Sonny Ramaswamy, director of NIFA, has fun with Madagascar hissing cockroaches.
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. Read more »
The coconut rhinoceros beetle, a new invasive species to Hawaii, can grow up to 2 inches long. Photo Credit: Chris Kishimoto, Hawaii Department of Agriculture
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. Read more »
Two Asian longhorned beetles on maple tree
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 three different states, but I also am a native of Vermont. Read more »
The brown marmorated stink bug, a winged pest from Asia that is eating crops and infesting U.S. homes. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are launching a campaign to ask volunteers to count the number of stink bugs in their homes. USDA-ARS photo by Stephen Ausmus.
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 (www.stopbmsb.org),” which was launched in 2011. Read more »
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. Read more »