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Category: Plant and Animal Health

Recovering a Native: USDA Agencies Help with Endangered Ferret Reintroductions

An endangered black-footed ferret peeks out of a tube in a prairie dog burrow soon after its release at Soapstone Prairie Natural Area near Fort Collins, Colorado, on September 3. Photo by USDA Wildlife Services.

An endangered black-footed ferret peeks out of a tube in a prairie dog burrow soon after its release at Soapstone Prairie Natural Area near Fort Collins, Colorado, on September 3. Photo by USDA Wildlife Services.

You can hear the chattering and scurrying from far away as six endangered black-footed ferrets restlessly wait in their travel carriers.  These animals are the first of more than thirty scheduled for release this fall onto 34 square miles of prairie habitat at the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Meadow Springs Ranch in northern Colorado. The site is one of several new areas recently offered by local, State and Federal land management agencies and private landowners as reintroduction sites to aid in the recovery of the endangered black-footed ferret— America’s only native ferret.

Once thought to be extinct, black-footed ferrets are making a comeback thanks to a successful captive breeding program, multiple reintroduction sites across the West, and the hard work of many government agencies, non-governmental organizations, Tribes, private landowners, and concerned citizens. Read more »

Citrus Trees: Move It AND Lose It

Help Save Our Citrus --  visit www.saveourcitrus.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Help Save Our Citrus -- visit www.saveourcitrus.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Soon, citrus producing states across America, including Arizona, California, Florida, Louisiana and Texas, will be full of fresh citrus. But gone are the days of sharing the fruit trees or seeds with friends and family out of state or even in the next county. It’s no longer as simple as packing it up and shipping it, or buying a citrus tree at a road side stand to bring home.

You’ve heard the saying “move it or lose it.” When it comes to citrus trees, it’s “Move It AND Lose It.” When you move citrus trees, you risk losing America’s citrus altogether – think breakfast with no fresh oranges, grapefruit or even juice. Read more »

Virginia Tech Demonstrates New Method to Treat Ash Firewood

Ash logs undergoing vacuum treatment to kill emerald ash borer larvae.  (U.S. Forest Service)

Ash logs undergoing vacuum treatment to kill emerald ash borer larvae. (U.S. Forest Service)

The shiny green one-half-inch-long, one-eighth-inch-wide emerald ash borer has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees in the U.S. since the beetle’s discovery in 2002 in Detroit.

The real Ash trees comprise around seven percent of the trees in eastern U.S. forests. In urban areas, ash trees make up about 50 percent of street trees.

Ash trees are important both economically and ecologically. A wide array of  products are made from ash wood, including baseball bats, tool handles, pool cues, furniture, cabinets, oars, and acoustic and electric guitars. Ash seeds are an important food source for birds, mice, squirrels, and other small mammals. Ash trees also provide essential habitat for cavity nesting birds, such as woodpeckers, owls, and wood ducks. Read more »

Preventing Disease Spread through International Collaboration

Dr. Fernando Torres, (left) APHIS Director of the Plum Island Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL), shows Under Secretary Avalos (center) and Jessica Mahalingappa (right) a sample to demonstrate one diagnostic tool that staff use at FADDL.

Dr. Fernando Torres, (left) APHIS Director of the Plum Island Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL), shows Under Secretary Avalos (center) and Jessica Mahalingappa (right) a sample to demonstrate one diagnostic tool that staff use at FADDL.

Two departments, one mission.  That’s the reality for scientists working at Plum Island Foreign Animal Disease Laboratory in New York.  The island—owned and operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—is critical to the USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) mission to protect U.S. livestock from the introduction and spread foreign animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease.  It provides a biologically safe and secure location for APHIS scientists to diagnose animal diseases.  For two weeks this spring, Plum Island was the site of an important component of our agriculture safeguarding system: sharing expertise and experience to build and strengthen the training, skills and capabilities of other nations, also known as international capacity building.

USDA and DHS welcomed 26 veterinarians responsible for evaluating animal disease outbreaks from 11 Spanish-speaking countries to a training called the International Transboundary Animal Disease (ITAD) Course, funded by the Organismo International Regional de Sanidad Agropecuaris (OIRSA).  The course, provided entirely in Spanish, helps familiarize veterinarians with ten of the most serious animal diseases. The trainings provide a highly-trained global network capable of readily identifying and containing these diseases around the world, minimizing damage to animal agriculture and people’s livelihoods. Read more »

A New Weapon in the Fight to Protect America’s Ash Trees is Under Evaluation

Photo of S. galinae by Jian Duan, Research Entomologist, USDA ARS Beneficial Insects Introduction Research Unit

Photo of S. galinae by Jian Duan, Research Entomologist, USDA ARS Beneficial Insects Introduction Research Unit

May 18-24, 2014 is Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week

In our efforts to preserve and protect American ash trees from the damaging and invasive emerald ash borer (EAB) beetle, APHIS is working diligently to find and implement solutions that have the potential to successfully conserve this beautiful natural resource. Spathius galinae (S. galinae) just could be that newest weapon in the arsenal.

The tiny stingless wasp, about the size of a typical mosquito, targets and attacks EAB larvae living under the bark of ash trees.  Crawling along the bark ridges and furrows, S. galinae somehow senses EAB larvae hidden below.  The wasp not only accurately locates its target, but also is able to determine relative size—showing preference for large EAB larvae.  Once a suitable larva is detected, the female wasp uses its long egg-laying organ (ovipositor) like a hydraulic drill to bore down through the layers of bark and deposit between 5 and 15 eggs on its host.  After the eggs hatch, the wasp offspring feed on the EAB larva, eventually killing it.  A new generation of S. galinae emerges in about 35 days. Read more »

Boston Beats the Asian Longhorned Beetle

Retiring APHIS State Plant Health Director for Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island Patty Douglass inspects ALB damaged wood in Massachusetts.

Retiring APHIS State Plant Health Director for Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island Patty Douglass inspects ALB damaged wood in Massachusetts.

One of the things I consider a highlight of my career and that I will always remember is our successful response to the July 2010 detection of the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) in Boston, Massachusetts.  As I attended the May 12 ceremony commemorating the eradication of the ALB infestation in Boston and listened to the speakers share their thoughts about what it took to get us there, I had a deep sense of appreciation for the partnership among the state and federal cooperators who worked together to bring us to that day.  It was swift action and continued diligence that protected Boston’s trees from further destruction.

APHIS and its cooperators were able to accomplish the goal of eradicating ALB in Boston in less than 4 years.  Thanks also go to a community member who reported the infestation early.  That early detection and report resulted in the loss of only 6 infested trees.

But as I celebrate our first victory over the invasive pest in Massachusetts, I am compelled to ask you to remain vigilant in inspecting your trees regularly for signs of the beetle and report any suspicious damage to your State Plant Health Director. Read more »