Study: Nearly a Third of U.S. Bald Eagles Infected With Newly Discovered Virus

EagleU.S. NEWS | By Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder | Oct. 21, 2019

NEARLY ONE-THIRD OF THE bald eagles in the United States are infected with a previously unknown virus, according to new research.

The study, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports on Friday, tested 47 eagles from 19 states and found that 32% of them had the newly identified virus, called bald eagle hepacivirus.

“This study has opened our eyes to glaring knowledge gaps about infection in a species of great national importance,” Tony Goldberg, lead study author and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in a statement. “It’s a more complicated story than we thought it might be at first, but that makes it more interesting.”

While not deadly, the newly identified disease could be contributing to a separate, fatal disease that has been causing declines in the bird’s populations. Wisconsin River Eagle Syndrome was first described in the 1990s, when observers spotted birds staggering and vomiting. They eventually died from the syndrome or were euthanized.

It is unclear what the link between the two diseases could be, if there is one. Birds outside of Wisconsin that didn’t have the fatal syndrome were still diagnosed with the newly identified virus.

“This study is another piece of the puzzle,” Sean Strom of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said in a statement. “Hopefully we can find more pieces and figure out what is happening.”

Despite being the U.S.’s national symbol, bald eagles have had a rough history in the country. Hunting, pesticide poisoning and habitat loss decimated populations in the 20th century. As few as 412 nesting pairs were in the U.S. at the population’s lowest point.

Strict regulations and the banning of DDT, a pesticide that caused the bird’s egg shells to become too thin, recovered populations to the point that the bald eagle was taken off the endangered species list in 2007.

Despite improved protections, bald eagles are still falling victim to poison. In March, seven bald eagles and one great horned owl were found dead in Maryland. Officials said they were likely unintentionally poisoned with a banned pesticide, carbofuran. The deaths came roughly three years after 13 bald eagles were found dead in the area under similar circumstances. Officials said they were “disappointed and frustrated” at the continued poisonings

Will We Be Forced To Welcome Our Insecticide-Resistant Bed Bug Overlords?

Bed bugs

February 23, 2016 | by Keith Wagstaff | Forbes

Bad news for people who hate bed bugs. The insects are developing a resistance to widely used chemicals, according to a new study.

Researchers tested bed bugs taken from homes in Cincinnati and throughout Michigan, and found “high levels of resistance” to neonicotinoid insecticides.

Bed bugs were a big problem until the 1930s, when use of DDT kept them in check. Then came Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” in 1962 and concerns over the environmental and health effects of DTT.

Over the last few decades, thanks to the rise of international air travel and declines in the usage and effectiveness of DDT, bed bug infestations have exploded. In 2015, nearly every pest control professional (99.6 percent) had to deal with bed bugs. That is up from 25 percent in 2001, according to the National Pest Management Association. Neonicotinoids looked like at least one solution to the problem — until now.

“It’s a constant arms race,” Richard Pollack, an entomologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, told me in an interview. “We find something new, it works, and then they use Mother Nature’s laboratory to come up with ways to get around it.”

The resistance to neonicotinoids might be new, Pollack said, but it’s not unexpected. Insecticides can be incredibly effective for decades at a time. But if even a tiny percentage of bed bugs are resistant, they will survive and reproduce, eventually creating entire populations that can’t easily be killed off.

In the study, published recently in the Journal of Medical Entomology, researchers found that the bed bugs from Cincinnati and Michigan were far more resistant to four types of neonicotinoids (acetamiprid, dinotefuran, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam) than bed bugs raised in a colony maintained by entomologist Harold Harlan.

Thanks to the “detoxifying enzymes” their bodies produced, the bed bugs from Cincinnati and Michigan were 33,333 times more resistant to acetamiprid than the colony-raised bed bugs. They were more than a hundred times more resistant to the other neonicotinoids, as well.

So, should we simply welcome our new insect overlords and resign ourselves to waking up covered in itchy red bites?  Not so fast, according to Pollack.

“A lot of things bed bugs have become resistant to still work,” he said. In other words, if one pesticide doesn’t kill your bed bugs, pest control workers can just try several of them until one does the trick. Chances are the bed bugs in your home won’t be resistant to them all. There are other options out there too, like fumigation and applying extreme heat to a home. (Yes, houses have caught fire during heat treatments. Nobody said insecticide alternatives were perfect.)

To be clear, it’s not good that in some areas, human beings have one less weapon in their arsenal when it comes to killing bed bugs. But that doesn’t mean that people won’t develop new pesticides— potentially ones that are more effective and less toxic than old chemicals like DDT.

“We are in a free market economy,”Pollack said. “There is money to be made by developing new products.”

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

Arsenic-laced soil lingers where children play in Washington state

BY Tony Schick and Courtney Flatt, EarthFix  November 4, 2015 at 4:33 PM EST

The Forgotten Era: When Bed Bugs Were Tested for Combat in Vietnam

The Forgotten Era: When Bed Bugs Were Tested for Combat in Vietnam

Brooke Borel | April 27, 2015 | Gizmodo

In 2004, Brooke Borel got bed bugs in New York. Then she experienced them again in 2009—twice in two different apartments. Because of those experiences, which were part of a widespread bed bug resurgence in the US, Borel, a science journalist, decided to explore why the bugs were back.

This excerpt is one of many stories from her new book:

In 1965 at the Limited War Laboratory in Aberdeen, Maryland, army entomologists were testing bed bugs for combat. The Vietnam War had escalated on the other side of the world, and the Vietcong were putting up a more impressive fight than the Americans and their allies had expected. The enemy’s familiarity with the jungle made it easy to ambush US soldiers; the army was thus desperate to flush the guerillas out.

The Americans stripped the leafy jungle greens with Agent Orange and other defoliants so that the trees could no longer conceal an attack, and they trained German shepherds to sniff out hidden enemies sneaking through the ruined forest remains. But the researchers at Aberdeen thought that the bed bug might be a more versatile lookout. Compared to dogs, insects were easier to transport, required less care and attention, and needed no training.

Bed bugs are also naturally attracted to humans. The scientists wanted to exploit this tendency, whether in this species or a short list of other bloodsuckers, to see if they could detect the heat coming off of an enemy’s body or the carbon dioxide from his breath. In addition to the bed bug, the contenders included an unnamed species of lice; Xenopsylla cheopis, the Oriental rat flea; Amblyomma americanum, the lone star tick; three mosquito species; and Triatoma infestans, the kissing bug and most infamous carrier of Chagas disease.

The scientists put each species through a series of tests to observe how the insects acted when a person was nearby and to see whether that action could be converted into a warning signal. Lice were ruled out early because their aimless crawls didn’t change when a person was nearby. The fleas did notice the presence of a person, but they became so excited when they smelled a potential meal that they tapped like kernels of popcorn against a metal detection chamber and took too long to settle back down, which meant they were sensors that couldn’t reset. The soft feet of the tick made no discernible noise even after the researchers hung weights from the arthropods’ legs in hopes that the additional heft might audibly scrape across a detector’s surface.

In tests on one species of mosquito, the insects responded by probing a screened, skin-like membrane, thinking it was food whenever the researchers wafted in a human scent. A phonograph pickup, the same device that captures the vibration from the strum of an electric guitar and converts it to an electrical signal, connected to the membrane and converted the action of each wishful bite so it resonated like a plucked guitar string. And the kissing bug, a distant cousin of the bed bug, made a raucous noise with each of its footsteps, which was promising.

Both adult and nymph bed bugs sprung to attention when a meal was nearby, but only the younger bugs reacted strongly enough in initial tests to warrant the construction of a complex sensor. The researchers made one from a coiled spring of piano wire connected to a phono pickup. Just as the mosquitoes bit the fake skin in their detector, the bed bug nymphs shimmied across the piano wire, triggered it, and produced a sound. But when the wires, the bugs, and the pickup were put in a portable container—a small mesh envelope—the sound was too muffled to hear. The intrepid scientists built a chamber of fine steel wool and put the bugs and the detector inside. This helped, but the device still was not good enough to be useful on the battlefield. None of the other insect finalists that the army entomologists tested worked out, either, and the project was abandoned.

That the bed bug was included in the Aberdeen research in the sixties was unusual— as the bed bug faded from homes and our collective memory, it also became less common in the laboratory. In the decades leading up to World War II, scientists had mainly tried to understand the bugs’ basic biology, whether they were a health threat, and how to kill them. Both during and directly after the war, the research slanted toward pest control through experiments using DDT and other poisons.

The Forgotten Era: When Bed Bugs Were Tested for Combat in Vietnam

Illustration of proposed insect ambush detector from the US Army. Credit: Clyde Barnhart, courtesy of the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

By the late fifties, just after DDT’s initial deluge, the scientists’ interest dipped for about a decade, corresponding with the decimation of the bug. In the years that followed, what little research there was came from the developing world, where the pest was still a problem: countries in Africa and Asia, or institutions including the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which often operated in those regions. Just a handful of studies were published each year. Many looked at the tropical bed bug rather than the common one, and most of the work focused on public health, pesticide effectiveness, or, as bed bugs evolved to withstand DDT and its cousins, pesticide resistance. The research on the latter grew in the decades following the war, for even DDT couldn’t completely destroy what nature had perfected over millennia, and thus bed bugs hadn’t disappeared entirely.

Four years after the Americans and the Brits added DDT to their wartime supply lists, scientists found bed bugs resistant to the insecticide in Pearl Harbor barracks. More resistant bed bugs soon showed up in Japan, Korea, Iran, Israel, French Guiana, and Columbus, Ohio. In 1958 James Busvine of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine showed DDT resistance in bed bugs as well as cross- resistance to several similar pesticides, including a tenfold increase in resistance to a common organic one called pyrethrin. In 1964 scientists tested bed bugs that had proven resistant five years prior but had not been exposed to any insecticides since. The bugs still defied the DDT.

Soon there was a long list of other insect and arachnid with an increasing immunity to DDT: lice, mosquitoes, house flies, fruit flies, cockroaches, ticks, and the tropical bed bug. In 1969 one entomology professor would write of the trend: “The events of the past 25 years have taught us that virtually any chemical control method we have devised for insects is eventually destined to become obsolete, and that insect control can never be static but must be in a dynamic state of constant evolution.” In other words, in the race between chemical and insect, the insects always pull ahead.

Top image: AP

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