Archive for December, 2010

Happy New Year!

December 31, 2010


Hot Topic: Genomic Analyses of C. elegans and D. melanogaster

December 29, 2010

Two Research Articles published online in Science Express on 22 December 2010 present comprehensive genomic analyses of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster that provide insights into the organization, structure, and function of these genomes. Access to these papers, as well as a related Editorial and Perspective, is FREE.


22 December 2010

Identification of Functional Elements and Regulatory Circuits by Drosophila modENCODE

The modENCODE Consortium et al.

Beware Bed Bugs When You Pack, Travel

December 28, 2010

Beware Bed Bugs When You Pack, Travel

Health Officials Say They’ve Seen Increase In Bed Bug Cases This Year

bedbug control services

Hive remedy has beekeepers abuzz

December 27, 2010

Hive remedy has beekeepers abuzz

Beekeepers are being offered hope for their ailing honeybee hives in the form of an advanced new product released this month by a South Florida-based biotechnology company.

The technology could have wider implications for all of agriculture as a nonchemical way to combat pests and disease.

Beekeepers have been losing about a third of their hives each year since 2006, when Florida beekeeper Dave Hackenberg first reported a phenomenon that came to be called colony collapse disorder. CCD is not a disease, but is a syndrome characterized by the inexplicable loss of worker bees in managed honeybee colonies.

Although it is not a “cure” for CCD, Remebee, a product developed by Miami-based Beeologics, has been shown in scientific trials to protect bees from a virulent virus called Israeli acute paralysis virus, or IAPV, Beeologic CEO Eyal Ben-Chanoch said.

Bees that resist the virus have a better chance of surviving other pathogens, scientists say.

In 2006, Craig Mello and Andrew Fire received the Nobel Prize in medicine for discoveries related to ribonucleic acid interference (RNAi), the technology used in Remedee. Remebee interferes with the messenger RNA and affects specific genes in the virus, making it impossible for the virus to become a disease.

“We had millions of bees who were treated in these trials in Florida and in Pennsylvania. The results are pretty amazing,” Ben-Chanoch said.

“What we have seen is that the bees that were fed with Remebee, then were challenged with the virus, resist the virus and survive and flourish and produce more honey,” Ben-Chanoch said.

The technology has huge implications as a way to control other agricultural pests and diseases, even as a way to control mosquitoes, said Dave Mendes, president of the American Beekeeping Federation and a North Fort Myers-based beekeeper.

Scientists are working on a solution to use the technology to combat citrus psyllids, small insects that spread killing greening disease to citrus trees, Mendes said. Citrus growers currently are spraying insecticides to control psyllids.

“This technology is safe and it is environmentally sound,” said Mendes, who also serves on Beeologics’ board.

Ben-Chanoch said the company received preliminary Food and Drug Administration approval to distribute Remebee to beekeepers Dec. 1. Since then, 25,000 doses or “meals” of the product made at Beeologics’ plant in Israel have been shipped to more than 30 U.S. beekeepers. A hive needs one dose per month of Remebee, expected to be sold for $2 a dose.

The company, funded by private investors, spent roughly $3.5 million and more than three years developing the product, Ben-Chanoch said.

Jerry Hayes, chief of the apiary section at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Gainesville, who serves on Beeologics’ board along with other leading bee researchers, said that while the product’s impact probably won’t be tremendous, the technology is important.

“It is a tremendous breakthrough on a technology basis. I don’t know that anyone is convinced that IAPV by itself kills honeybee colonies,” Hayes said.

“Certainly a virus in concert with varroa mites and bad nutrition and pesticides and anything else that weakens the immune system, yes, it does that,” Hayes said.

“This is a part of a piece of the puzzle. It is a window into the future,” he added. ” It has potential, but it is only the very beginning.”

Wayne Hunter, a U.S. Department of Agriculture entomologist based in Fort Pierce, sees promise.

“It is the biggest breakthrough in three years,” Hunter said. “You have more bees survive through the winter and they produce more honey.”

In its annual progress report on CCD released last week summarizing three years of research, the USDA continues to confirm that no single factor is responsible for CCD.

Taken together, recent studies support the hypothesis that CCD is a syndrome of stress, most likely caused by a combination of factors such as pests, pesticides and viruses, the report stated.

Ben-Chanoch said his company’s strategy was to find a way to help the bees with one of the most prevalent factors in bee health.

“We do not get into the debate about what causes CCD, because it is useless. It doesn’t help the bees,” Ben-Chanoch said. “If we get rid of IAPV, then it will dramatically help the bees.”

Bee Control & Removal Services

Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy Holidays!

December 24, 2010

Scientists focus on citrus pest bait in psyllid battle

December 23, 2010

Scientists focus on citrus pest bait in psyllid battle

A national team of scientists is working from Florida to California in the citrus industry’s ongoing battle again the Asian citrus psyllid.

Scientists focus on citrus pest bait in psyllid battle

Among the projects is an effort led by Joseph Patt, an entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service office in Westlaco, Texas.

Patt is trying to determine which petitgrain oil would best mimic the volatiles emitted naturally by citrus trees, said Ted Batkin, president of the Citrus Research Board, Visalia, Calif.

The volatiles, scientists believe, help Asian citrus psyllids find host plants on which to reproduce. If Patt and his staff are able to isolate a petitgrain oil that could impersonate the natural volatiles, it could be used as bait and mixed with a pesticide, Batkin said.

“We like the attractant and kill aspect, because that’s not chemical and doesn’t impact human health,” he said.

The Asian citrus psyllids are carriers of huanglongbing, the fatal disease also known as HLB and citrus greening.

The Citrus Research Board is helping to fund all of the projects aimed at eliminating HLB’s threat to the citrus industry, Batkin said.

Patt’s research has resulted in a synthetic mixture that in greenhouse testing proved to be attractive to the psyllids, according to a study recently published in the scientific journal, Environmental Entomology. Field tests are now under way.

“We know, and have always known, that there’s some volatile that’s an attractant,” Batkin said. “We think other of the projects will define that attractant more specifically.”

Others involved in the psyllid eradication projects funded by the research board are scientists in Florida and at the University of California-Riverside and a private research firm in Irvine, Calif., he said.

“We’re really excited about where that whole team is going,” Batkin said.

By the end of 2011, it is anticipated that the various research projects will have identified all of the natural and synthetic attractants, he said.

“It’s more a short term approach than a long term approach,” Batkin said.

Bedbugs and your health

December 21, 2010

Are Bedbugs a Health Threat?

The old adage “sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite” is taking on new meaning this summer as bedbug infestations are on the rise, from Iowa to Seattle, Minnesota to New York City, CBS Early Morning News reports.

In fact, infestations are becoming so common that exterminators can barely keep up: Calls about bedbugs are up 71 percent, from one or two calls a year to 10 to 50 per week since 2001, says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association. Health officials in Manchester, N.H., even started a Bedbug Action Committee tasked with bringing the issue under control.

Infestations are on the rise, experts say, because bedbugs hitch a ride on our clothes and hang out in our beds. And they are not only found in homes; more and more bedbugs are showing up in hotels, dormitories and places where people frequently travel. Even retailers are not immune: Victoria’s Secret in New York City closed its doors for several hours to exterminate the nasty critters.

Bedbugs are many things, but one thing they are not, is a threat to your health. They are not disease vectors and are not considered a public health risk, according to entomologists at Purdue University’s Public Health and Medical Entomology department. But their bites do tend to leave itchy welts on human skin, and some people experience an allergic reaction. What’s more, bedbug sufferers say these persistent creatures wreak havoc on the psyche.

“Besides the ‘icky’ feeling of knowing bugs have crawled over you in your sleep, even after the infestation has been dealt with, people may still have a fear of falling asleep and feel anxiety about the whole experience,” says Henriksen. “In some cases, furniture [and] clothes have had to be thrown away, increasing the costly toll of the problem.”

Bedbugs are typically most active at night and tend to bite exposed skin while people are sleeping. The face, neck, hands and arms are the most common sites. Typically, the bites produce redness, swelling and itching, but if scratched, they can become infected, which is the most bodily damage they can cause. A particularity of bedbug bites is that they show up as multiples in a row.

Entomologists say the bugs’ presence has nothing to do with cleanliness, but the insects do produce small brown or red dots on sheets. And getting rid of them is not easy or cheap.

How do you spot a bedbug? Adult bedbugs are about 1/4-inch long, oval, reddish brown and wingless. Their bodies are very flat, and they possess long, slender legs and antennae, according to the Purdue scientists.

Bedbugs can travel easily — from beds to sofa cushions, from room to room and even home via suitcases from travel. Once an infestation develops, whether in a home, a hotel or even a movie theater, bedbugs are extremely difficult to remove and require the experience of a pest professional. Bedbugs can live for a year or more without eating and can withstand a wide range of temperatures, from nearly freezing to almost 113 degrees Fahrenheit, says Henriksen.

And since it is the height of travel season (the resurgence of bedbugs is tied largely to international travel), it is important for travelers to know what to look for in hotels. The NPMA offers these tips:

* Pull back the hotel bed sheets and inspect the mattress seams, particularly the corners, for telltale brownish or reddish spots.
* Thoroughly inspect the entire room before unpacking. Do not put your luggage on the bed.
* If you change rooms but choose to stay in the same establishment, be sure your new room is not adjacent to the potentially infested room.
* Use a large plastic bag to store your luggage.

Florida Bed Bug Control

Treating bedbugs isn’t a do-it-yourself project

December 20, 2010

Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Treating bedbugs isn’t a do-it-yourself project

By Kate Spinner

If dreaded bedbugs invade, don’t make a run for the store pesticide aisle.

Bedbugs have developed resistance to almost half of the 300 pesticides listed for their control. And even the pesticides that do work can make infestations harder to beat if they are not applied correctly.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control, Florida’s surgeon general and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recently issued public warnings urging people not to tackle bedbug problems on their own.

Rampant misuse of pesticides in Ohio, New Jersey and New York, where bedbug infestations are skyrocketing, has led to home explosions and illnesses from over-exposure to toxic chemicals.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure Florida is aware of those kinds of issues so that people don’t do things that are harmful to themselves,” says Michael Page, chief of the Bureau of Entomology for the FDACS.

Instead, they advise working with a pest control company with a strategy to eradicate the bugs.

“This pest is not like roaches or flies or fleas, where you can treat once or twice and the problem is gone,” Page says.

Largely absent from public dialogue four years ago, bedbugs have become a common pest problem throughout the United States. International travel and the bug’s ability to swiftly build resistance to even the toughest pesticides, including banned DDT, has allowed the irritating bugs to spread rapidly.

In desperation, homeowners dangerously are setting off multiple bug bombs in their homes or buying outdoor pesticides on the Internet to spray in their bedrooms.

“Typically, in the consumer world, if one is good, two is better and five is really good,” says Wayne Walker, senior pest control technician at the University of Florida Department of Housing and Residence Education. “They don’t understand the ramifications of over-applying the pesticide.”

The problem has become so immense that Congress has held forums to develop a national bedbug strategy and last year considered passing a bill — the Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite Act — to fund state inspection of hotels.

People are downright terrified of bedbugs because of the high cost, the difficulty of treatment and the social stigma. According to a recent survey funded by a major pesticide company, 30 percent of people say they would rather have a root canal than find bedbugs at home. Bedbugs, though icky and annoying, are not known to transmit disease to humans.

Improper use of pesticides can be much worse than a bedbug’s bite. Instead of trying to manage infestations alone, which rarely works, people should hire outside help, says Fred Santana, entomologist with the Sarasota County Extension Agency.

It is important, however, to make sure the professionals know what they are doing. Santana says experienced companies will use an integrated approach, combining methods such as heat treatments, fumigation and strategically placed powders.

People should interview three to four companies before settling on one. Ask to see licenses and ask questions about their experience, strategies and pesticide choices.

In other states, unscrupulous or unlicensed companies have put clients at risk by over-using pesticides or using outdoor products indoors, exposing people to chemicals that can cause nerve damage and cancer.

“If there’s a least-toxic approach, try the least toxic first,” Santana says.

Heat has proven to be one of the best controls. Professionals place special fans or heaters in a room to bring temperatures to at least 113 degrees, hot enough to kill all stages of bedbugs, from adults the size of apple seeds to their nearly invisible eggs.

Most companies inspect for free and provide an estimate, which usually ranges from $500 to $1,500, depending on the size of the house and the level of infestation.

People will need to work with their pest company and follow instructions that range from throwing clothes and sheets in the dryer to packing items in plastic. They also should be prepared to live with the problem for several weeks before the bugs are successfully eliminated, says Cindy Mannes, spokeswoman for Arrow and Hughes exterminators.

“Pest control may have to come back three, four, five times, depending on the infestation,” Mannes says. “It can be controlled; it’s just not an easy process.”

Bedbugs are extraordinarily tough to control and a lot of over-the-counter applications can make problems worse. Many products claim effectiveness, but have only been tested in lab situations.

“It leads the consumer into false beliefs that it will do things that it may not do,” Walker says.

Bedbugs are so hard to control because they hide easily in small crevices, develop chemical resistance quickly, their population can explode exponentially in months and they can go long periods without food.

Foggers often make bedbugs disappear from sight, but the insects escape the poison by moving to other rooms or taking refuge behind light switches, picture frames or baseboards. They can travel 15 to 20 feet to feed, so a new hiding spot will not keep them from their sleeping prey. Repellant sprays, such as those containing pyrethrins, have the same scattering effect that in the end makes the problem harder to combat.

Contact sprays can work, but only on those that actually get sprayed. Also, it is not guaranteed that all bugs that come in contact with the spray will actually die. When insects survive a dousing, they produce resistant offspring.

A female bedbug lives six months to a year and lays an average of 500 eggs, at a rate of three to five per day. Eggs hatch in 10 days, with the young reaching sexual maturity 30 to 45 days later.

“They develop resistance really fast because their life-cycle is really fast,” Walker says.

Further, a female only mates once and afterward moves several feet away from her original colony.

It only takes one fertilized female to start a full-blown infestation. And that single bug can live for more than six months on just one meal.

“It’s a challenge for the pest management industry and if you know it’s a challenge for us, what does the homeowner do when he gets ahold of the pesticides?” Walker says.

People resort to extreme measures to eradicate bedbugs because it is a frustrating and demoralizing experience, Walker says.

For many people, the bed is a safety zone, the place where they hid from lightning storms as children.

“Here is an insect that invades that safety zone and feeds on you at night while you sleep,” Walker says. “People do some really drastic things to deal with this issue.”

Part of the problem is the high cost of treatment. Many people, including minimum-wage hotel and motel workers who are most at risk, cannot afford to pay $500 to $1,500 to get rid of their pests. They either live with the problem and spread it, or try, usually unsuccessfully, to control it themselves. When homeowners do not have the financial means to hire pest control, they should at least consult an bug expert with the county extension service for advice before attacking the problem on their own.

“The solution is they’ve got to find some cost-effective method of dealing with this insect,” Walker says. “Right now there’s not a cost-effective method that’s available to the general public that is also effective on the bedbugs.”

Florida Bed Bug Control Services

Follow Al Hoffer’s Pest Termite & Lawn

December 16, 2010

Al Hoffer’s Pest Termite & Lawn has been serving South Florida since 1975! We have been providing superior Florida lawn care, Florida pest control, Florida termite control, and Pest inspections for over 30 years!  Now you can follow Al Hoffer’s on Facebook, Twitter, Buzz, and other social media sites for your entire pest, termite, and lawn care needs! Also be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed while you’re here. We thank you for visiting our blog and encourage you to come back real soon!

Five Insects You Want in Your Garden

December 15, 2010

Ever wondered which insects are beneficial to your garden? Well, wonder no more, check out this great article below from Associated Content.

Five Insects You Want in Your Garden

Most gardeners know these days that, in the words of the great Bob Dylan, “the times, they are a changin’.” Organic is the way, or at least most of the time. It’s friendly to you, your plants, your soil, and your budget for the most part. Integrated Pest Management is another way to go which encompasses the friendliest methods of controlling our garden pests as well as includes the last resort of applying chemicals. When thinking Integrated Pest Management or IPM as I will refer to it, one must recognize that a healthy garden will take care of itself just as a healthy human body will easily fight off a virus or minor bacterial infection without the use of prescription drugs.

There are several factors that complete an IPM system for any garden. One aspect is controlling the insect pests in the garden through cultural, mechanical, biological, or chemical means. In this article I’m briefly outlining five of the most common insects that offer biological control of typical pests in the southwest desert garden. It’s important to note, however, if you want to depend on these insects to do your dirty work of killing those nasty pests, then you must refrain from using most insecticides and keep your garden thriving from a complete IPM maintenance system.

Assassin bugs: What a name! They don’t discriminate. They are from the order of “True Bugs”, and will kill their prey by using their long beak or piercing mouth tube and to stick and suck the juices from the pest they have trapped. They tend to be brownish or reddish, and are about half and inch long. They have spiny legs which help in trapping their prey.

Green Lacewing larvae: The lacewing larva is the key here. Attracting the adults is the first plan of action. They are prominent in our desert area, and are attracted to nectar sources like Angelica, Dill, Coreopsis,and Sunflowers. After you’ve brought the delicate light-green, winged adults to the garden then you can wait to find their eggs hanging from thin strands on the underside of the plants they were feeding from. They will only have one egg per strand due to the voracious nature of the larvae and to prevent them from eating each other. Once hatched, each of the larvae can take down up to 200 aphids a week. In general, they attack the eggs and the immature stages of most soft-bodied pests such as: aphids, thrip, spider mites, whitefly, mealybugs, leafhoppers, and the eggs and caterpillars of most pest moths.

Ladybeetles and larvae: Ladybeetles and their larvae feed on a few different garden pests including mealybugs, aphids, scale, and thrip. The beetles themselves are hardy predators but the larvae, like their lacewing buddies, are voracious! Once again, you must attract the adults to the garden first. They are attracted to the same plants as the lacewings as well as dandelions, scented geraniums, and any of your early aphid attracting plants. Think soft stems, easy to pierce through.

Parasitic wasps and flies: These lovely insects are among a large species group. For the most part each one is also quite discriminate as to which pest they attack. Most of the normal garden pests have a parasitic wasp that will attack it. In fact, one species of these little winged assassins, the Trichogramma wasp, attacks butterfly and moth eggs and it is bred and used widely in greenhouse and farm operations to control Cabbage loopers and Hornworm caterpillars. Others will attack aphids only leaving their larva to pupate and eat its host from the inside out. As the larva grows the aphid bloats and eventually the larva eats a little hole in the aphid abdomen leaving the body to harden and mummify, hence the name “aphid mummy” is given to the final phase of the aphid body.

Praying mantids: You won’t get much in the way of pest control from these, but you can bet they will do their part and it will be fascinating! They are such an unusual looking insect, that if anything you want them in your garden for you and your kids to show and tell. They will eat just about anything they can catch and get their mouth around including aphids, mites, caterpillars, flies, bees, moths, and crickets. The young are the most voracious of the life stages, and if there is not a pest to consume they will attack each other. If you bring one of the commercially sold mantid eggs into your garden, try to find one that is from your area.

Remember to make your garden a haven for these and many other beneficial insects. All life flows in a cycle of balance, and your garden is the wonderful microcosm to witness such wonder.