Hope in the Fight Against the Spotted Lanternfly

Agricultural producers in Pennsylvania and surrounding states have been battling the Spotted Lanternfly since 2014. Management and control of this invasive species has been a major feat in the United States, and farmers in uninfected areas live with the fear that these hard to deal with bugs may move into their areas.

Since the first invasion of Spotted Lanternflies five years ago, scientists have been actively studying the creature and looking for ways to control them, however, results have been largely disappointing, and the lanternflies continue to spread.

These particular bugs have a highly varied diet, as they are able to subsist on over 70 plant species. They also are hard to keep contained to one area, as they will lay their eggs on any available surface. This leads to easy transmission from area to area, and despite quarantine efforts the lanternflies can now be found in five states throughout the northeastern United States.

However, according to Popular Science, researchers at Cornell University may have had a breakthrough recently. Two particular species of fungi, Batkoa major and Beauveria bassiana, may be farmer’s best hope for controlling Spotted Lanternfly populations.

The fungi seem to bog down the lanternflies—when infected with Batkoa major, the overgrowth of the fungus adheres the Spotted Lanternflies to trunks of trees, and when infected with Beauveria bassiana, the lanternflies are often found dead on the ground.

Scientists were at first baffled when agricultural officials began finding dead lanternflies covered with white fuzz.  DNA and culture tests were run on the fuzz, and it was found to be these fungi. Since these initial findings, scientists have begun looking into the possibility of utilizing one or both fungi as part of a pest management strategy to control the Spotted Lanternfly in other areas.

While more research must still be conducted, scientists are hopeful that these fungi will help reduce populations of the Spotted Lanternfly.

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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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Utah Pollinator Stewardship

Utah pesticide applicators: pollinator stewardship is a hot topic in your state right now!

Check out the following snippets from our course on pollinator stewardship, and then click here to find the whole course (it is fully Utah state approved and counts as 1 CEU)!

 The primary concern plaguing the beekeeping industry is the decline of honey bees around the world. Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is the leading cause behind this steady decline in honey bee numbers. There are a number of different factors affecting this decline. It is important to know the best practices concerning honeybee stewardship.”

“Minimize Pesticide Risk for Pollinators: Whether applying pesticides in the home garden or in a commercial setting, many of the chemical pesticides used to control insects, fungal disease, and even weeds can hurt non-target pollinating insects, such as bees and butterflies. Ensure your ability to effectively and efficiently apply pesticides without harming beneficial insects.”

As applicators, it is important that to be aware and analyze the following prior to every pesticide application:

  • Understand the importance of pollinators in agriculture and why protecting native pollinators is of great concern.
  • Be aware of the federal and state enforcement and compliance procedures as related to pollinator safety and alternatives to hard chemicals.
  • Identify the factors that contribute to colony collapse disorder in relation to the current application.
  • Recognize the importance of beekeeper/grower communication, and communicate with local beekeepers who may be affected whenever possible.

For additional resource in relation to the topic of pollinator stewardship, check out CTI’s other course Balancing Pest Management and Pollinator Stewardship (fully state approved and counts as 2 CEUs!). The Utah Department of Agriculture has some helpful resources as well which can be found here.

Careful analysis of pesticide application sites and surrounding areas can ensure the health of pollinators in our environments for years to come. Make sure you are doing your part AND earn CEUs with Certified Training Institute today!

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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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The Buzz in Utah on the Effect of Pesticides on Wild Bees

Humans and honeybees go way back. We’ve been raiding their hives for honey for at least 10,000 years, and we domesticated them almost 5,000 years ago. Honey bees are the most commonly used pollinator for commercial crops in the United States. But there is another bee story; the decline of wild bees.

Ultimately, it may be the more alarming story. There are over 20,000 bee species in the world, and 43 percent of them are diminishing or endangered. Most wild bees are small and solitary, nesting in holes in the ground or wood. Solitary bees face different, less understood, challenges from pesticide exposure than their colony-dwelling honeybee cousins.

In a report published last week in Environmental Entomology, Utah State University graduate student Andi Kopi and Theresa Pitts-Singer, Ph.D., of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service make the case that we need to look beyond honeybees when assessing how pesticides affect pollinators. When it comes to pesticides, we typically only check their effects on honeybees before authorizing their use, even though solitary bees may interact with these chemicals in very different ways.

The factors affecting wild bee populations are the same as those responsible for the death of honeybee colonies. It’s not just one thing, but three factors intersecting that have caused the population to diminish. It’s this interaction between pesticides, poor nutrition, and diseases and parasites that is, in fact, bringing bees populations down.

Wild bees are ecologically critical. Worldwide, more than 1,000 plant-produced food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated. Our pollinators have enough environmental stressors, curbing the use of bird and bee-killing pesticides should be a national priority.


Pesticide Professional Continuing Education

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13 Bald Eagles Lost to Illegal Pesticide Use

13 bald eagles were found lifeless on a Maryland farm two years ago. The cause of death was a mystery. The case was investigated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife authorities, who collected six of the 13 dead eagles. Almost immediately, they suspected poisoning as the cause of death. Their suspicions were correct.

Details of a six-month investigation disclosed last week, show that the eagles died from ingesting a highly toxic pesticide banned in the United States. In 1991, Congress banned the granular form of carbofuran, which was blamed for the deaths of more than a million birds. The Environmental Protection Agency banned its liquid use as an insecticide on food crops in 2009.

Marketed under Furudan, Curater and other names, the insecticide is also toxic to humans and other mammals, causing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and difficulty breathing. Some farmers continue to use the poison illegally to kill larger predators and pests, including foxes, coyotes, and raccoons. Investigators believe at least five of the 13 eagles in Maryland ingested the toxic chemical while eating the tainted remains of a dead raccoon. Carbofuran is so acutely toxic that animals have succumbed to it with just food in their mouth. In some instances, the animals are found dead with undigested food material, mid-esophagus.

At the time the report was issued, authorities announced that they were intending to close the case soon due to a lack of evidence linking anyone to the crime. No arrests have been made. Killing a bald eagle is a felony crime punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

 

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A Sticky Solution Comes to Florida Agriculture

Growers across the country are excited about a new pesticide additive that is being tested on a citrus grove in Florida. Maher Damak, a 27-year-old scientist has a solution to make pesticides stickier, and therefore allow us to use far less of them. Many plants are hydrophobic, or water-repelling and pesticides are mostly water-based, so when they are sprayed onto plants, the droplets either bounce or roll off the surface. Considering more than 5.5 billion pounds of pesticide are used worldwide each year (including 1 billion pounds here in the United States) a solution is imperative.

Farmers use many pesticides, and usually, spray 50 to 100 gallons per acre depending on which kind of pests or diseases they have in a year. Only 2% of the pesticides actually stay on the plant. Helping protect plants is important, but it is crucial to remember that it also leaches into groundwater as runoff, contaminating drinking supplies, as well as carried away by wind where it settles on nearby homes, schools, and playgrounds. In fact, researchers have found decades-old pesticide particles as far away as Antarctica, which suggests our entire planet is currently covered in the stuff.

Considering pesticides account for almost half of production costs, there is a financial as well as an environmental incentive for farmers to adopt the new technology. Pests account for approximately 40% of losses in global agricultural production. This solution should help increase yields by taking the number of pesticides used per acre from 50-100 gallons down to just 10, changing the bottom lines for growers across the world. After a quick and inexpensive retrofit of pesticide applicators, whether handheld or tractor-mounted, farmers can use significantly less pesticide in their fields without harming their harvest.


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Cricket Catastrophe: Mormon Crickets Infiltrate Town in Idaho

The Mormon cricket has taken over the town of Murphy, Idaho, and residents say it's not the first time it's happened. According to residents, it was seven years ago when hordes of hissing, cannibalistic Mormon crickets swarmed the small town, climbing up the sides of houses, marching down the streets and consuming any crop in their path.

These insects emerge in the springtime, grow 2-3 inches long and undergo seven stages of development (known as instars) taking 60-90 days before reaching adulthood. In the past, residents used a pesticide bait to get rid of these monster crickets. Since Mormon crickets are cannibals they eat the bait and then eat each other, annihilating the horde in droves.

This time the bugs caught the town off guard, they didn't have the bait called "Sevin Bait" and the closest supply store is 30 miles outside of town. A pesticide called Dimilin can be sprayed outside city limits and targets younger, smaller crickets inhibiting their growth. In-town, residents are using Tempo, a general-use insecticide that is considered safe to use around children and pets. Unfortunately for most farmers, crop insurance doesn’t cover cricket devastation and there’s not much they can do in the aftermath.


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