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International news in brief – September/October 2015

| October 13, 2015
  • Russia: Southern Russia under locust attack

Locust attackSouthern Russia has been experiencing a vast locust infestation which forced the authorities to declare a state of emergency in the region.At least 900 Km² were infested with millions of locust in July and August. It’s been 30 years since the region have been infected by the swarm of insects and the damage had already reached 10% of the total crops planted and the insects continue to rummage their lands.

The locusts are a familiar visitor to farmlands across the south of the country and annually descend on crops in this part of the country at this time of year. However, this year the insects numbers have surged, with Russian news outlets attributing the increase to this year’s flooding and the high temperatures which reached up to 40C in some areas, 15C higher than the average temperatures for the south in July. In Kalmikya, Astrakhan, Volgagrad, and Dagestan, there is already no food left for the locusts, so they have moved on to other sources of food. Local authorities used airborne crop-sprayers to spread insecticide over the affected areas. Flying sometimes as low as 5-7meters, an Antonov An-2 plane managed to treat some 5,000 hectares with chemicals – out of a total of 29,000 hectares affected.
Various sources including:

  • USA: Beetles meant to curb weeds invade neighbourhood

Swarms of tiny beetles are invaded yards, gardens, even some homes and it turns out, the bugs were released on purpose by the state. Residents first started noticing the beetles one Friday, early August and by Sunday, thousands of them had moved into their backyards. In that short time they had destroyed hundreds of dollars’ worth of rose bushes and other plants.

It turns out they’re the beetles that the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the USDA, and the city of Portland have been releasing in nearby Oaks Bottom Refuge over the last decade. The tiny beetle (the Black-Margined Loosestrife Leaf Beetle (Galerucella calmariensisis) being used as a biocontrol, a natural way to get rid of an aggressive and invasive weed called Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria). State officials say for years it was successful. But it appears this year, for the first time, the beetle population exploded. “It’s an anomaly and something that’s not common and we haven’t experienced it before,” said Tim Butler with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. He said the unusually hot and dry weather may be to blame for the beetle explosion. Agriculture officials took samples of the beetles and confirmed Tuesday morning they’re the ones released in Oaks Bottom.
For a fact sheet on biocontrol agents being used in Oregon see:

  • Denmark: The best documented case of efficient biocontrol in open agricultural systems

Recent work on weaver ants Oecophylla spp. shows that they can reduce pest numbers and their damage and increase yields in crops. Their efficiency is comparable to chemical pesticides or higher, while at lower costs.

Weaver ant

Weaver ant from Java. Credit G Bohne Berlin, Germany [CC BY-SA 2.00]

A study of cashew nut crops in Australia found “pest control by ant” was nearly 50% more successful than if the farmer used conventional pesticides. The quality of the crop was also higher, leading to a 71% increase in income. The author, Dr Offenberg, from Aarhus University, Denmark, who has studied ants for almost 20 years, has suggested Europe could learn something from this and apple growers could save money by using wood ants to tackle winter moths. A synthesis of applied work on other ant species illustrates potentials for control of arthropod pests, weeds and plant diseases.It may stimulate implementation of already proven ant-based integrated pest management techniques.

Two European companies are considering how to provide weaver ant nests to farmers, and a Danish aid project is helping to establish ant nurseries in Africa so as to provide mature colonies to farmers interested in trying out these six-legged pest controllers.
For more information visit: Offenberg, J. (2015), REVIEW: Ants as tools in sustainable agriculture. Journal of Applied Ecology, 52: 1197–1205. doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12496,

  • UK: Intrexon to Acquire Oxitec

Intrexon Corp., a US based synthetic biology company, announced on 10th August its intention to acquire Oxitec Ltd.. Utilizing advanced genetics and molecular biology, Oxitec has developed an innovative solution to controlling insect populations through the production of ‘sterile’, self-limiting insects whose offspring do not survive. Unlike conventional approaches to insect control using insecticides that can affect the broader ecosystem, Oxitec programs are directed at a single species. Intrexon intends to integrate its synthetic biology platform to advance Oxitec’s existing initiatives to protect communities from diseases like dengue fever as well as against agricultural pests that impact food supply worldwide.

One such are of work is in Dengue management. According to the WHO, dengue is the world’s fastest growing mosquito-borne disease spread by Aedes aegypti. A recent estimate indicates a potential 390 million dengue infections per year, of which 96 million manifest clinically. Open field trials with Oxitec’s mosquitoes have shown over 90% reduction of the Aedes aegypti pest population reported in each efficacy trial. Brazil’s National Technical Commission for Biosecurity (CTNBio)  approved the safety of Oxitec’s mosquitoes in 2014.

Pursuant to the definitive agreement, Oxitec’s stockholders will receive approximately $80 million in Intrexon common stock and $80 million in cash. Consummation of the transaction, anticipated in the second half of 2015, is subject to customary closing conditions.
For more information visit: and

  • Turkey: Conference programme released for Parasitec 2015

The programme has been released for the inaugural pest control Parasitec conference and exhibition to be held in Turkey in November, has been released. Opening remarks will be given by Dr. Hüseyin İlterhaskod from the Environmental Health Department of the Ministry of Health; Övsen Zümreparasitec, Chairman of the Board of Public Health and Pest Control Association of Turkey; and Philippe Dommanget, Press Officer for the organisers.

Day 1 starts with three presentations on legislation. Selim Atak, Environmental Health Department ‘Authorisation of biocidal products, product types and labelling’; Münir Devriş Tamkoç, Head of Environmental Health, ‘Active Substance-free licensing types biocidal products stages’; President of CEPA, Bertrand Montmoreau ‘CEPA Control Standards in Europe‘. Then after lunch two papers will look at ‘Possible Problems Encountered in Combating Mosquito in Metropols and Recommended Solutions: a Case Study in Muğla Province’, Prof. Dr. Enver Durmuşoğlu, EGE University; and ‘The Use of Pheromones in Urban Pest Control’, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Orkun Barış Kovancı, Uludag University.

Day 2 will consider Integrated Vector Management Programs in Turkey. ‘Authorisation of biocidal products, product types and labelling.’ Assoc. Prof. Dr. Huseyin Cetin, Akdeniz University. ‘IPM Methods’ Dr. Romain Lasseur, Managing Director of Institute Claude Bourgelat – VetaAgro. ‘Monitoring in Rodent Control and Evaluation of Rodenticide Efficacy’ Ziraat Yüksek Mühendisi Abdullah Yılmaz (MSc), Plant Protection Central Research Institute, ‘Chemical Control Against Stored Product Pests, Problems and Solutions on Development Resistance To Pesticides Of Pests’ Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nabi Alper KUMRAL, Uludag University. A workshop will conclude each of the two days.

Parasitec is to be held 25-26 November at the Wow Convention centre, Istanbul.
For more information visit:

  • US: Mosquito-repelling chemicals identified in traditional sweetgrass

Native North Americans have long adorned themselves and their homes with fragrant sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata), a native plant used in traditional medicine, to repel biting insects, and mosquitoes in particular. Now, researchers report that they have identified the compounds in sweetgrass that keep these bugs at bay. Dr. Charles Cantrell, of the USDA Natural Products Center, delivered a news briefing at the 250th American Chemical Society in Boston, in August.

Back in the 90s, Avon ‘Skin So Soft’ had a product that people discovered actually worked well as an insect repellent. It wasn’t marketed as an insect repellent, but the effectiveness was well-known among consumers. Scientists did an investigation and one of the constituents found was coumarin – which has now been isolated from sweetgrass. In laboratory tests, two sweetgrass compounds drove mosquitoes away from tantalising fake blood samples, just as well as the widely-used repellent Deet. Further tests are needed to see how long the effects last.

Coumarin, the first compound, is not currently registered or marketed as a repellent. The second key ingredient is phytol, a common constituent in essential oils from plants. Phytol, similarly, is known to repel insects but is not currently marketed for that purpose. Work is ongoing.
To see the full presentation visit: Streamed live on 18 Aug 2015.

  • Canada: Medical marijuana boosts natural pest control business

Although certain chemical pesticides are permitted on medical cannabis (Health Canada currently has a list of seven products that have been approved for use) some producers prefer to avoid chemical sprays.  Also thanks to Health Canada regulations that limit the use of chemical pesticides on medical marijuana in order to make sure the plants are safe for consumption, biological control specialist have seen an uptick in business. One such is Global Horticultural.

“Specifically in this industry, it’s very important not to apply chemicals topically, because when you burn the plant for the medicinal compounds, any residual product that’s left on the leaves as a resin, you’ll also be burning that and inhaling it,” says Emily Moeller, the grow and production manager at Bedrocan Cannabis Corp. Users can be immuno-compromised and some use medical cannabis to manage the symptoms associated with chemotherapy.

There are a number of pests that can feed on cannabis crops. Global use three kinds of beneficial insects to keep pest populations in check. Hypoaspis miles is a tiny mite that lives in the soil and preys on fungus gnats, shore flies and thrips. Nematodes are applied through the water system to eat the eggs of fungus gnats that have been laid in the root ball of the plant. Amblyseius swirskii, apredator that lives on the leaves of the plant, feeds on thrips, white flies and spider mites.
Original source: The Canadian Press.

  • North America: Rentokil Initial Acquires The Steritech Group for US$425 Million

John Whitley, founder of Steritech, has come full circle as he used to run Rentokil North America decades ago before founding Steritech. He has now sold the business to his former employer for $425 million in cash (2.8x revenue / 28x EBITA) in cash, which likely represents the high water mark in terms of valuation and pricing. According to some, two years ago, he would have been lucky to get $250 million for it.

Steritech is a high quality provider of pest control services with a US national footprint. It is also the market leading provider of brand standards auditing services in North America. The acquisition strengthens Rentokil’s position as the number three pest control business in the US, a $7.5bn market which accounts for 50% of global pest control services and is a key strategic market in our Growth quadrant. Rentokil also becomes the third largest pest control company in Canada. The Company’s North American business now has annual revenues of $0.8bn and becomes its largest operation.

The transaction is expected to deliver profit before interest, tax and amortisation of $25m – $30m in 2016 and to achieve EBITA returns in excess of 12% by 2018.

  • Africa: Plant Biosecurity Network underway

Fifteen Senior Biosecurity Fellows and 30 Associate Fellows – biosecurity champions for African plant pest and disease protection – will met in Nairobi in August for the first Africa Plant Biosecurity Network meeting. An initiative of the Australia-Africa Plant Biosecurity Partnership, the Fellows will be trained in a range of plant protection areas to improve plant biosecurity in ten east and southern African countries, including matched training in Australia and development of communication skills.

The aim is to assist African individuals to improve regional biosecurity, improving farmer incomes, food security and safe regional trade of agricultural products. The East and Southern African countries included are Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The main areas of biosecurity capacity development identified for the Partnership’s initial are:

  • Diagnostic skills for identification of key pests and diseases of concern.
  • Risk analysis and risk management with a focus on seed and live planting material.
  • Emergency response and eradication.
  • Surveillance and management of key pests and diseases affecting production and trade.
  • Early warning and biosecurity  planning, and
  • Listing and prioritisation of key pests and diseases on traded commodities, to reduce biosecurity constraints to imports and exports.

The Australia-Africa Plant Biosecurity Partnership is led by Australia’s PBCRC and funded by the AIFSRC within ACIAR and CABI. The program is being delivered by a consortium of PBCRC, ACIAR, CABI, CSIRO and the Crawford Fund.
More information is available at:

  • US: EPA approval for new high performance fungicide

Syngenta announced in September that it has received US EPA approval for Orondis™ a new high-performance fungicide. First sales are expected in the 2016 season. The product offers vegetable and specialty crop growers a step change in controlling diseases such as downy mildew and late blight. Its new mode of action complements and expands Syngenta’s marketleading fungicide portfolio and helps address increasing resistance to some products. It contains the active ingredient oxathiapiprolin, from Du Pont. Orondis has a peak sales potential of more than $150 million. Launches in several major markets and across a range of crops are planned.

  • Cameroon: UN FAO urges farmers to guard against transboundary animal diseases

Experts from across Africa say trans-border diseases kill between 10 and 20 percent of the continent’s animals every year. The experts gathered in Cameroon in August to discuss the problem. They suggested large vaccination and pest eradication programs to stop the spread of the diseases.

Dr. Taiga, Cameroon’s livestock minister says pests like nose bot flies and wool maggots are harming animals in some communities in his country and advocates that all animals in an area must be killed if one animal is affected because the diseases are contagious. They spread quickly from animal to animal. He says that is why the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health are working together to destroy the diseases. Dr. Felix Njemi, an animal health officer at the FAO, says the large number of animal deaths is worsening the food crisis in Africa, especially in countries south of the Sahara. “The strategy is the large vaccination at the country level. Undertake surveillance to detect any case of the disease and strengthen collaboration between member nations and even between international institutions. Imagine somebody who has 10 animals and loses eight. The disease can have impact in food security.”
For more information visit:

  • US: RNAi technology in pest management

Cornell entomology Professor Jeff Scott and his laboratory manager, Keri San Miguel, believe RNAi technology could revolutionize the crop protection industry due to its ability to avoid harming beneficial insects. RNA, a ‘copy’ of a DNA strand, created as a messenger, alerts cells which proteins should be manufactured. RNA interference (RNAi) introduces genes to destroy targeted RNA messengers. They have demonstrated that experimental insecticides that turn off vital genes in specific pests, through a process called RNA interference, are more durable and long-lasting than previously suspected. Scott and Miguel utilized double-stranded RNA, which, like DNA, seems to withstand the elements. In greenhouse trials, a RNA-based insecticide was effective against Colorado potato beetle for 28 days. Though ultraviolet light quickly degraded RNA on a glass slide, the treatment was unharmed on foliage.

Major chemical companies have taken notice of the technology. In 2012, Syngenta and Devgen entered into a six-year agreement to jointly research RNAi technology. Monsanto researchers have said the Cornell results are consistent with their findings. Monsanto has a transgenic corn product using RNAi to control corn rootworm under regulatory review by agencies around the world and is developing a topical product line utilizing double-stranded RNA called BioDirect. Monsanto has also purchased the Israeli company Beeologics for its efforts to use RNAi in controlling Varroa mites.

  • EU: Bioinsecticide has received a completeness determination

Marrone Bio’s Grandevo bioinsecticide has received a completeness determination from the European Commission and is now cleared to begin the evaluation for Annex 1 listing and commercialization in the European Union. A June 25th policy decision by the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority and a Working Group of EU Member States, has allowed Grandevo that contains nonviable Chromobacterium subtsugae cells, to be evaluated as a microbial pesticide.

Until this recent EU decision, only pesticides containing live microbes could be evaluated under EU regulation. Grandevo is the first ever bioinsecticide formulated as a non-viable microbial “end product” to be accepted for review as a microbial pesticide by EU regulators and to receive a favorable completeness check decision. Grandevo is being assessed under the Netherlands Government’s “Green Deal” Initiative, which has been created with an aim to “speed up the sustainability of PPPs (plant protection products) in agriculture and horticulture.

  • UK: Growers spoilt for biological choice

Following the decision by Certis Europe to divest itself of its commercial sales business of beneficials in certain European countries, Koppert recently acquired the Certis BCP business for the UK, France and Italy. Certis says it will continue to sell its beneficial organism products elsewhere and develop integrated crop protection programmes for its customers in its other markets. ‘The acquisition of Certis Europe’s beneficials sales business in the UK, France and Italy, fits in well with our long-term strategy to further develop biological solutions for these important agricultural and horticultural countries,’ says Koppert Biological Systems’ Managing Director, Henri Oosthoek.

Meanwhile Biobest, confident that its long-standing expertise in biological control and pollination of high-tech fruit and vegetable production will be of great value to British growers, has decided to establish a UK facility and has attracted a biocontrol pioneer to take the helm. Phil Walker, founder of BCP (later Certis BCP), will be the managing director of the new entity, Biobest UK.

  • Muscat: Municipality conducts cleanliness drive

waste bags

Officials in Muscat have urged citizens and residents to use approved waste bags for garbage disposal and ensure that the bags are appropriately sealed while being discarded in dumpsters.

A clean up initiative, which included pest-control activities, was implemented in Muscat to combat seasonal diseases that annually arise due to flies and breeding of mosquitoes. The campaign targeted residential and commercial areas, including gardens, parks and ports, in addition to roads and government organisations.

In 2015, the municipality received complaints on varying issues; 73% rodents, 23% snakes and 4% cats. The municipality, in a statement, said that it uses approved methods, which are not harmful to public health, to control pests like mosquitoes, houseflies, cockroaches and rodents. Officials have urged citizens and residents to use approved waste bags for garbage disposal and ensure that the bags are appropriately sealed while being discarded in dumpsters.

  • Sweden: Change of lead at Anticimex

After three intense years, during which Anticimex completed over 40 acquisitions in 14 countries, doubled its turnover, and achieved 30 % margin improvement, Olof Sand, who has led the Anticimex group since EQT’s acquisition in 2012, hands over to Jarl Dahlfors, 51, as President and CEO of Anticimex. Jarl Dahlfors took up his new position in September. His most recent position was as President and CEO of Loomis, which is listed on the Nasdaq Stockholm’s major companies list.

Gunnar Asp, Chairman of Anticimex’s Board of Directors commented “After three intense years of acquisitions, coordination and rapid growth, Anticimex’s ambitious growth plan continues. At the same time we also see great opportunities to achieve additional synergies and increased profitability. Jarl Dahlfors’ experience, well-documented leadership and background from an international listed company with a focus on profitability fits perfectly into the phase Anticimex is currently in. He has during eight years at Loomis been a key person, as CFO, Regional US Manager and President and has extensive experience from other leading international companies. We look forward to Jarl Dahlfors joining us to develop the company and continue to build “One Anticimex”.

Anticimex is a leading international specialist within pest control and related services. Anticimex was founded in 1934 in Sweden and currently has operations in 14 countries, with more than 3600 employees. In 2014, total turnover amounted to approximately SEK 3.4 billion (US$0.4b)

  • Taiwan: More than 16,000 Dengue cases reported in 2015

Dengue fever was first formal reported in Taiwan in 1981 and until this year, 2014 had the most cases with 15,732. However, at the end of September the Taiwan CDC put the dengue tally at 16,074 making 2015 a record year for the mosquito borne infection on the island. In addition, health officials have put the death toll at 42, double of that seen in 2014, with dozens more under investigation. Tainan City has recorded 13,960 cases since May 1 and Kaohsiung has seen 1,858, accounting for 98.4% of cases nationally.

According to Taiwan CDC deputy director, Chuang Jen-hsiang, the hot weather is to blame. Dengue fever is an infectious disease carried by mosquitoes and caused by any of four related dengue viruses. This disease was once called “break-bone fever” because it sometimes causes severe joint and muscle pain that feels like bones are breaking. Dengue fever of multiple types is found in most countries of the tropic and subtropics particularly during and after rainy season. People get the dengue virus from the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. It is not contagious from person to person. There are three types of dengue fever in order of less severe to most: the typical uncomplicated dengue fever, dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHS) and dengue shock syndrome (DSS).

  • Peru: Plan to fight El Niño-related pests

The Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (Minagri), through its National Service for Agricultural Sanitation (Senasa), is carrying out a broad plan to combat the presence of pests and diseases caused by El Niño weather. The plan is being implemented in 14 regions across the country, with special emphasis on Tumbes, Piura, Lambayeque and La Libertad –the most affected areas by this natural phenomenon in previous years (1983-1984 and 1997-1998).

The government has allocated an initial disbursement of US$2.46m to implement surveillance, prevention, and training practices in the next five months in order to be prepared to fight pests and diseases affecting agricultural activity in the presence of El Niño. Specialists and technicians visit fields and different animal breeding farms, track certifications, perform inspections and other technical duties in order to support small and mediumsized farmers of the country.

  • US: Help for Olive Fruit Fly

In California, the olive fruit fly (Bactrocera oleae) has become the key pest of olives since its introduction in 1998. A new article from the USDA-ARS, describes the biology and life history of the pest and discusses current techniques for detecting the adults and immature stages.

Available control methods for are also listed and summarized, with suggestions for future olive fruit fly management in commercial olive orchards. Control methods include intensive biological control programs and new techniques that use bait stations. Basic cultural-control practices — such as removal of non-harvested fruit that support multiple generations, timing  of harvest to avoid adult activity, and elimination of standing water required by olive fruit fly adults for survival — are also discussed. Also listed are species of parasitoid wasps that have been evaluated and used as natural enemies (biological control agents), for which advantages and disadvantages of some of them are described, as well as their potential for future use. The information presented is meant as a resource for all domestic and international olive fruit fly studies and control programs, especially in areas where olive fruit fly has been newly discovered.
For more details visit:

  • US: Head lice in at least 25 states show resistance to common treatments

For students, the start of the school year also brings the threat of head lice. At the 250th
National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in August, scientists reported that lice populations in at least 25 states have developed resistance to over-the-counter treatments still widely recommended by doctors and schools. “We are the first group to collect lice samples from a large number of populations across the U.S.,” says Kyong Yoon of Southern Illinois University. “What we found was that 104 out of the 109 lice populations we tested had high levels of gene mutations, which have been linked to resistance to pyrethroids.”

Hrad LiceThe first reports on this development came from Israel in the late 1990s and Yoon became one of the first to report the phenomenon in the U.S. in 2000. Intrigued, Yoon followed up the lead and contacted schools to collect samples. He tested the pests for a trio of genetic mutations known collectively as knockdown resistance (kdr). In the most recent study, he gathered lice from 30 states. Population samples with all three genetic mutations associated with kdr came from 25 states, including California, Texas, Florida and Maine. The only state with a population of lice still largely susceptible to the insecticide was Michigan.

  • And finally… Dubai: ‘Snakes on a plane’

Airport workers in Dubai found an African puff adder, said to be one of Africa’s deadliest, inside a plane during a routine inspection. The snake was found inside the flight with goods. This variety of snake is found across Africa and is responsible for the most amount of snake bite deaths on the continent. According to wildlife and zoo management specialist in the Public Parks and Horticulture Department of Dubai Municipality, the find could have had a much worse outcome if the snake had bitten someone. The inevitable result would be death as they do not have anti-venom for the snake in this part of the world.
This is the first time this species of snake has been found in a shipment in Dubai’s ports.

The snake was found during a routine inspection by Dubai’s pest control department, which looks out for unwanted creatures that have hitched a lift. The snake is not the first uninvited animal to enter the UAE – because of the country’s largely transient population, there have been cases of plants and animals being brought in, including the red back spider which are found in some residential areas.

Published in International Pest Control – September/October 2015 issue

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Category: International Pest News, news in brief

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