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invasive pests

European Grapevine Moth Cooperative Eradication Program: A Model for Fighting Future Invasive Species Threats

I was thrilled to celebrate with key partners and contributors in Napa County, California, recently at an event to recognize the critical safeguarding accomplishment we achieved together, that of eradicating the invasive European grapevine moth (EGVM) from the United States.

Leaders from the USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), and the California County Agricultural Commissioners came together with growers and industry representatives, who found and implemented the right tools to safeguard California grapes. In front of these critical partners, I was proud to recognize the extraordinary individual and group contributions that made the eradication of EGVM possible.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is Real, and It's More Than Just a Nuisance

While being outside in Massachusetts this June, I first noticed it.  A lot of leaves were falling from the trees, only these were chewed leaf parts, not whole leaves.

Similar to the children's book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar written by Eric Carle, some leaves didn’t just have chew marks but actual holes going straight through them.  Unlike the children’s book, this damage isn’t being caused by a friendly caterpillar who turns into a butterfly.  Instead it’s the result of ravenous gypsy moth caterpillars feeding…and feeding.  It’s so bad that in some areas, on walkways and roadways, it looks like fall.  Brown, dried up leaves are a contrast to summer’s lush greenery.

Biocontrol Staff Are Modern-Day MacGyvers in the Fight Against Invasive Beetle

Emerald ash borer (EAB) beetle is an invasive wood boring beetle, first detected in July 2002 in southeastern Michigan. The pest attacks and kills ash trees and it is responsible for the death and decline of tens of millions of ash in 25 states. EAB lives under the bark and when people move EAB-infested firewood they unknowingly move the pest. During EAB Awareness Week (May 22-28) leave HungryPests behind and don’t move firewood.

Do you remember the eighties television show MacGyver? Science genius turns secret agent. Each week Angus MacGyver—armed with only a pen, aerosol spray can and a Swiss Army knife—successfully disarms the bomb and saves the day! The following week, it’s a shoe horn, jumper cables and a screwdriver…then a thermos, belt buckle….you get the drift. Sixty minutes of ingenious, nail-biting problem-solving.

Although the show’s final episode aired almost 25 years ago, the spirit of Angus lives on at the USDA’s Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) biological control production facility, where USDA is strategically rearing natural enemies to combat this destructive pest.  Mass rearing biocontrol agents (stingless wasps) is a delicate process that’s time-sensitive, labor-intensive, and laden with problem-solving opportunities.

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.

Five Invasive Pests: You Can Help Stop Their Spread

USDA APHIS is deeply involved with mitigating invasive pest issues, along with State and local governments. Invasive pests cost the U.S. an estimated $120 billion each year in damages to our environment, agriculture, and native species. The five invasive species described here are a few of the damaging invasive pests of concern to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.  You can help detect these pests and take actions to reduce their spread.

Restoring Fire to Oklahoma's Priority Forest Landscapes

(This post was written by George Geissler, State Forester of Oklahoma Forestry Services)

Forest Action Plans represent the first-ever comprehensive assessment of America’s forest resources across all lands—public, private, rural, and urban—and offer proactive strategies that state forestry agencies use to conserve, protect and enhance the trees and forests we depend on.

The Forest Action Plans are invaluable at a time when tree mortality is on the rise due to disease and invasive pests; wildfires continue to increase in size and intensity; and forests are being permanently converted to non-forest uses at a rate of one million acres per year. These assessments help state forestry agencies employ a variety of tools for protecting and conserving forests and the benefits they provide to people, from quarantines related to invasive species, to practices to reduce hazardous fuels buildup, to enhanced landowner outreach and education on sound forestry practices.

APHIS Partners with Pennsylvania to Fight the Spotted Lanternfly

Last year, an invasive pest known as the spotted lanternfly was found in the United States for the first time ever in Berks County, Pennsylvania.  Tucked away in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Berks County may seem an unlikely location to find a foreign pest, but with today’s global economy unwanted pests can show up almost anywhere. 

In response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) to stop this pest from spreading.  APHIS has already contributed more than $1 million in Farm Bill funding to support the response effort in Pennsylvania, and PDA quickly established a quarantine area and regulated the movement of potential host material to help protect other communities.

Invasive Pest Invades a National Comic Strip

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Awareness week is May 17-23 and my tenure in a nationally syndicated comic strip is coming to an end, so it’s a good time to tell you how a new USDA employee wound up cartoon-ized.

The Mark Trail strip—known for its environmental themes—just finished a six-week long storyline about the invasive EAB.  The EAB, a small metallic green wood-boring beetle, destroys ash trees and is now found in 25 U.S. States.  The Mark Trail strip features “Agent Abbey Powell from the USDA” and shares information about the EAB. To view the comic—beginning with my debut—visit Mark Trail.

Getting Geeky at the 3rd Annual USA Science and Engineering Festival

This post is part of the Science Tuesday 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.

When you think of agriculture do you think of science and engineering? You should! Farmers are some of our original scientists, tinkering with plant varieties and farming techniques to find ways to reliably grow food. At USDA, we still do that kind of research in a never-ending effort to find better ways to produce food, fuel, and fiber. We also do a lot of research you might not think of when you think about agriculture: from forensic genetic analysis to track down unwanted pests to figuring out how to turn spent grain from distilleries into biodegradable kitty litter.

On April 26-27, the 3rd Annual USA Science and Engineering Festival took over the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Over 325,000 people came out to celebrate discovery and innovation through over 3,000 hands-on activities and 150 performances and lectures.  USDA pulled all of the stops to show our geeky side and hopefully convince a few young booth visitors to consider agriculture when they think about careers in science.

Help USDA Stop Invaders that Could Devastate U.S. Crops and Forests

Big, creepy, and horned, the coconut rhinoceros beetle (CRB) loves to feed on—and kill—coconut and other palms, banana plants, and more.  This invasive species, detected in Hawaii in December 2013, makes the perfect poster child for USDA’s Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month—a child only its mother could love.

How did it get here? And how can we prevent the spread of damaging, invasive species like this unwanted, oversized beetle?  These are great questions to consider as USDA kicks off Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month.  Throughout April, we’re raising public awareness about the threat of invasive species and informing people how to prevent their spread—so we’ll face fewer surprises like the CRB.