Friday, September 21, 2012

Rasberry crazy ant finally identified

        For those of you following the saga of the effort to correctly identify the "Rasberry crazy ant" to genus and species you will be happy to know that this information is now published. Click on title to see full publication.

The Importance of Using Multiple Approaches for Identifying Emerging Invasive Species: The Case of the Rasberry Crazy Ant in the United States 
Dietrich Gotzek (1), Sea´n G. Brady (1), Robert J. Kallal (2) , John S. LaPolla (2)
1 Department of Entomology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America, 
2 Department of Biological Sciences, Towson University, Towson, Maryland, United States of America

        The authors of the above publication said that they identified this highly invasive pest species as Nylanderia fulva (Mayr) by using morphometric data measured from 14 characters, molecular sequence data consisting of 4,669 aligned nucleotide sites from six independent loci and comparison with type specimens.  For those of you scratching your heads, this just means that not only was classical visual identification techniques used but data at the molecular level was used to genetically compare the various specimen samples.
         A proposed common name for Nylanderia fulva (Mayr) may be the Tawny crazy ant among other names being bantered about.  We will see.  The word "fulva" is Latin for tawny.  The ant may be identified now but we are still having issues identifying good control strategies to reduce the numbers of this pest.

Newly identified Nylanderia fulva (Mayr)

Newly identified Nylanderia fulva (Mayr) feeding on honeydew
        To view more historical information on this pest visit the Center for Urban & Structural Entomology webpage.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lovebug Connection

        I just got off the phone with Alison Bath, USA Today Correspondent.  She wanted some information on “lovebugs” and if we were seeing increased populations in the Houston area.  We talked for a few minutes, and I answered to the best of my ability her questions about lovebugs.  She will be writing an article for USA Today on this subject.  When it is posted I will add the link to this post.  Until that time I thought it would be good to post information on lovebugs since many of you have experienced them this past week and will continue for a few more weeks.
        When September roles around we can be assured of several things, 1) temperatures begin to moderate, 2) school is back in session meaning 3) longer lines at traffic lights 4) chance of a hurricane in the gulf, and 5) lovebugs!

Lovebugs, Plecia nearctica Hardy

Though many of you probably recognize them better this way:


Or this way:


        These insects are black flies (yes flies!) with a thorax that is a reddish-orange color.  They are in the insect order Diptera and insect family Bibionidae.  Their common name is March flies.  We usually see these flies in our area around May and September.  I have noticed flight activity to be highest around mid-morning.
        By looking at the picture I think you can see why they have the nickname, lovebugs.  They often fly while still coupled during mating.  Lovebugs are a nuisance when smashed on car windshields, headlights, radiator grills or for that matter any part of your car.  Their large numbers can interfere with any human activity such as running, walking, riding a bike, or motorcycle.  Have you ever tried to paint a house when lovebugs are flying?  They bring new meaning to the term “textured paint!”  Lovebugs both immatures and adults are considered medically harmless, i.e., no biting or stinging, and the immature stage can actually be considered beneficial since they decompose plant material.
          Adult lovebugs emerge after rainy periods and can be very abundant in some locations.  They will begin to be noticed in spring (May) and early fall (September).  The heaviest emergence usually occurs in the early fall.  Adults are 3/8 inch long with a pair of smoky colored wings.  The female is larger than the male and will fly off dragging the attached male.  
        Eggs are deposited in ditches and other damp areas that frequently have water present.  Since these are flies, the larvae is called a maggot, is 3/8 inch long, grayish in color with a dark head. The larvae are seldom seen but they can be found in moist soil along the edges of waterways and can be found in well-watered lawns with an accumulation of thatch.  Another reason not to over water your lawn! 
        The late Dr. Jon Jackman, Professor and Extension Entomologist, Texas A&M University has a great publication on lovebugs which I always refer to when a lovebug question comes up.  This publication can be found here:  Lovebugs  
        He created a list for management ideas for lovebugs.  He had some good ideas so I am re-printing it in this posting.  You can always go to the link for his publication above in case you would like to print it out.  Maybe one of your children would like to write a report on the lovebug.  Dr. Jackman’s article is the place to start.

Lovebug nuisance management strategies from Dr. John Jackman: 

There is no easy solution to lovebug problems. It may be necessary to learn to cope with lovebugs with a variety of methods for a few weeks each year. The following facts and suggestions will help: 

1)   Lovebugs do not fly at night or during cool weather, so driving schedules can sometimes be arranged to avoid peak lovebug flight activity. 

2)   Fewer flies are smeared over car finishes if vehicles are driven at lower speeds. Some commercially available wind deflectors positioned on the front hood of cars and trucks may help deflect flies and keep them from hitting the windshield. 

3)   Netting stretched over front grills can prevent crushed flies from clogging radiators and thus prevent overheating on long trips. Some netting devices are commercially available. 

Netting front of vehicle
 4)   Daily cleaning of a vehicle will help protect the finish and prevent a build-up of lovebug bodies on engine parts. Commercially available products containing petroleum distillates can facilitate the removal of crushed, dried insect parts from car finishes

5)   Chemical control of lovebug maggots is not recommended because they are basically harmless and the semiaquatic habitat of the larvae is an environmentally sensitive area.

6)   Adult lovebugs can fly well enough to make treating a large enough area to reduce the local population impractical.

7)   Foggers and aerosol insecticides designed for quick knock down of adult lovebugs may provide temporary relief from flying adults. However, compounds used in foggers disperse readily and therefore effectiveness is soon lost. Lovebug flights may last for several weeks, so multiple treatments with foggers would be required for relief throughout the flight periods.

8)   Lovebugs do not respond to insect repellents containing DEET or citronella.

9)   Adult lovebug numbers may be drastically reduced by heavy rains.

10)  Lovebug flight periods are temporary. Avoid house painting when lovebugs are active
11) Lovebugs do not bite or sting

There are also some myths associated with the lovebugs, 

Myth 1) Lovebugs were imported for fly and mosquito control (false) and 

Myth 2) Lovebugs were the result of a University of Florida genetic experiment gone wrong (false).   

Check out Dr. Jackman’s information on the first myth then check out for their information on the University of Florida myth, link here Love Bugs