Monday, April 20, 2015

New pine beetle discovered in Central America: Mesoamerican pine beetle

Called the Mesoamerican pine beetle (Dendroctonus mesoamericanus), it is in the same genus as southern pine beetle, a destructive bark beetle that attacks several species of pine.  After suspecting the existence of a new species of bark beetle in 2002, subsequent pheromone and body wax chemistry definitively proved the new species.  In fact, the Mesoamerican pine beetle don't response to pheromone traps baited for southern pine beetle.


southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis) by Erich G. Vallery, USDA Forest Service - SRS-4552, Bugwood.org

The Mesoamerican pine beetle looks very similar to the southern pine beetle, but, in addition to the chemical differences, the Mesoamerican pine beetle tends to be larger and has other subtle morphological differences, the resinous pitch tubes on infested trees are also larger, they tend to infest the trees after they have already been colonized by southern pine beetles, and they are found in the lower trunk and branches.  They have been found on eight species of pines in Central America and are believed to work in concert with southern pine beetles.  The combination of beetles on infested trees tends to be more destructive than those infested by southern pine beetle alone.

southern pine beetle pitch tubes by Erich G. Vallery, USDA Forest Service - SRS-4552, Bugwood.org


For more on the discovery: New Mesoamerican pine beetle described by scientists
To access the original publication: A New Species of Bark Beetle, Dendroctonus mesoamericanus
sp. nov. (Curculionidae: Scolytinae), in Southern Mexico and Central America

Friday, April 17, 2015

Wanted! Reports of Chinaberry!

It certainly is a great time of year to find invasives!  Chinaberry (Melia azedarach) is in full bloom and so it's a good time to map it.  As warm weather moves up the country, mappers in the more northern states keep a look out in the coming weeks for these distinctive trees and flowers.

chinaberry (Melia azedarach) by Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org
Chinaberry is a tree that is commonly found along road and forest edges and in disturbed areas.  Here in the south I have noticed it most at the edges of agricultural fields.

chinaberry (Melia azedarach) by Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
The leaves are alternate and twice- to three-times compound with serrated leaflet edges.   In the fall, the leaves will turn golden-yellow.

chinaberry (Melia azedarach) by Emily Earp, FloridaNature.org, Bugwood.org
The flowers are blooming now and are showy, lavender, and have five petals.  These will turn into fruit which are the size of marbles and are on long stalks.  These will be seen best after the leaves fall in late autumn to early winter and are readily spread by birds.

EDDMapS is always looking to fill in the gaps on the distribution maps.  So if you see a blank county where you know chinaberry can be found, run out and map it using one of the BugwoodApps! The SEEDN app is an app for reporting invasive species occurrences for the southeastern U.S. and is available on iOS (Apple products) and Android devices. If you don't have a smartphone, tablet, or other such device, you can report findings through EDDMapS. Remember to take a picture of the plants you find with your report! Once your reports are verified, it will color in the map where data is currently missing. Happy scouting!


To view distribution maps of chinaberry: Chinaberry distribution
For identification information and other resources on chinaberry: Chinaberry information
To view images of chinaberry: Chinaberry images

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Calling all Mappers! Japanese Honeysuckle is Blooming!

While out walking on Sunday I noticed that the Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is in full bloom here in south Georgia! Seemingly out of nowhere, the days have gotten longer and the temperature has started to really creep up.

Japanese honeysuckle is an invasive flowering vine that has taken over large swathes of the U.S.  It has opposite leaves and flowers.  The flowers occur in pairs at the leaf axils and will often turn from white to a soft yellow as they age.

Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) by Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

EDDMapS is Bugwood's website for mapping and reporting invasive species nationwide.  It includes data from all types of sources, herbariums to homeowners and federal agencies to citizen scientist programs.  It relies on accurate and quality reports of invasive species occurrences to fill in the maps  and to show a complete distribution of a species.  As Japanese honeysuckle is most easily seen when it is flowering, help us fill in the gaps on the map in the next several weeks!


The easiest way to report where you find Japanese honeysuckle is to use one of the BugwoodApps! The SEEDN app is an app for reporting invasive species occurrences for the southeastern U.S. and is available on iOS (Apple products) and Android devices. If you don't have a smartphone, tablet, or other such device, you can report findings through EDDMapS. Remember to take a picture of the plants you find with your report! Once your reports are verified, it will color in the map where data is currently missing. Happy scouting!


To view distribution maps of Japanese honeysuckle: Japanese honeysuckle distribution
For identification information and other resources on Japanese honeysuckle: Japanese honeysuckle information
To view images of Japanese honeysuckle: Japanese honeysuckle images

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

New plant virus in North America, virus family know for diseases in corn, wheat, and sugarcane

Tentatively called the switchgrass mosaic-associated virus 1, it is a member of the mastrevirus genus.  Mosaic virus symptoms are usually a discoloration of plant parts, the specific pattern, affect parts, or coloration varies by the virus, and can also cause stunting, poor yield, and even plant death.

Alfalfa Mosaic Virus (Alfamovirus AMV) on potato by Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org
As viruses are little more than genetic material wrapped in a protective protein coat, they are classified by their genome.  To be included in the mastrevirus genus, the virus must share at least 75% of the genome with another mastrevirus.  Previously described mastreviruses have been found in Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia and have been responsible for reduced yield in corn, wheat, and sugarcane. Mastreviruses are primarily transmitted through leafhoppers and as such, the prevalence of infected crops rise and fall with leafhopper populations.  As this is a newly described virus, the current spread of it is unknown, as well as the vector, and has at this time only been found in switchgrass.

The article describing the discovery: First report of a new crop virus in North America

Monday, April 13, 2015

Pathogens as Biological Weapons of Invasive Species

“Invasive species are nonindigenous species that are introduced into new environments, where they become established and expand their range [1]. They undergo rapid proliferation following the colonization of new habitats, often at the expense of native species, thus having a negative impact on biodiversity. The prospering discipline of invasion ecology seeks to understand why some species become successful invaders, while others do not, even if they are closely related. Pathogens and parasites appear to play an important role in this context.”