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As the Weather Cools, Your Firewood Choices Matter

This October, the Nature Conservancy’s campaign and , an initiative from APHIS, are partnering to present the first-ever Firewood Awareness Month. The cooler nights and quickly approaching fall season brings an increase in RV camping, hunting, and home heating. Firewood Awareness Month looks to raise public awareness about the potential danger of firewood movement as a pest and disease pathway at this high-risk time of year.

Tree-killing invasive insects and diseases can lurk both inside, and on the surface, of firewood. While these insects and diseases don’t travel far on their own, transporting firewood allows them to move hundreds of miles and start infestations in new places, explains APHIS Deputy Administrator Osama El-Lissy.

How USDA & Partners Eradicated Oriental Fruit Fly from Florida

There’s a good reason why USDA and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) constantly monitor more than 56,000 fruit fly traps they have strategically placed across Florida. An outbreak of exotic fruit flies—one of the most destructive pests of fruit and vegetables—could threaten Florida’s powerhouse agricultural industry. By detecting these pests early and responding rapidly, USDA, FDACS, county officials, and growers can avoid large-scale agricultural losses and keep valuable export markets open.

In August 2015, some of those traps captured Oriental fruit flies (OFF) in Miami-Dade County.

The OFF attacks more than 430 different fruits, vegetables, and nuts, including avocado, mango, guava, papaya, and pitaya. All of these crops and more grow in the county, which is Florida’s top producer of tropical fruit, tropical vegetables, and ornamental nurseries. The county’s $1.6 billion agricultural industry supports 11,000 jobs.

USDA's Bay Delta Initiative Enables Landowners to Remove Insecticides from California's Walker Creek

Water in California’s is now safer for residents, farmers and wildlife because of the hard work of conservationists, with funding made available through , (BDI), an effort of USDA’s , (NRCS).

The Bay Delta region, located in the Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds of California, encompasses over 38 million acres and is one of the most important estuary systems in the nation. BDI helps clean and conserve water in this region as well as enhance wildlife habitat.

Helping Honey Bees' Health

This post is part of the feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

You’ve probably heard that the honey bees in this country are in trouble, with about one-third of our managed colonies dying off every winter. Later this week, we will learn how the honey bees survived this winter. With severe weather in a number of areas in the U.S. this winter, a number of us concerned about bees will be closely watching the results.

While scientists continue work to identify all the factors that have lead to honey bee losses, it is clear that there are biological and environmental stresses that have created a complex challenge that will take a complex, multi-faceted approach to solve.  Parasites, diseases, pesticides, narrow genetic diversity in honey bee colonies, and less access to diverse forage all play a role in colony declines.  To confront this diverse mix of challenges, we require a mix of solutions – the odds are that we won’t find one magic fix to help our honey bees.

International Researchers Mobilize Against Risky Stowaway Pests

Sometimes there is more to global trade than meets the eye. While consumers and economies may benefit from expanding market opportunities and a seemingly endless array of readily available goods, harmful pests could be lurking as people and products are transported between countries.

An international research network, including scientists from the , has come together to share information about how exotic animals, diseases and plants can move and spread—and threaten agricultural and natural resources.

The consists of governmental and academic scientists from around the globe who study potential stowaway pests in order to assess the likelihood of their establishment in new locations and the impacts if and where they spread.

What does Maple Syrup Have in Common with an Invasive Insect?

Today is National Maple Syrup Day!  So, what does maple syrup have in common with an invasive insect?  Well, if the insect is the Asian longhorned beetle, then they both can come from maple trees.  Obviously, we want the maple syrup and not the invasive beetle.  But who cares?  And why should anyone care?  Well, I care and here’s why:

Not only do I work for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, an agency that is actively fighting known infestations of Asian longhorned beetle in , but I also am a native of Vermont.

Stop Stink Bug Project

Calling all insect enthusiasts and frustrated gardeners!  USDA scientists need your help in documenting Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs (BMSB) in your home. Beginning September 15th through October 15th, we’re asking citizens across the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States to record daily counts of this pest on the exterior of their homes, along with their location and the time of each count. While USDA scientists are focusing on the Mid-Atlantic region, any data they can get from other U.S. regions would also be helpful to their research.

The quest to find out just how many stink bugs there are, and how they behave, is the brainchild of a consortium of researchers from USDA, the University of Maryland, Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers University, Virginia Tech, the Northeastern IPM Center, Oregon State University, North Carolina State University, Cornell University, the University of Delaware and Washington State University. This project is represented on the website, “Stop BMSB (),” which was launched in 2011.

Our Forests and Climate Change

Cross posted from the :

Americans know the importance of forests to our communities and our economy.  They provide jobs and recreational opportunities, filter our air and water, and make up essential habitat for wildlife and natural resources.  But increasingly, we’re also recognizing that forests play an important role in mitigating climate change.

Recently, President Obama announced a Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon pollution, prepare for the impacts of climate change on our communities and economy, and lead international efforts to combat global climate change. This plan recognizes that America’s forests play a critical role in addressing carbon pollution, absorbing as much as 14 percent of our country’s greenhouse gas emissions each year.  Over the last several decades, forest regrowth on former farm lands, reforestation, and maturing forests have kept our forest growth rates high, helping us absorb even more carbon.

A New World-Old World Problem and How Genetic "Fingerprints" May Help

This post is part of the feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

When it comes to grapes, there’s a New World-Old World dichotomy. Grapevines originating in the Americas (e.g. Vitis labrusca, Vitis riparia) can resist pests and diseases, but they generally don’t have the taste or aroma of grapes with European origins (Vitis vinifera).  But European grapes are more susceptible to pests and disease.

Grape breeders try to combine the best of both worlds, but here’s the problem: if you cross one grape with another, there is no guarantee your progeny will inherit the desirable traits. And because it takes so much time to grow a grapevine, produce grapes from those vines, and for those grapes to be evaluated, bringing a new grape to market can take 20 years or more. Scientists can speed things up by identifying genes that give grapes the right blend of the best characteristics. Identifying the genes will tell you the characteristics of the vine without having to wait for it to grow.

Busting Bugs: USDA Creates Online Tools to ID Pests

Do you work at a port or international border where identifying potentially destructive agricultural pests is part of your job? Are you a student or teacher interested in learning more about potential and existing agricultural pests? Have you ever seen a creepy crawly thing in your backyard and wondered if it might be an invasive species? If you fit any of these descriptions, then ID Tools may be just what you need.

Created by USDA-APHIS’ Identification Technology Program (ITP), ID Tools helps agency staff to quickly identify pests, including insects, diseases, harmful weeds, and more, through an efficient, online database system. ID Tools currently includes more than 30 websites covering a vast array of pests and pests associated with specific commodities. These tools help to keep international cargo—and economic activity—moving as efficiently as possible at U.S. ports of entry. However, ITP’s ID Tools web site, which receives about 12,000 visitors a month, is not for experts alone.

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