Archive for the ‘Al Hoffer’s South Florida Pest Termite & Lawn Services Blog’ Category

Bug factory to help Everglades fight plant invaders

May 17, 2011

Bug factory to help Everglades fight plant invaders

By Shurna Robbins

MIAMI | Fri May 13, 2011 5:37pm EDT

(Reuters) – Scientists are planning to scale up deployment of laboratory-bred insects to battle invading plant species that threaten to throttle parts of Florida’s ecologically fragile Everglades wetlands.

The plant- and seed-eating bugs, which include moths, mites and weevils, act as biological control agents — basically environmental gamekeepers — against the invaders.

They are to be produced in their hundreds of thousands at a new research laboratory planned jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District.

The new “bug factory” facility is scheduled to open on September 2012 and aims to saturate areas infested with invasive plant species in a $16 million program over 20 years.

This is considered a modest investment compared to the untold billions in environmental damage that can be inflicted by the nonnative invaders.

While herbicides and physical eradication have been used for decades, scientists consider mass-produced biocontrol bugs a more effective weapon

“The goal (for each insect type) is to control 90 percent of the proliferation,” said USDA’s lead scientist for the project, Ted Center. “It won’t eradicate the invasive species, but it will do a lot of the work for us.”

The Everglades wetlands at the southern end of the Florida peninsula are one of the United States’ most famous natural attractions.

Covering two million acres and designated as an endangered World Heritage site by UNESCO, they are a mosaic of marshland and tree islands, famous for crocodiles, manatees, panthers, and exotic birds, including plants and animals found nowhere else.

In recent decades, the Everglades ecosystem has been weakened by growing urbanization and polluted run-off from nearby farming and cattle operations.

“When you are flying over the Everglades, you will see houses and malls just on the other side of the levees,” said LeRoy Rodgers of the South Florida Water Management District.

HAVOC TO THE HABITAT

While public attention has focused on the more visible invasive animal species, such as the Burmese Python that has tangled with local alligators, experts say the plant invaders can cause just as much, if not more, havoc to the habitat.

One leafy invader is the fast-growing Old World Climbing Fern which creeps up trees, blankets land with vegetation and accelerates the spread of wildfires.

“Some tree islands have collapsed from the weight of the ferns,” said Center, adding that one biocontrol agent, an Australian moth, has achieved some limited success in pushing back the plant.

Another creeping interloper is the Brazilian pepper, which has infested over 700,000 acres of public and private lands.

Some 1,400 of more than 25,000 nonnative plants imported into Florida have established populations in the wild, with nearly 70 identified as ecosystem-damaging plants, according to research studies.

The USDA has targeted 11 invasive plants as serious threats to the Everglades.

Scientists believe the trespassing species come from the hundreds of exotic plants imported into nurseries in Florida every year.

The nurseries are virtually unregulated, catering to an extensive gardening market that must meet demand for new varieties of ornamental plants.

Some of the exotic plants propagate into the wild tropical wetlands, where they have no natural predators, said Center.

Pushing back against the invaders can take much longer.

Searching for an insect predator for the Brazilian pepper, the USDA is three years into the hunt for a winning biocontrol bug with scientists making several trips to Brazil, collecting 12 species to be used to build lab colonies for testing.

Due to a “glacially slow” regulatory process, it can take several more years for a biocontrol insect to be released into the Everglades. The period from identifying an invasive species through to its eventual reduction can run to about 20 years.

U.S. scientists are also traveling to China, Australia and Argentina to look for potential biobug gamekeepers.

(Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Jerry Norton)

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News from AL Hoffer’s Termite Lawn Pest

May 6, 2011

News from AL Hoffer’s Termite Lawn Pest Services in South Florida

See to Believe: Insect Store

April 20, 2011

Consumer Advocate: Don’t get bitten by termite control scams

April 11, 2011

Consumer Advocate: Don’t get bitten by termite control scams

Submitted by David Bauerlein on April 10, 2011 – 2:28am The Consumer Advocate

The arrival of warm weather means termite swarming season will put the wood-eating bugs on the hunt for homes to munch on.

Now is a good time to take some preventive steps to make sure your home doesn’t become an all-you-can-eat buffet. But if you call someone for help, be careful to check out their background. There have been cases in Northeast Florida when businesses advertised pest control services but lacked licensing from the state.

The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regulates pest control companies. You can call the department at (800) 435-7352  to make sure the business is licensed and check out its complaint history.

The state recommends getting a termite protection contract and renewing it annually.

People buying homes also should make sure they research what has been done over the years to protect the house from termite infestation.

The high number of foreclosures in our area means there’s a greater likelihood that at some point, previous owners decided to drop termite protection contracts as a way to save money so they can cover other bills.

You also can go to FloridaTermiteHelp.org  for information from the state about termites.

AL Hoffer’s Termite Lawn Pest Newsletter

April 7, 2011

AL Hoffer’s Termite Lawn Pest Newsletter

Swarms of insects won’t let up

March 28, 2011

Swarms of insects won’t let up

Anne-Louise Brown   |  March 28th, 2011

SWARMS of winged creepy crawlies have invaded the Gold Coast, leaving scientists and locals puzzled as to where they came from.

Hot on the heels of tonnes of water beetles taking over the Coast’s beaches, droves of dragonflies are buzzing in.

Jessica Guertin, of Nobby Beach, could not believe her eyes when she went for a walk near her home, with countless dragonflies swarming “as far as the eye could see”.

“The entire sky was just filled with dragonflies. I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said.

“It happened around sunset. Everybody was just standing on the beach dumbfounded.”

Various theories surround the reason for the sudden arrival of the bugs, some suggesting it could be the result of contaminated mulch on the foreshore.

This theory was rejected by the Gold Coast City Council.

“There is no evidence that such a swarm of beetles can be sourced to the mulching which occurs within council parks along the foreshore,” a council spokesman said.

“As a rule, the council does not mulch the foreshore but does undertake some minor in-fill mulching in our parks, something which has occurred for decades.”

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