If you have been lucky enough to avoid these pests thus far, don’t assume you are safe for the remainder of the year. 

Be sure to get out and scout your fields. I’d love to be able to generalize and tell you exactly how many insects per square foot or sweep of a net is needed to economically justify a control treatment for alfalfa. But each insect and disease are different. 

It can range from one spotted alfalfa aphid per seedling to 100 pea aphids on 20-inch alfalfa. Or from one or two armyworms per square foot in new stands to at least 10 alfalfa caterpillars per sweep in established stands. 

Not all diseases cause issues. What we use for control also varies. Simply cutting often works for many soft-bodied insects. Control using natural organisms such as the Bt in Dipel and Thuricide will work for some insects, and, of course, insecticides. But what insecticide or fungicide to use will be different depending on the insect or disease. 

So, my take-home message today is scout and identify what is plaguing your field. Look for slow regrowth or weak seedlings, and scout for insects or diseases that might be causing the issue. Be sure to dig in the soil and dead litter to find insects hiding during the day.

Then identify exactly what you are dealing with. If you need help, stop in at your Extension office. Remember, many insects you find will be beneficial, and some diseases don’t cause yield issues.  And finally, use appropriate treatments to protect your alfalfa.Source: UNL Pasture and Forage Minute, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

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Tulane University

Tulane professor has the latest buzz on cicadas

9-Jun-2021 3:05 PM EDT, by Tulane Universityfavorite_border

Newswise: Tulane professor has the latest buzz on cicadas

Photo by Keith Clay

Tulane Professor Keith Clay recently returned from a trip to Indiana, where he saw the cicada invasion up close.PreviousNext

When biologist Keith Clay came to Tulane University in July 2018, he brought with him an impressive knowledge of periodical cicadas, the noisy bug that has emerged by the billions in states east of the Mississippi after 17 years underground.

Clay, professor and chair of the Tulane Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, conducted a major a research project on cicadas from 2002 to 2007 while on the faculty of Indiana University. It was during that time — in 2004 — that the previous emergence of the so-called Brood X species occurred and now, 17 years later, it is happening again.

“The emergence of 17-year periodical cicadas is one of the most unusual biological phenomena on Earth, and occurs almost entirely within the eastern United States and nowhere else in the world,” said Clay, who is also a distinguished professor of biology emeritus at Indiana University.

In his research, supported by the National Science Foundation, Clay investigated the potential effect of cicadas on forest ecosystems and produced a documentary on their biology, as well as his research, for general audiences. At the time, he said, the idea of the United States being invaded by enormous hordes of insects generated worldwide attention and interest.

“Many people found the cicada emergence to be creepy and disgusting, but many others delighted in different aspects of the emergence,” Clay said. He said the “science-fiction” sound of their singing coupled with the fact that other animals stopped what they were doing to chow down on the bugs created a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“In its aftermath were piles of dead and rotting cicadas emitting an unmistakable stench,” he said.

Clay recently returned from southern Indiana, where in addition to reliving 2004 he shared his expertise on cicadas with researchers and media outlets reporting and filming Brood X. He said last week, before Memorial Day, the brood was “going great guns.”

Clay’s web site includes numerous resources on cicadas, including publications, videos and two documentaries, including his own  “Return of the Cicadas.”

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New technology for proven whitefly & thrips control

The control of pests using BioControl Agents is good news for the environment due to the consequential reduction in the number of conventional pesticide sprays required and is practiced throughout the world with extremely successful results.

Changes in pest pressure require adaptations of beneficials too meaning there is a requirement for new/different beneficials for these pests. In addition, the implementation of biocontrol in new areas and kind of crops/crop systems is creating a demand for adapted release systems able to cope with these new challenges.

Thrips and whiteflies are a common problem on many crops and so a polyphagous predator that eats both is a very useful addition to the IPM program. Amblyseius swirskii is a generalist predatory mite endemic to the Eastern Mediterranean which feeds on thrips and whitefly and also predates tarsonemid mite species, young spider mites, other small insects, and pollen. The predator is extremely mobile and has excellent searching behavior as it covers a large area while foraging. Because A. swirskii attacks a number of pest insects and can survive on pollen and nectar, it can maintain its population even when there are no more thrips or whitefly on the plants, remaining present and able to respond as soon as pests reappear. Since A. swirskii is not susceptible to diapause, it can be used throughout much of the season where the climate is suitable.

A. swirskii has been available commercially for several years proving itself a good predator of thrips and whitefly at warmer temperatures making it favored for use in hot climates; STARSKii contains Amblyseius swirskii mites selected for factors that make them a more successful predator. The ability to tolerate fluctuating temperatures and humidities enabling it to be used in a wider range of environments where the conditions may not be ideal for other mite species. The attributes of higher fecundity and health of the females mean greater longevity and egg-laying potential; so faster and greater establishment in the crop as a consequence of more eggs being laid for an extended period. 

Bioline Agrosciences has created CART ‘Climate Adapted Release Technology’ covering current and future development of underlying production systems. The commitment to quality throughout production and on release that Bioline gives to all its products is strengthened in STARSKii with a guarantee of freshness and performance. When combined with a controlled release system sachet, with newly developed materials, the ideal conditions within the sachet are ensured, and therefore the highest-quality mites released onto the crop. 

The technology behind STARSKii means the mites are healthier on release and able to survive more than 6 days without food in the crop.  The ability to withstand stress conditions ensures whitefly and thrips are controlled in different cropping systems, protected, semi-protected and open fields and many crops, vegetables and berries, fruits and grapes, ornamentals, row crops, and medicinal crops. The availability of many different controlled release systems such as bugline and sachets ensures that the mites can be introduced easily in different cropping systems.For more information:
Bioline AgroSciences
Telstar Nursery,
Holland Road, Little Clacton,
Essex CO16 9QG, UK
+44 (0) 1255 863200

Publication date: Tue 1 Jun 2021

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Case study for control of the tomato moth Tuta absoluta

Accelerating the discovery of new biocontrol agents

Ecologists study how populations are regulated, while scientists studying biological pest control apply population regulation processes to reduce numbers of harmful organisms: an organism (a natural enemy) is used to reduce the population density of another organism (a pest).

Finding an effective biological control agent among the tens to hundreds of natural enemies of a pest is a difficult task. A large international research team led by professor Joop van Lenteren (Wageningen University) designed a two-step procedure to speed up the discovery of promising new natural enemies. During the first step, a set of evaluation criteria is used for a first selection to remove clearly ineffective or risky species from the list of candidates. Using these criteria resulted in removing 180 of the 200 known natural enemies of the South American tomato moth Tuta absoluta from the list of potential biocontrol agent candidates.

Neceremnus tutae, parasitoid of Tuta absoluta (photo Jan van der Blom)

Nesidiocoris tenuis, predator of Tuta absoluta (photo Koppert Biological Systems)

During the second step, an aggregate evaluation criterion, the pest kill rate, is applied to compare the pest reduction power of species not eliminated during the first step. The pest kill rate is the average daily lifetime killing of the pest by a natural enemy. Pest kill rates of six species of predators and seven species of parasitoids of Tuta absoluta were calculated and compared.

Several natural enemies had pest kill rates that were too low to be able to reduce the pest population below crop-damaging densities. Only a handful of species showed a high pest reduction capacity and their potential for a practical application can now be tested under commercial crop production conditions.

Read the complete research article at www.researchgate.net.

van Lenteren, J.C., Lanzoni, A., Hemerik, L., Bueno, V.H.P., Bajonero Cuervo, J.G., Biondi, A., Burgio, G., Calvo, F.J., de Jong, P.W., López, S.N., Luna, M.G., Montes, F.C., Nieves, E.L., Aigbedion-Atalor, P.O., Riquelme Virgala, M.B., Sanchez, N.E., Urbaneja, A. 2021. The pest kill rate of thirteen natural enemies as aggregate evaluation criterion of their biological control potential of Tuta absoluta. Scientific Reports (2021) 11:10756; https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-90034-8 

For more information:
Wageningen University & Research

Publication date: Tue 1 Jun 2021

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Stingless wasps defend ash trees and battle ash borer

By Other News -May 13, 20210472Share on FacebookTweet on Twitter


LANSING, Mich. — For years, ash trees had been declining and dying in southeast Michigan for no apparent reason. Then in 2002, the Michigan Department of Agriculture discovered why — it was a small wood-boring beetle called emerald ash borer.

Soon after it was detected, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) program sent PPQ and Forest Service scientists to China to look for the ash borer’s natural enemies in its native range.

They found three wasp species (parasitoids) attacking the emerald ash borer’s eggs and larvae and brought them back to study — hopeful that at least one species could be safely released as a biological control (biocontrol) against the pest.

Biocontrol is a practical pest management tool that uses pests’ natural enemies to suppress or reduce pest populations. It is cost-effective and environmentally sound, reduces the use of conventional pesticides, and is self-sustaining once biocontrol agents establish their populations.

Fast forward to 2021, and the program’s biological control staff rear four stingless wasp species that are natural enemies of the emerald ash borer. Three attack the larvae, and one attacks its eggs.

The staff produce the wasps year-round and keep them in cold storage until spring. In mid-May, the staff will begin to ship wasps to program cooperators — state departments of agriculture, Native American tribes, universities and environmental groups — for release.

Tetrastichus are comparable in size to an average mosquito. They hunt by feeling vibrations from larvae feeding under the bark. They use their ovipositor to pierce through the bark and lay multiple eggs inside the larvae. Their eggs hatch, feed and eventually kill the larvae as the wasps complete their lifecycle and bore out of the tree ready to attack emerald ash borer larvae.

Since the start of the biocontrol program, PPQ has released about 8 million wasps in 30 emerald ash borer-infested States. They have successfully recovered wasp offspring in 22 States, demonstrating that the wasps are reproducing, becoming established in the areas where they were released, and — more importantly — attacking and killing the emerald ash borer.

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Science News

This praying mantis inflates a strange pheromone gland to lure mates

Such an organ may be crucial for reproduction in a vast, dense rainforest

a mantis hanging from a leaf
A female Stenophylla lobivertex mantis hangs from a leaf, extending her forked pheromone gland.CHRISTIAN J. SCHWARZ (CC-BY 4.0)

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By Jake Buehler

APRIL 26, 2021 AT 6:00 AM

Praying mantises — with their angular features, huge eyes and centaur posture — often seem a bit alien. But researchers have recently found one mantis species that takes this otherworldly quality to the next level: Females of this species have an inflatable pheromone gland that protrudes from the back of the abdomen like a green, Y-shaped balloon. 

This odd organ is unlike anything seen in mantises before, researchers report online April 21 in the Journal of Orthoptera Research.

In October 2017, herpetologist Frank Glaw was moving through the nighttime rainforest in Amazonian Peru at the Panguana research station, searching for amphibians and reptiles. His flashlight passed over a brown, leaf-mimicking mantis (Stenophylla lobivertex) in the tangle of vegetation, and he saw “maggotlike” structures protruding from its back. Those structures were quickly sucked back inside the insect after the light hit it, says Glaw, of the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology in Munich, Germany.

Glaw was reminded of “parasites that eat the animal from the inside,” having seen such fatally parasitized insects before. With the help of Christian Schwarz, an entomologist at Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany, and observations of some female specimens in captivity, the team figured out that the mantis was no parasite-riddled vessel. 

close-up of a y-shaped gland on a mantis
The inflatable pheromone gland of Stenophylla lobivertex (shown) may be highly efficient at spreading chemical signals throughout the rainforest.CHRISTIAN J. SCHWARZ (CC-BY 4.0)

When left undisturbed in total darkness, the female mantises extrude a pronged structure inflated with body fluids, roughly the hue and luster of polished jade. It appears to be a highly modified gland for producing pheromones — chemical signals that help female insects attract mates (SN: 5/13/15). 

Other mantises have simple, noninflatable glands that are located in the same section of abdomen as S. lobivertex’s bifurcated contraption.

This mantis species is rarely encountered by researchers and might be thinly spread throughout the rainforest, so locating receptive mates could be particularly challenging. The researchers think a large, protrusible pheromone gland with lots of surface area could be a workaround, more efficiently dispersing pheromones to be detected by the antennae of would-be suitors.

“It is a kind of chemical ‘dating app’ in the jungle,” says Glaw, noting that the observations “emphasize the importance of pheromones in [the mantises’] reproduction in a vivid manner.”

Females in some other mantis species are known to expose a pink, patchlike gland when doing their chemical call for mates, says Henrique Rodrigues, an entomologist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History who was not involved with this research. 

“I can easily see something like that being the precursor of the protrusible gland,” says Rodrigues. He notes that since males have thin, hairlike antennae, “the other way to increase the odds of mate finding would be for females to increase the amount of pheromone released.”

Glaw thinks it’s likely that similar glands might exist in the other two species of Stenophylla, and possibly other mantises. “If this organ is really an important tool to improve the finding of mates,” he says, “it would be an advantage for many other mantis species as well and might be more widespread.”

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


C.J. Schwarz and F. Glaw. The luring mantid: protrusible pheromone glands in Stenophylla lobivertex (Mantodea: Acanthopidae)Journal of Orthoptera Research. Vol. 30, April 21, 2021, p. 39. doi: 10.3897/jor.30.55274.

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 University of Hawaii at Manoa.

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