Friday, May 29, 2015

EPA releases Proposal to Protect Bees from Acutely Toxic Pesticides

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing restrictions to protect bees used for pollination services from harmful pesticide exposure. Large numbers of bees may be exposed to pesticide spray when growers contract with beekeepers to provide pollination services. EPA believes that strong regulatory measures should be in place to protect bees used for pollination services.

EPA’s Proposal to Mitigate Bee Exposure to Acutely Toxic Pesticides in docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0818. EPA will accept public comments on the proposal starting May 29, 2015.

Proposed Restrictions 

EPA is proposing to prohibit the applications of pesticides that are highly toxic to bees when crops are in bloom and bees are under contract for pollination services. These restrictions would prohibit application of most insecticides and some herbicides during bloom.

Growers routinely contract with honey bee keepers to bring in bees to pollinate their crops that require insect pollination. Bees are typically present during the period the crops are in bloom. Application of pesticides during this period can significantly affect the health of bees.

These restrictions are expected to reduce the likelihood of high levels of pesticide exposure and mortality for bees providing pollination services. Moreover, EPA believes these additional measures to protect bees providing pollination services will protect other pollinators as well.

The proposed restrictions would apply to all products that have:
  • Liquid or dust formulations as applied; 
  • Foliar use (applying pesticides directly to crop leaves) directions for use on crops; and 
  • Active ingredients that have been determined via testing to have high toxicity for bees (less than 11 micrograms per bee). 
The proposed restrictions would not replace more restrictive, chemical-specific, bee-protective provisions that may already be on a product label. Additionally, the proposed label restrictions would not apply to applications made in support of a government-declared public health response, such as use for wide area mosquito control. There would be no other exceptions to these proposed restrictions.

The list of registered active ingredients that meet the acute toxicity criteria is included as Appendix A of EPA’s proposal.

At this time, EPA is not proposing changes to product labels for managed bees not being used for pollination services.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Potato leaf hoppers arriving earlier and are more destructive

Data on potato leafhoppers goes back over 60 years and scientists have documented that they are arriving about 10 days earlier than they used to.  As damage also tends to be worse in warmer years, scientists are evaluated if climate change is causing the early arrival and increase in plant damage.  Indeed, the timing and severity of potato leafhopper corresponded to the increase in temperature.  This change can impact management of crops which are affected by the leafhoppers, a particular challenge as their feeding can go undetected for a short time after infestation.

potato leafhopper (Empoasca fabae) by Steve L. Brown, University of Georgia,

Read more about the study:  Climate change boosts a migratory insect pest
Potato leafhopper images: Empoasca fabae
For more information: potato leafhopper wiki

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Opah, the first warm-blooded fish

Deep in the water, where the light barely reaches, creatures tend to live life in the slow-lane.  Rather than chasing prey all about, they are usually ambush, opportunistic feeders with very little energy spent on actively swimming.  The opah (Lampris guttatus) is like finding a race car among roller skates.

The opah has an unusual blood vessel system in which vessels around the gills wrap around vessels which lead back to the core.  Blood is warmed in the core of the body and the heat is passed to blood coming back from the gills.  This means that the opah can maintain a temperature about 5C (41F) above the surrounding water from 150-1,000 ft deep.  Maintaining a warmer temperature not only helps them to resist the effects of cold water, but it can also boost their eye and brain function and muscle output and capacity.

Source Article: First fully warm-blooded fish: The opah or moonfish

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The bees are disappearing; U.S. beekeepers lose 40% in 2014-2015

Bees have been in the news the last several years for their decreasing populations.  An annual survey of U.S. beekeepers reports that they lost, on average, 40% of their honey bee colonies from April 2014-April 2015.  While loss of bees during winter is not unexpected, the loss in the summer was surprising.  During the winter, beekeepers lost 23.7% of their colonies, a decrease from 23.7% the previous year.  During the summer, beekeepers reported a loss of 27.4%, up significantly from 19.8% last year.

The survey represents about 15% of the total bee colonies in the U.S., with about 6,000 beekeepers responding.  Of beekeepers with under 50 colonies ("Backyard beekeepers"), the varroa mite was majorly responsible for the decline.  However, it is unknown why commercial beekeepers had substantial losses.

varroa mite (Varroa jacobsoni) on honeybee by Pest and Diseases Image Library,

Source Article: U.S. beekeepers lost 40 percent of bees in 2014-15

Friday, May 22, 2015

Sawflies population boom killing ponderosa pines

With significant portions of Colorado experiencing conditions that are abnormally dry to severe drought (Drought Monitor), and tree defenses down due to the drought, a population boom in pine sawflies (Neodiprion autumnalis) has become another stress on ponderosa pines in the west.  In 2014, pine sawflies defoliated 7,400 acres of pine forests and a sawfly egg survey predicts another year of moderate to heavy defoliation.  The sampling plan is based on one developed in New York for a different species of sawfly and pin, and it may not quite fit the situation for Colorado.

pine sawflies (Neodiprion autumnalis) by USDA Forest Service - Region 2 - Rocky Mountain Region Archive, USDA Forest Service,

This is Colorado's first attempt at predicting the defoliation by pine sawfly by egg counting, and if it is successful, it could be used to generate a model for future outbreaks.  As chemical controls should be applied at egg hatching, the plan can help inform applicators of where the heaviest infestations are likely to occur.

Denver Post: Sawfly wasp outbreak spreading through Colorado's ponderosa pines
Colorado State Forest Service: Pines Southeast of Denver Expected to Suffer Damage from Sawfly this Summer
Franktown District, CSFS: Potential for Pine Sawfly (Neodiprion Autumnalis) Defoliation of Ponderosa Pine Forests in Elbert County, CO, in 2015

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Invasive monk parakeets come from one small region

Introduced species that are able to successfully establish and become invasive usually come from a very small sample of the native gene pool and so have little genetic variability.  By evaluating the genetic make-up of the introduced population and compare it to samples from the native population, researchers can sometimes define the origin of the introduced species.

monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) by Stephanie Sanchez,

The monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) is from South America and is now found in North America, Europe, and Africa where it was sold as pets for many years.  Evaluation of the genetic information within mitochondrial DNA and nuclear microsatellites showed that all of the established invasive populations within Europe and North America are from the same haplotype (groups of DNA sequence variations).  This haplotype, called Monarch1, only occurs in two small populations in its native range, Entre RĂ­os, Argentina and Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, and it is uncommon even in its native population.  The low genetic diversity doesn't seem to be affecting the invasive populations success in any of the sampled locations.

Invasive Plant Management and Greater Sage-grouse Conservation

Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies recently released a report on the impact of invasive plants and Greater Sage-grouse conservation.  Check it out here and for more information go here.

Photo by Terry Spivey, USDA Forest Service,

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Size no problem for invasive ants

The red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) has been steadily marching through the U.S. since it was introduced to the south around the 1930s or 1940s.  It has become established in most of the southern states and is even found up into Maryland and Virginia.  How have they become so successful in taking over?

red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) by USDA APHIS PPQ Archive, USDA APHIS PPQ,

Part of the reason may be their ingenious excavation techniques.  When presented with large-grained soil, they will grab one piece at a time and move them out of the tunnels.  When encountering finer soil, they with grab and compress multiple grains together and move the compact piece our of the tunnel.  Having techniques in place to address different soil types has allowed them to invade across many substrates.

Source Article: Invasive ants are extreme excavators
More images: red imported fire ant

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New soybeans resistant to soybean rust, soybean cyst nematode, and more!

Most crops have some sort of insect or disease pressure which growers have to face year after year.  The most common way for a grower to combat yield loss to insects and disease is to use some sort of pesticide.  Breeders, however, try to make crops resistant to insects and disease, reducing the yield loss and cost of inputs.  Breeders will work on crops for years to ensure that not only does it have the traits that they want to put into the crop, but also will have everything that current popular varieties express (i.e., high nutrient content, predictable growth, high yield, etc.) and that they haven't added any undesirable traits.

soybean rust (Phakopsora pachyrhizi) by Daren Mueller, Iowa State University,

Researchers have known for years that certain wild relatives of commercial soybean have genes which impart resistance to diseases.  However, they have been unsuccessful at cross-breeding the plants since 1979 and it was thought impossible for them to produce reproductive plants.  But by exposing the hybrid's aborted, immature seeds to a hormone treatment, the seeds matured and the plants were able to be grown and bred.  Many generations of crossing the hybrids with the 'Dwight' soybean cultivar until only the desirable disease resistance traits were retained from the wild parent.  The new lines are resistant to soybean rust, soybean cyst nematode, or phytophthera root rot and some even have higher yield or protein content too.  These new genes will be able to add many new traits to existing breeding programs.

Source Article: Plant breeder boosts soybean diversity, develops soybean rust-resistant plant

Monday, May 18, 2015

Low-allergen soybean developed

Soybeans (Glycine max), used throughout the food supply to feed humans and livestock, is one of eight foods regulated by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act.  There are three key proteins which confer allergenic and anti-nutritional properties in soybeans, and now there is a breed which has low-to-zero levels of those proteins.  After the proteins were identified, the researchers genetically engineered the proteins out of the crop.  However, testing of the soybean line was hampered by the transgenic production and due to soybean use in all aspects of food production, especially infant formula.  

After another 10 years of breeding efforts, a non-transgenic, conventionally bred line called "Triple Null" was developed and is going to be tested on swine specifically bred with strong soy allergies.  If the "Triple Null" line is as promising as they hope, this could be an important step in low-allergen food development.

Soybeans (Glycine max) by Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service,

Saturday, May 16, 2015

MIPN Landscape alternative App updated

Do you get questions about which ornamental plant is considered invasive and what alternative plant options are?  If so MIPN has created a great resource for you. We call it the Landscape Alternatives brochure. Within the brochure are known invasive plants sold in the ornamental trade industry with alternative species (native and non-native) provided. 

This resource has actually been available for several years, and is also available as a mobile App for android and apple products. Recently we have updated this Application to include four additional invasive species (English ivy, Chinese silvergrass (Miscanthus sinensis), porcelainberry, and callery pear) along with 36 recommended alternatives to these species.
To download the App please click on this link here!
The brochure can be purchased from the MIPN website 

Please share this FREE resource to other individuals to limit the purchase (and spread) of invasive plants throughout the midwestern United States!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Endangered Species Day

Did you know that today is National Endangered Species day?  One of the best known population recovery of an endangered species is the bald eagle.  However there are several other examples of species that have rebounded due to conservation efforts.

Immature American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) by Alfred Viola, Northeastern University,

While everyone knows the famous American Alligator, did you know that there is also an American Crocodile?  The American Crocodile has a large range across the Americas, but within the U.S., it only occurs in the southern portion of Florida.  The American crocodile was listed as federally endangered in 1975 with the major cause of population decline attributed to habitat destruction, though hunting has also been a factor.  Alteration of the hydrological regimen, causing changes in salinity and water levels, as well as construction/development of the Florida Keys created inhospitable environments for nesting.  By restoring habitat areas and limiting hunting and capturing, the American crocodile population has increased and its status has been downgraded on the IUCN List from Endangered to Threatened.

American Crocodile Resources: National Geographic, National Park Service, University of Florida IFAS

Did you know that Rocky Mountain National Park is celebrating Endangered Species Day?  For more information: Rocky Celebrates Commitment To Wildlife Protection 10th Annual Endangered Species Day Special Program

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Increasing natural habitat for sustainable pest management also brings back butterflies

Vineyards in eastern Washington have been working on reducing their pesticide usage.  To encourage the "good" bugs, the insects which will eat the pests at the vineyard, growers incorporated native plant habitats.  Not only did it attract the parasitic wasps and natural predator insects, the habitat-enhanced vineyards increased the abundance and diversity of butterflies.  Loss of habitat over the years has caused a decrease in butterflies and the habitat-enhanced vineyards have three times the species and four times the butterflies as nearby conventional vineyards.

woodland skipper (Ochlodes sylvanoides) by Joseph Berger,
Source Article: Vineyard natural habitats assist with butterfly comeback

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Louisiana crayfish eating their way around Africa

It seems that culinary tourism isn't limited to human vacations.  Louisiana crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) is a fresh water crayfish and was brought to Africa as an aquaculture crop. Africa has no native freshwater crayfish and without aggressive competition or predators, it has spread though lakes, ponds and rivers through adjacent catchments and it can also travel across land to other waterbodies.  It has caused disruption of ecosystems due to over-consumption of fish eggs, fingerlings and just about any other food source available based on their location.

Louisiana crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) by Chris Taylor, Illinois Histroty Survey,

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Bamboo creates habitat and food source for deer mice, hantavirus

Bamboo is popular in landscaping, especially as a living fence and privacy screen.  However, not only is bamboo invasive, they have also been found as a preferred habitat for deer mice. Bamboo has an intermittent flowering pattern, but they tend to produce heavily when they do reproduce.  They can produce seed for up to 18 months, during which, deer mice can have several reproductive cycles.  After the bamboo seeds have been consumed, the mice may seek out food near the human dwelling.  As over 10% of deer mice may carry hantavirus, this can be a risk to humans living near dense bamboo stands.  By reducing the habitat and food source that the bamboo provides, this reduces the risk of mouse-borne disease.

deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) by David Cappaert, Michigan State University,

Source article: Ecologist warns of bamboo fueling spread of hantavirus
To report observations of bamboo, visit EDDMapS

Monday, May 11, 2015

Silver nanoparticles + wormwood extract = new phytophthera fungicide

Phytophthera is a genus of fungi-like oomycetes (water molds) which can affect about 400 species of plants, including many agricultural, horticultural, and natural areas species.  The diseases can affect many different parts of the plants, causing blights, crown rots, root rots, stem rots, etc. Estimations worldwide are in the multibillion dollar range for crop loss due to Phytophthera diseases.  Phytophthera species have also developed resistance to many existing fungicides, and so researchers have been experimenting to find a new treatment plan.

Phytophthora root and crown rots (Phytophthora spp.) by Don Ferrin, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center,

Sliver nanoparticles are, like they sound, really, really small pieces of silver.  The average size of a silver nanoparticle is 5-100 nanometers, which, to give you the an idea of size:

10 nm is the lower size of tobacco smoke particles
20-80 nm is the thickness of cell walls in some bacteria
50 nm is the size of the largest airborne viruses

Phytophthora root and crown rots (Phytophthora spp.) sporangia by Bruce Watt, University of Maine,
Those sporangia are about 50,000 nm long; the largest silver nanoparticles are 50 times smaller!

Silver nanoparticles on their own seem to display antibacterial, antifungal, and antitumor activities and have been evaluated for use in everything from textiles to wound dressings.  There are several hypotheses as to exactly how the silver nanoparticles, primarily about their interaction with elements within the cells inhibiting enzyme and protein functions.

In the last couple of years, researchers have also found that wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) has antioxidant activity.  By combining the silver nanoparticles with the wormwood extract, researchers have come up with a product that is effective against several strains of Phytophthera and, due to the multiple ways that silver nanoparticles affect cells, there is little concern for Phytophthera developing resistance.
wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) by Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan,

To read about the research: Researchers Find a “Silver Bullet” to Kill a Fungus That Affects More Than 400 Plants and Trees
Phytophthera Images: Phytophthera spp.
Wormwood Images: Artemisia absinthium

Friday, May 8, 2015

Not the avocados! Florida avocado crops under threat from invasive insect-disease duo

The number of avocado recipes seem to have exploded the last few years with the demise of the low-fat diet and the interest in the concept of "healthy fats."  Avocado on toast, eggs baked in avocados, vegan friendly avocado based puddings, and, of course, guacamole are just a few examples of the attention being paid to avocado.  Unfortunately, while the early 2000 were out with the low-fat diets it was also in with the redbay ambrosia beetle.  The redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus), and it's accompanying fungus laurel wilt (Raffaelea lauricola), came into Georgia likely through infest hardwood pallets or packing material in 2002.  By 2005 it was found to be associated with the rapid decline in redbay (Persea borbonia) and sassafras (Sassafras albidum) in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina.  So why are we talking about avocados?  Unfortunately, they are all part of the Lauraceae family of trees and once infected, the trees can be dead within six weeks.  While Florida only produces 10% of the avocados in the US, it is still a 64 million dollar industry and is being treated as a urgent threat to the overall crop.

Laurel wilt (Raffaelea lauricola) by R. Scott Cameron, Advanced Forest Protection, Inc.,
 The real concern for growers is that by the time the first signs of infestation by the beetle have shown up, it's already too late.  Finding trees that have been just infested mean that a fungicide can be used to save the tree.  So, what are researchers using to target infested trees?  Drones.  Drones carrying a thermal digital-imaging camera to find stressed trees. Once researchers have identified areas with stressed trees, then they send in the dogs.  Dogs will alert handlers when they find trees that are infested and targeted treatments can be applied.
redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus) galleries in redbay tree by James Johnson, Georgia Forestry Commission,

As wide as the beetle and fungus have already spread and as there are multiple hosts for this deadly duo, there isn't a practical hope for eradication and there is potential for the disease to spread to other avocado producing states, California being the most concerning.  While the disease can't be controlled in the natural areas of the states, there is the ability to use the tools researchers are coming up with to save avocado orchards.

Laurel wilt (Raffaelea lauricola) EDDMapS. 2015. Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System. The University of Georgia - Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health. Available online at; last accessed May 5, 2015.
For more on the research on detection strategies: Florida turns to drones, dogs in race to save the guacamole
Redbay ambrosia beetle images: Xyleborus glabratus
Laurel wilt images: Raffaelea lauricola

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Students Tackle Hydrilla Problem in NC

Fishing, a beloved hobby nationwide, is starting to become a little more involved than digging up some worms and heading out on your boat for an afternoon.  Aquatic invasive species are reproducing rapidly, completely out competing native vegetation in some areas and making it more difficult to even move a motorboat around a pond or river.  Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) has taken over waterways in Edenton, NC and the students and community members have begun an information campaign and will put up cleaning tools to encourage boaters to clean their equipment to prevent further spread in the area.

Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) tangled on a boat motor by Wilfredo Robles, Mississippi State University,

If you spot hydrilla while out and about, don't forget to report it!  You can find the smartphone application for your area on the BugwoodApps website and download it before you head out.  Don't forget to include a picture with your report!

Want to know if it is in your area?  Hydrilla distribution map
More images of hydrilla?  Hydrilla certicillata
BugwoodWiki: Hydrilla

Community teams up to fight the spread of hydrilla

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Lionfish Tournament Northeast Florida, All You Can Catch!

We've post a few times about the invasive lionfish issue in Florida waters, so now's your chance to jump on the bandwagon and, if you're lucky, win a prize! The Northeast Florida Lionfish Blast is taking place from May 1-31 and who ever catches the most lionfish in two days of diving can win up to $1,000 and a sport watch.

lionfish (Pterois volitans) by U.S. Geological Survey Archive, U.S. Geological Survey,
If you happen to have your smartphone or tablet and catch a lionfish, don't forget to report it!  Check out the IveGot1 application for iPhone and Android and don't forget to include a picture of the lionfish when you report!

Lionfish Tournament Takes Aim At Invasive Species
To learn more about this competition: Northeast Florida Lionfish Blast

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Aggressive Eradication Plan for Starry Stonewort in WI Lake

Starry stonewort (Nitellopsis obtusa) was found in Little Muskego Lake, WI last September.  After the Department of Natural Resources and concerned community members collaborated on the best plan for eradication, they are now ready to take action.   Next month, the three acre lake will be populated by trained divers searching for an plucking out the invasive algae.  In August, divers from a commercial company will take to the lake with a vacuum to rid the lake bottom of the algae.  While in more thoroughly invaded lakes, mechanical harvesting seems to have made the issue worse, spreading the plant around more so than removing it entirely, WI DNR is hopeful that it will prove effective in instances where the invasion is caught early.

To read more on the project: DNR, residents wage counterattack on invasive plant in Little Muskego Lake

Monday, May 4, 2015

From thousands to four? Pelicans scoop goldfish from Colorado lake

A few weeks ago, we posted about the goldfish problem in Teller Lake #5, Colorado.  They expected to either shocking the fish to collect them or even drain the lake.  Pelicans have save them the trouble of deciding a course of action.  When Colorado Parks and Wildlife personnel visited the lake on Tuesday to sample the lake, they came up with nary a goldfish.  Whereas a few weeks ago thousands could be seen in the lake, only four goldfish were observed from the boat.  While wildlife biologists had seen American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) scooping the goldfish and had found some that had been regurgitated, they didn't expect such a reduction of the population.  Due to the fact that the remaining number of goldfish is so small and are expected to be finished off by the pelicans or the bass, Colorado Parks and Wildlife don't need to do anything else.  The "natural control" the pelicans provided may even lead to strategic placement of rehabilitated pelicans, an option which may be brought up at the next state aquatic biologists meeting.

American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) by Terry L Spivey, Terry Spivey Photography,
The original article: Hungry pelicans credited with gobbling thousands of goldfish infesting Boulder lake
American white pelican images: Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

Friday, May 1, 2015

Nicotine a medicine for parasitized bumblebees

A medicine for ill bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) but a poison for healthy ones, researchers from Queen Mary University of London and Royal Holloway, University of London found that bumblebees infected with the trypanosome gut parasite Crithidia bombi preferred nicotine-laced nectar.  The nicotine had a benefit for infect bees: antimicrobial secondary metabolites which delayed the infection by a few days, though it didn't clear the infection entirely nor extend the overall life expectancy.  When healthy bees consumed nicotine-laced nectar for long periods reduced their life expectancy, an effect not observed in infected bees.

large earth humble bee (Bombus terrestris) by Whitney Cranshaw,

To read about the research: Bumblebees use nicotine to fight off parasites
Images of Bombus terrestrisBombus terrestris