Archive for March, 2011

Beware the stink bug: Pungent pest on the rise

By Doyle Rice, USA TODAY

They’re here.

Stink bugs, the smelly scourge of the mid-Atlantic, are hitch-hiking and gliding their way across the country. Officially known as the brown marmorated stink bug, sightings of the pest have been reported in 33 states, an increase of eight states since last fall.”I would say people now regard them as an out-of-control pest,” says Kim Hoelmer, a research entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Newark, Del.The National Pest Management Association warns homeowners this week that the bugs’ growing populations are likely to make infestations significantly worse this year. “This season’s stink bug population will be larger than in the past,” says Jim Fredericks, director of technical services for NPMA.The bugs have been spotted as far west as California, as far north as Minnesota and as far south as Florida. Only the Rockies and Plains states have escaped thus far. The eight states recently joining the stink bug party are Arizona, Iowa, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin, according to the USDA’s Greg Rosenthal.Rosenthal says a report of a stink bug in a state does not necessarily mean that the pest is established or that agricultural damage has been reported in that state.Stink bugs are named for the pungent smell they emit when frightened, disturbed or squashed. “They have glands that produce a defensive compound, which has a strong odor that repels predators,” Hoelmer says. “It makes them particularly obnoxious.”Entomologist David Rider of North Dakota State University says there are more than 4,700 species of stink bugs in the world — 250 of them in the USA and Canada. Some of these are agricultural pests, while others are beneficial predators that feed on insects — but now it’s just the brown marmorated one in the USA that’s causing all the fuss..Last summer, there was a major infestation of the brown, three-quarter-inch bugs in homes throughout the mid-Atlantic, the worst reports coming from West Virginia, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.”In this area, people are literally finding thousands in their homes,” reports Tracy Leskey, a research entomologist with the USDA in Kearneysville, W.Va.They’re just a stinky nuisance for many, but the bugs can be devastating to farmers.”They feed on a wide range of important food crops,” Hoelmer says. Crops such as sweet corn, apples, pears, grapes, berries, peaches, tomatoes and peppers appear to be the most vulnerable.”Some growers have lost their entire crop to stink bug infestations,” Hoelmer says. “This adds up to many millions of dollars of losses in crop values. It’s a serious economic loss to some growers.”USDA officials “take this pest seriously and are hard at work trying to understand effective ways to control it and mitigate its effect,” USDA spokeswoman Jennifer Martin says.Two USDA agencies — the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Agricultural Research Service — fund projects at universities and research centers to study how to control and combat stink bugs.Funding for the USDA’s stink bug research in fiscal year 2010 totals nearly $1.09 million, Martin says.The two seasons when people most notice the bugs are in the fall — when they come inside homes looking for warmth and shelter — and in the spring, when they look for ways to come out of hiding.For farmers, the entire growing season is the time to be wary.Most people aren’t bothered. The bugs don’t bite and aren’t poisonous. “They don’t transmit disease and don’t suck blood,” Leskey says.However, “they are great at hitchhiking” she says, preferring to hide in people’s personal belongings and in cars.The bugs probably got to the USA in the late 1990s by hitchhiking in container ships from Asia.Another way they get around is when they’re picked up by the wind. “They have wings and can fly far,” Leskey says.”The wild population is increasing and moving from state to state” Hoelmer says.First positively identified in the USA in the late 1990s in Allentown, Pa., the Asian bugs have few natural predators in the USA. “Native species do not seem to recognize them as prey,” Hoelmer says.However, a tiny parasitic wasp from Asia known as a Trissolcus wasp — a bug smaller than a gnat — is showing promise as a possible biological control. These wasps, which are natural enemies of the brown marmorated stink bug in Asia, might be able to nip the stink bug explosion in the bud by preying on brown marmorated stink bug eggs, the only type of eggs that species of wasps eats. Hoelmer says that research is underway to determine whether it will be safe to release this specific species of wasp into the wild in the USA: “We already know that each species of Trissolcus only recognizes certain kinds of stink bugs as suitable food for their offspring. If they cannot locate ‘their’ species of stink bug hosts, they won’t reproduce and they won’t survive. However, we want to be sure that any wasps that are released to control the brown marmorated stink bug will not create problems for other stink bugs, especially species that are beneficial.”

Carol Cloud Bailey: Scout your landscape for pests, other concerns

Walk your space every day or two and inspect garden and landscape plants.

Look for pest problems, irrigation needs and changes in plant growth. Take a small notebook, clipboard or digital voice recorder to save your thoughts and observations.

Called scouting, it is the key to integrated pest management.By catching problems when they are small and manageable, control maybe easier and involve less toxic methods. Besides, it’s a great way to take a few minutes for yourself to enjoy your garden.

Less than 1 percent of insects are pests that damage plants, carry disease, weaken structures, or annoy humans and domestic animals.

Before reaching for the spray can or two bricks for smashing make sure the critter is not a beneficial insect.

Some of the common “good guys” that visit Florida gardens include assassin bugs, lacewings, earwigs, big-eyed bugs and spiders.

The most effective way to keep birds, squirrels, raccoons and other fruit-stealing critters away from veggie gardens and ripening fruit on trees is the use of mesh garden nets. Several other strategies to scare away those who want to share your harvest include inflatable owls, rubber snakes and a string of clattering CDs or pie pans; none of these tactics has proved very effective though all deliver some results if moved or changed every day or two.

Spiders are a good thing in the garden. Most spiders will eat many different types of prey, including some insects. Spiders are arachnids and differ from insects; they have four pairs of legs instead of three, no antennae and two body regions— insects have three — and spider mouthparts function vertically.

Dr. Philip C. Anderson, a physician and medical researcher who has worked on brown recluse bites and venom for 40 years, once commented, “In general, spiders attempt to avoid people. People should accommodate them.”

Garden program

Amy Dahan will discuss “How to Create a Healthy Community of Plants and Wildlife in Your Backyard” at the April 5 meeting of the Martin County Chapterof the Florida Native Plant Society.

Dahan is director of Heathcote Botanical Gardens in Fort Pierce. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the Environmental Studies Center, 2900 Indian River Drive, Jensen Beach.

For more information, contact Marge Gasser at 772-283-1379 or mmglive@yahoo.com.

Quote

“Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

— Nathaniel Hawthorne

Carol Cloud Bailey

The Six-Legged Meat of the Future

Insects are nutritious and easy to raise without harming the environment. They also have a nice nutty taste

By MARCEL DICKE and ARNOLD VAN HUIS

 John S. Dykes

At the London restaurant Archipelago, diners can order the $11 Baby Bee Brulee: a creamy custard topped with a crunchy little bee. In New York, the Mexican restaurant Toloache offers $11 chapulines tacos: two tacos stuffed with Oaxacan-style dried grasshoppers.

Could beetles, dragonfly larvae and water bug caviar be the meat of the future? As the global population booms and demand strains the world’s supply of meat, there’s a growing need for alternate animal proteins. Insects are high in protein, B vitamins and minerals like iron and zinc, and they’re low in fat. Insects are easier to raise than livestock, and they produce less waste. Insects are abundant. Of all the known animal species, 80% walk on six legs; over 1,000 edible species have been identified. And the taste? It’s often described as “nutty.”

Worms, crickets, dung beetles — to most people they’re just creepy crawlers. To Brooklyn painter and art professor Marc Dennis, they’re yummy ingredients for his Bug Dinners.

The vast majority of the developing world already eats insects. In Laos and Thailand, weaver-ant pupae are a highly prized and nutritious delicacy. They are prepared with shallots, lettuce, chilies, lime and spices and served with sticky rice. Further back in history, the ancient Romans considered beetle larvae to be gourmet fare, and the Old Testament mentions eating crickets and grasshoppers. In the 20th century, the Japanese emperor Hirohito’s favorite meal was a mixture of cooked rice, canned wasps (including larvae, pupae and adults), soy sauce and sugar.

Recipe: Crispy Crickets

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Strip the antennae, limbs and wings (if any) from 20 to 30 clean, frozen adult crickets, or 40 to 60 cricket nymphs. Spread the stripped crickets on a lightly oiled baking sheet and place in oven. Bake until crickets are crisp, around 20 minutes. Yield: one cup.

Sprinkle these on salads or put them through a coffee grinder to turn them into bug “flour.” You could even combine the crickets with Chex Mix for a protein-rich snack.

From “The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook” by David George Gordon (Ten Speed Press)

More Recipes: Superworm Tempura

And: Where to Find Creepy Crawly Cuisine

 

Will Westerners ever take to insects as food? It’s possible. We are entomologists at Wageningen University, and we started promoting insects as food in the Netherlands in the 1990s. Many people laughed—and cringed—at first, but interest gradually became more serious. In 2006 we created a “Wageningen—City of Insects” science festival to promote the idea of eating bugs; it attracted more than 20,000 visitors.

Over the past two years, three Dutch insect-raising companies, which normally produce feed for animals in zoos, have set up special production lines to raise locusts and mealworms for human consumption. Now those insects are sold, freeze-dried, in two dozen retail food outlets that cater to restaurants. A few restaurants in the Netherlands have already placed insects on the menu, with locusts and mealworms (beetle larvae) usually among the dishes.

Insects have a reputation for being dirty and carrying diseases—yet less than 0.5% of all known insect species are harmful to people, farm animals or crop plants. When raised under hygienic conditions—eating bugs straight out of the backyard generally isn’t recommended—many insects are perfectly safe to eat.

Mitchell Fienberg
bugsinwraps

Meanwhile, our food needs are on the rise. The human population is expected to grow from six billion in 2000 to nine billion in 2050. Meat production is expected to double in the same period, as demand grows from rising wealth. Pastures and fodder already use up 70% of all agricultural land, so increasing livestock production would require expanding agricultural acreage at the expense of rain forests and other natural lands. Officials at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization recently predicted that beef could become an extreme luxury item by 2050, like caviar, due to rising production costs.

Raising insects for food would avoid many of the problems associated with livestock. For instance, swine and humans are similar enough that they can share many diseases. Such co-infection can yield new disease strains that are lethal to humans, as happened during a swine fever outbreak in the Netherlands in the late 1990s. Because insects are so different from us, such risks are accordingly lower.

Insects are also cold-blooded, so they don’t need as much feed as animals like pigs and cows, which consume more energy to maintain their body temperatures. Ten pounds of feed yields one pound of beef, three pounds of pork, five pounds of chicken and up to six pounds of insect meat.

Insects produce less waste, too. The proportion of livestock that is not edible after processing is 30% for pork, 35% for chicken, 45% for beef and 65% for lamb. By contrast, only 20% of a cricket is inedible.

Raising insects requires relatively little water, especially as compared to the production of conventional meat (it takes more than 10 gallons of water, for instance, to produce about two pounds of beef). Insects also produce far less ammonia and other greenhouse gases per pound of body weight. Livestock is responsible for at least 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Raising insects is more humane as well. Housing cattle, swine or chicken in high densities causes stress to the animals, but insects like mealworms and locusts naturally like to live in dense quarters. The insects can be crowded into vertical stacked trays or cages. Nor do bug farms have to be restricted to rural areas; they could sprout up anywhere, from a suburban strip mall to an apartment building. Enterprising gourmets could even keep a few trays of mealworms in the garage to ensure a fresh supply.

The first insect fare is likely to be incorporated subtly into dishes, as a replacement for meat in meatballs and sauces. It also can be mixed into prepared foods to boost their nutritional value—like putting mealworm paste into a quiche. And dry-roasted insects can be used as a replacement for nuts in baked goods like cookies and breads.

Mitchell Fienberg
bugsonforks

We continue to make progress in the Netherlands, where the ministry of agriculture is funding a new $1.3 million research program to develop ways to raise edible insects on food waste, such as brewers’ grain (a byproduct of beer brewing), soyhulls (the skin of the soybean) and apple pomace (the pulpy remains after the juice has been pressed out). Other research is focusing on how protein could be extracted from insects and used in processed foods.

Though it is true that intentionally eating insects is common only in developing countries, everyone already eats some amount of insects. The average person consumes about a pound of insects per year, mostly mixed into other foods. In the U.S., most processed foods contain small amounts of insects, within limits set by the Food and Drug Administration. For chocolate, the FDA limit is 60 insect fragments per 100 grams. Peanut butter can have up to 30 insect parts per 100 grams, and fruit juice can have five fruit-fly eggs and one or two larvae per 250 milliliters (just over a cup). We also use many insect products to dye our foods, such as the red dye cochineal in imitation crab sticks, Campari and candies. So we’re already some of the way there in making six-legged creatures a regular part of our diet.

Not long ago, foods like kiwis and sushi weren’t widely known or available. It is quite likely that in 2020 we will look back in surprise at the era when our menus didn’t include locusts, beetle larvae, dragonfly larvae, crickets and other insect delights.

—Mr. Dicke and Mr. Van Huis are professors of entomology at Wageningen University in the Netherlands

Curiousity Almost Killed The Cat

We received a telephone call from a woman who claimed that she had a cat in the attic. “Did you say a rat?” I asked. “A cat!” she said..I still had to clarify..”A bat?”..”No, a cat and I think I heard it meowing” she said.

Well this was first for us, so we rushed straight to women’s house. If there really was a cat, he was in big trouble but I have to admit, I expected a raccoon.

We arrived, grabbed the ladder and flashlight and Brandon was in the attic in seconds. he was very cautious in case there was a raccoon in the attic. With moments I heard him say…”It’s a cat, dad!”

I warned my son to be very careful of his approach of the cat but he said the cat was very weak and wobbly on its feet. I climbed the ladder and stuck my fat head into the attic to see the cat “zip’ by me…..not too wobbly I thought.

It was a sight to see, my son chasing the cat all around the very low and very hot attic. Brandon disappeared behind some A/C ducts at the far end of the attic and I heard him say “Gotcha!”

I asked Brandon if the cat was vicious and he replied that the cat was now barely alive. Brandon cradled the cat all the way from the far end of the low attic, gently climbing over A/C ducts and coughing on “raised” dust and insulation.

At my first look at the cat, I thought, “This thing is dead”. It just hung there, lifelessly.

Brandon crawled out of the attic, down the ladder and out the front door with this poor exhausted, hungry and very dehydrated feline.

The cat laid in my son’s lap with very little movement. The cat could not even lift its head. After a few minutes, we gave the cat some water, being sure not to give it too much too fast. At first it did not want the water but then gradually started to drink. We offered it some sardines in a can (our raccoon bait) and the cat ate slowly but then increased as he ate.

Brandon had to actually put water on his finger and rub it on the cats mouth to get the poor animal to drink

After some more water and a little more food, the cat could finally make a meow sound, it was very weak and dry sounding but it was a meow.

Now we were faced with the next ordeal…what to do with this cat? I was afraid to take it anywhere that may put it to sleep due to its extreme weakness, it looked very pitiful with its bones protruding from it’s skin.

Brandon is actually holding the cat up, if he released of the cat, it would immediately collapse.

The homeowner stated that the only time the cat could have entered the attic was FIVE weeks ago when the A/C people were working in the attic. Apparently they removed the gable air vent for some reason and the cat must have wandered in. The A/C workers movements may have startled the cat and it must have hidden, that’s what a cat would normally do in this type of situation. unfortunately, the A/C workers sealed the attic back and went home, leaving the cat in the attic.

The woman was totally freaked out about the cat, she also said that there was a “missing cat” poster on the telephone pole in front of her house. I ran out to the telephone pole and the poster was ripped up with only a few remaining pieces of paper left hanging. I talked to several neighbors and they knew nothing about the missing cat.

 We refused to give up, this cat survived the hot Florida attic with no food or water for five weeks….it did not give up and neither were we!

Brandon sat on the front porch sidewalk, cradling the cat in his lap. He gave it little sips of water and food and then let it rest.

I drove all over the neighborhood looking for more posters of missing cats. finally I located a poster that was less damaged than the rest. The poster was still torn but had a better picture of the cat…but no phone number.

The picture looked exactly like the half dead cat in Brandon’s lap, things were looking up for us and the cat. I started knocking on doors and asking about the “missing cat” poster but no one knew anything. I saw a few kids on bicycles down the road and remembered an old saying from a when I was a private investigator, “If you want to know anything about a neighborhood, ask a kid…they see everything.”   I drove over to the kids, asked about a lost cat and they immediately pointed to a house farther down the block.

I went up to the house, knocked on the door and a women answered. I inquired about her lost cat and she bent down and picked up a cat and said that it had been found days ago. Directly in front of me was the perfect copy of the cat that was fighting for his life in Brandon’s lap….not  good news at all.

By the time I returned to Brandon, the cat was doing much better, it was holding its own head up and its eyes looked much clearer.

We knew things were not looking good for the cat but we refused to quit. I called several friends and finally hit pay dirt. We were directed to a woman who loved cats and was willing to nurse the little guy back to health.

Within thirty minutes, we were at a McDonalds parking lot and meeting the cats new owner. The woman almost cried when she saw the cat. It’s funny because to us, the cat looked damn good (compared to the non responsive attic cat we intially observed) ! It was purring and meowing so much better. It was still a little wobbly on its feet but all in all, it was going wonderful!

Break time for Brandon and the cat. Brandon ate french fries while the cat enjoyed more sardines.

She took the cat and the last we heard it was  recovering and doing very well. A happy ending all around!

Update: It’s been well over a week and the cat is GREAT!