Learn the Difference Between the Asian Giant Hornets and this Texas Native Species

This month, many Texas residents mistakenly believed they encountered the Asian giant “murder” hornet. In order to stave off any future bee-related backyard BBQ freakouts, researchers at Texas A&M ArgiLife have released important details regarding these recent “murder hornet” sightings.

David Ragsdale, Ph.D., chief scientific officer and associate director of Texas A&M AgriLife research said his department has received up to 10 photos of various wasps per day from people who think they’re seeing the Asian giant hornet. But what they’re actually looking at is the Texas native cicada killer wasp, or ground hornet. Many pest management agents and specialists around the state have also received “murder hornet” related inquiries.

“Most everyone has seen the cicada killer wasp, that is very large, but has mostly been ignored in the past,” Ragsdale said. “With the most recent news of the Asian giant hornet, they are now paying attention to the native Texas insect.”

Asian giant hornet and cicada killer wasp

How to Tell the Difference

Since the cicada killer wasp and their other native Texan lookalikes are currently going through a case of mistaken identity, below are key differences between them and the Asian giant hornet.

Note: Holly Davis, Ph.D., a Texas A&M AgriLife extension service entomologist in Weslaco said it’s important to know that there have been no confirmed reports of Asian giant hornets in any other U.S. location other than the northwestern corner of Washington state.

Asian Giant Hornet

  • Is 1.5 - 2 inches long
  • Its head is as wide or wider than its shoulders
  • It’s body is a combination of bright orange/yellow and dark brown
  • It has a pinched waist with brown and orange stripes that cover the abdomen

Cicada Killer Wasps

  • All three species are between 1 - 1.5 inches long
  • Their heads are narrower than their thorax
  • Their heads and thorax are typically the same dark orange or brown color
  • They also have a pinched waist, but their abdomen stripes are jagged

Asian giant hornet and Texas native species comparison

Davis says Asian giant hornets are very protective of their nests and will sting people who they view as a threat - but cicada killer wasps are mostly solitary and usually don’t attack in great numbers. Although you likely won’t deal with any Asian giant hornets in upcoming service calls, just helping your customers understand the difference between these species can save their sanity.


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Florida Continuing Education Deadline Update

Last week, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nicole Fried signed order 2020-022. Under this order, all continuing education late fees are waived through August 22, 2020 (instead of July 2nd).

This new order was championed by the Florida Pest Management Association in an effort to further assist Florida’s pest control professionals affected by COVID-19.

If you are still unsure about anything, here are some answers to frequently asked questions:

When must I renew my license?

Florida applicators must renew their licenses every 4 years by the end of the original issue month.

Florida State Licensing Contact Information

Phone: (850) 617-7870
Fax: (850) 617-7895
Web: Florida Department of Agriculture

Who submits my Florida Pesticide Applicator continuing education to the state?

Applicators are responsible for submitting their continuing education credits to the Florida Department of Agriculture. Upon course completion, applicators will be provided with a certificate of completion as well as the required Record of Attendance form.

How do I upload my CEU records to the state?

  1. Download or scan "Record of Attendance"
  2. Visit the website: aesecomm.freshfromflorida.com
  3. Select applicable license type
  4. Click on "Upload Documents" (Not a renewal app)
  5. Type detail information and select "Document Type"
  6. Click on "Browse and Upload document" then "Save"

Are you still working on completing your continuing education?

Certified Training Institute offers online state-approved video courses that are available on any device with an internet connection. 

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Authorities Crack Down on Illegal Pesticide Trade in Europe

An investigation from the EU Observer finds that the black market pesticide trade in Europe is a multi-million dollar illegal industry that carries big potential and low risk.

Journalist Staffan Dahllöf says sellers first purchase cheap, black-listed compounds from China then jack up the price when they sell to European buyers.

“A single shipment of 160 tons generates €11.2m. Tax-free and almost completely risk-free,” writes Dahllöf.

European authorities are aware of the operations and are now cracking down. Europol calls their efforts to do so “operation Silver Axe.”

In 2020, 32 countries coordinated efforts to carry out the fifth edition of the mission. Between January to April 2020, Europol seized more than 1.3 tons of illegal pesticides, enough to fill 458 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The worth is roughly valued at more than €94 million.

“Law enforcement authorities carried out inspections on land and sea borders, inland marketplaces and parcel deliveries, checking more than 3,000 tons of pesticides,” said Europol’s press release.

Highlights of this year’s mission include interceptions of non-labeled products in Poland, counterfeit pesticides in Italy, and illegal compounds headed towards Cyprus.

Europol cites studies that show as much as 14% of Europe’s entire pesticide sphere is affected by trafficked, illegal pesticides.

“Some of the organized crime groups trafficking pesticides are also involved in other illegal activities such as trafficking counterfeited cigarettes and illegally trading pharmaceuticals,” says Europol’s release.

The director of the European Crop Protection Association says these products are a risk to human and environmental health.

“This is not just an issue for our companies, whose products are being counterfeited, but more significantly poses a risk to health and the environment,” said Geraldine Kutas in the release.

Since Operation Silver Axe started in 2015, agents have recovered more than 2.5 tons of illegal or counterfeit pesticides.


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Washington State Entomologists Working to Eradicate Invasive Murder Hornets and Gypsy Moths

Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get worse, an insect known as the “Murder Hornet” has been spotted in the United States.

Entomologists in Washington state have spotted them in at least two areas.

Native to Asia, the Asian Giant Hornet is a staggering two inches long and can deliver nasty, painful stings that can cause death in humans. Unlike bees, they can sting multiple times and an attack releases pheromones that attract other hornets to come attack as well.

In Japan, dozens of people die of stings every year.

But the hornet is not on a mission to attack people. Scientists say that only happens when they’re provoked, or if an unlucky hiker nears their nest. What’s more terrifying is that the “Murder Hornet” does kill bees. Some reports show that the nasty bug rips off the heads of honeybees.

Honeybees are threatened and their population is declining world-wide. Now, scientists are working to get a grip on any predator that could decimate their numbers even more.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture is asking anyone in the public to report sightings immediately.

The department has been busy this season, as reports began to surface that invasive Gypsy Moths had also descended on the Pacific Northwest. The bug is a major threat to local crops.

The moths can fly long distances and defoliate trees and shrubs. That process weakens them and makes them more susceptible to disease.

It’s such a problem that Washington state governor Jay Inslee issued an emergency proclamation in May, saying that there is “imminent danger of an infestation…[which] seriously endangers the agricultural and horticultural industries…and threatens the economic well-being and quality of life of state residents.”

Newsweek reports that Washington state will drop more than 655 gallons of insecticide “to coincide with the Gypsy Moth caterpillar’s emergence in the spring.”

Entomologists in Washington will begin a trapping process to control the hornet’s queen population, as well.


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Journalists Discover Tennessee Officials Distributed Facemasks Treated with Dangerous Pesticide

Many pesticides come with a long warning label, advising customers and applicators to take caution when handling them. Touching, swallowing or inhaling the chemical compounds could have serious health consequences.

Now, Hamilton County Health Department officials in Tennessee are back tracking after investigative journalists discovered that they were giving out face masks treated with the chemical Silvadur.

Reporters at NewsChannel5 in Nashville uncovered documents from the Environmental Protection Agency that state that the product is, in fact, very “harmful if inhaled,” and people should “avoid breathing vapor or spray mist.”

The product is also toxic to fish.

Health officials were giving out the treated masks for free, and the covering was marketed as a “non-toxic silver antimicrobial.”

Dupont manufactures the pesticide, and says silver is a known antimicrobial agent.

“[Silver] has been shown to have a very broad spectrum of activity. Silver ions are extremely effective at controlling the growth of both Gram + and Gram – bacteria. With the controlled release of silver ions found only in the SILVADUR™ antimicrobial polymer system, all bacteria and fungi are extremely susceptible to this technology.”

NewsChannel5 says the state contracted with a North Carolina manufacturer to buy 5 million of them and they had plans to give them out at regular intervals.

WRCBtv obtained a statement from the Hamilton County Health Department, and a representative said “only trace amounts of Silvadur are applied to the fabric and that amount will continually diminish with each wash. Until more data is made available…the public is asked to refrain from using and distributing the masks.”

NewsChannel 5 interviewed a board member of Beyond Pesticides, who shared his skepticism about the face mask product.

"I wouldn't wear one,” said Dr. Warren Porter. "Nobody wants to breathe in COVID, but I wouldn't want to be breathing in something that I also knew could be poisoning my body in a relatively short period of time and might be having multi-year effects on my health."


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India Phasing Out Use of Highly Toxic Pesticides

The Indian Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers is taking steps to stop using highly toxic chemicals including pesticides and insecticides.

The list of potentially banned substances includes Captan, Oxyfluorfen, Deltamethrin, Pendimethalin and others.

Many of the substances have known health effects and have been banned by countries around the world, but some nations continue to use them for widespread applications, leading to the direct and indirect health consequences.

Let’s break down why some of these chemicals are so dangerous:

  • Captan
    • Use: Controlling plant disease, improving appearance of some fruits and vegetables
    • Health Effects: The EPA classifies it as a carcinogen
    • Is it used in the U.S.?: Yes, it is used to control fungal diseases like downy mildew
  • Oxyfluorfen
    • Use: Can be used to grow rice, peanuts, vegetables and more
    • Health Effects: Inhalation at high doses can cause irritation; it’s also likely to bioaccumulate in the body
    • Is it used in the U.S.?: Yes, it is still used for many broad-leaf plants
  • Deltamethrin
    • Use: It is a broad-spectrum insecticide
    • Health Effects: The NPIC says it is low in toxicity when “touched or breathed in” but could cause gastrointestinal damage in high doses
    • Is it used in the U.S.?: Yes, it is used in many public spaces like golf courses to keep greens beautified and tidy

Phys.Org reports that India uses some of these compounds in high-volume situations, and there are also problems with runoff, which leads to human health hazards.

"Given that pesticide poisonings, accidental or deliberate, account for an average of 20,000 annual deaths in this country, the government notification of a plan to phase out 27 extremely or highly hazardous farm chemicals should be welcomed by all," says Devinder Sharma, to Phys.Org.

The article further explains that in India, banning dangerous chemicals has been a long time coming, because the decision-makers need to consider other ways farmers could eliminate disease and pests while still doing it affordably if some pesticides were to become banned.


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International Year of Plant Health

The UN has declared 2020 the International Year of Plant Health.

The goal of this year long celebration is to raise public awareness on “how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development.” The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that “up to 40% of food crops are lost to plant pests and diseases annually.”

The following list is based on the FAO’s suggestions for helping to raise awareness for plant health across the globe, and we’ve added a couple of our own suggestions as well.

  1. Be careful when bringing plants and plant products across borders
    Speak with your vendors and suppliers about whether they are taking steps to mitigate the spread of undesirable contaminants. Being aware of the policies others have in place can help you to take steps to protect your investments as well.
  2. Comply with local and federal plant health standards
    Complying with guidelines and laws helps protect you AND your plants.
  3. Consider implementing Integrated Pest Management practices
    Research is emerging daily on environmentally friendly ways to manage pests, and these IPM strategies could help you save the environment as well as your crops.
  4. Reach out to policy makers
    Not everyone is aware of the issues surrounding plant health, and policy makers are no exception. Consider asking for a public awareness campaign, suggest changes to local policies, or ask them to invest in innovative plant research. Every little bit helps.
  5. Implement (or re-evaluate) plant monitoring policies
    Early detection is often key to controlling the spread. If you don’t already, consider implementing plant monitoring policies. Or if you do have these policies, perhaps re-evaluate them to see if improvements can be made.
  6. Research and share locally
    If you are on social media, talk to your audience about these issues. Point them to local resources like the DNR or your state’s Department of Agriculture to find out more about what they can do to help the cause. If you’re not on social media, consider talking to people at networking or other social events about the issues.

The FAO has also provided a list of resources and strategies to help raise public awareness, and if you are interested in spreading the word, we suggest checking that out too. There is a ton of information free to share with people, and resources to help you get the word out.

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What You Need to Know About the Chlorpyrifos Ban in California

What is chlorpyrifos?

Chlorpyrifos is an active ingredient in insecticides used primarily to treat agricultural food and feed crops. Chlorpyrifos is a “broad-spectrum, chlorinated organophosphate insecticide, acaricide and nematicide.”[1]  It was first registered for use in the United States in 1965. Chlorpyrifos was designated as a restricted material by the DPR in 2015 and has now been banned from use in California.[2]

Why has California banned chlorpyrifos?

Studies have shown connections between chlorpyrifos and developmental harm to infants which future studies show persisted into childhood. Other studies have shown contradictory results; however, the methodologies and conclusions were called into question. Three studies published in 2017 & 2018 have since shown that chlorpyrifos does in fact cause “decreased learning, hyperactivity and anxiety in rat pups.”[3] Upon careful consideration of the new studies, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation decided that the risks could not be mitigated, and moved to ban the product entirely.

Are there alternatives to chlorpyrifos?

CA DPR has established a workgroup to “develop short and long term action plans to identify and develop safer, more sustainable alternatives to chlorpyrifos. The work group will leverage the work of experts from across the globe to identify and develop pest management tools.”[4] Work is underway, and results can be expected in the spring of 2020.

When does the ban go into effect?

Registrations for products with chlorpyrifos as the active ingredient were made inactive on January 1, 2020. Distribution by California dealers ceased on February 6, 2020. However, possession and use does not have to cease until December 31, 2020.[5]

What are the conditions for use of chlorpyrifos through December 31, 2020?

Application limitations of chlorpyrifos include “a ban on aerial spraying, quarter-mile buffer zones and limiting use to crop-pest combinations that lack alternatives.”[6] The full description of interim permit conditions can be found here: https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/chlorpyrifos/pdf/general_notice_append_o.pdf

What products are affected by this rule change?

The full list of affected products can be found in this CA DPR notice: https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/chlorpyrifos/pdf/general_notice_append_o.pdf

If I still have affected products by December 31, 2020, what should I do with them?

“Do not throw unused pesticides in the trash. Check with your local solid waste management authority, environmental health department or county agricultural commissioner to find out whether your community has a household hazardous waste collection program.”[7]

Sources and Further Reading:

[1] http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/archive/chlorptech.html
[2] https://calepa.ca.gov/2019/10/09/press-release-agreement-reached-to-end-sale-of-chlorpyrifos-in-ca-by-feb-2020/
[3] https://theconversation.com/why-california-is-banning-chlorpyrifos-a-widely-used-pesticide-5-questions-answered-130115
[4] https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/chlorpyrifos/faq.htm
[5] https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/chlorpyrifos/pdf/general_notice_append_o.pdf
[6] https://calepa.ca.gov/2019/10/09/press-release-agreement-reached-to-end-sale-of-chlorpyrifos-in-ca-by-feb-2020/
[7] https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/dept/factshts/storage.pdf

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Banned Pesticide Harms Bald Eagles in Maryland

According to an article by the Baltimore Sun, 25 bald eagles have been poisoned in Maryland’s Delmarva Peninsula in the last 3 years, 7 alone since March 1st of this year.

The cause? A banned pesticide called carbofuran, which was previously sold in the U.S. under the trade name Furadan.

Carbofuran was first banned by the EPA in granular form in the early 90’s due to links to widespread bird deaths, and finally banned in any form in 2009 due to concerns that there was no safe tolerance levels for crops.

Lab testing has confirmed the eagles’ deaths by this banned chemical. Authorities believe that old stocks of carbofuran are being used to kill vertebrate farm pests, which then in turn poison the eagles and other birds who scavenge from the poisoned carrion. Maryland Natural Resources Police are hard pressed to say whether the eagle deaths were caused unwittingly or intentionally. However, federal pesticide laws entirely restrict the use of any unlicensed or banned pesticide, and such products must be disposed of properly immediately after such restrictions are put in place.

Whether the deaths were purposeful or not, killing our nation’s bird by any means results in paying a hefty price: penalties enforced by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act carry fines of up to $250,000 or two years in prison.

Authorities in Maryland are looking for anyone with information regarding the use of carbofuran to come forward – they have offered a $10,000 reward for information and the American Bird Conservancy has pledged to add $5,000 to the reward as well.

From the Baltimore Sun: “Anyone with information about the poisonings is asked to contact Maryland Wildlife Crime Stoppers by calling or texting 443-433-4112, emailing mwc.dnr@maryland.gov, or reporting violations using the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ free mobile app.”

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Mosquito Birth Control for Disease Prevention

Since the first outbreak of Zika in the United States in 2016, researches have been scrambling to find measures to prevent further spread of the disease. There are currently no approved vaccines or drugs for Zika, and so efforts have been concentrated on controlling the mosquito population that carries the disease: Aedes aegypti.

Ae. Aegypti, however, have some resistance to insecticides, which combined with concerns related to pesticide drift and environmental impact, researches have had to look out of the box to find solutions.

The City of South Miami, Miami Dade County, Clarke Mosquito Control Services, and MosquitoMate came together and in early 2018 began releasing Wolbachia-infected Ae. Aegypti male mosquitoes into an area of South Miami.

Wolbachia is a bacteria which naturally affects 60% of the world’s insect species already. This bacteria, when present in mosquitoes, causes egg hatch failure. Scientists have infected male Ae. Aegypti and when they mate with females, the eggs simply do not hatch. This simple bacteria has the remarkable effect of reducing populations of Zika infected mosquitoes.

According to EntymologyToday.org, study findings recently published in the Journal of Medical Entomology have been positive: there has been more than a 75% reduction in females since the project began. While migration has played a mitigating effect, researchers are positive that expanding the area where the infected males are released will result in even more favorable results.

To learn more about other types of mosquito control and get continuing education credit for your state, be sure to visit Certified Training Institute today!

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