Chikungunya Virus Update

Joel Peralta

Joel Peralta
Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Many Caribbean nations are experiencing outbreaks of Chikungunya Virus. This is affecting the US with many more cases of Chikungunya Virus from tourists returning to the US. According to the CDC the average number of reports in 2006 – 2013 was 28 with a range of 5-65 per year. In 2014, already to date (July 22) 497 cases of Chikungunya Virus have been reported. This includes Joel Peralta, a pitcher for Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays. Peralta suspects that he contracted Chikungunya on a visit to his home in the Dominican Republic over the All Star Break. He has been placed on the disabled list and must wait out the symptoms.

There have been recent reports of transmission of the Chikungunya Virus in Florida involving residents who have not traveled to outbreak areas. This indicates that it is being transmitted in the US. Transmission is primarily by the Yellow Fever Mosquito, Aedes aegypti. The same methods that limit the spread of Yellow Fever in the US will work to stop Chikungunya Virus transmission. The CDC is cautious but hopeful that transmission within the US will be limited. The Asian Tiger Mosquito, Aedes albopictus, an invasive species that has spread through much of the Eastern US and is more difficult to control than Aedes aegypti is a poor vector of the Chikungunya Virus strain in the Caribbean. However, there are strains of Chikungunya Virus that are efficiently transmitted by Aedes albopictus that could create a more serious disease problem in the US.

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Yellow Fever and Independence

Mosquito Mouthparts

Mosquito Mouthparts

Haiti was the first Caribbean Island to gain its independence from European colonialism in 1804. In 1791, a slave revolt launch a series of engagements of former slaves against France Britain and Spain. The British seized control of the entire island in 1794 but quit by 1798 because of yellow fever, a viral disease transmitted by the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti.

In 1802, Napoleon sent his Brother in Law, General LeClerc with 20,000 soldiers to reclaim the island for France. They quickly seized control of the island through military superiority but began to suffer from yellow fever. The troops had no immunity. By year’s end, over 80% of the French soldiers, including LeClerc had died of yellow fever. The original force of 20,000 had dwindled to a few thousand. General Rochambeau arrived to replace LeClerc with reinforcements. They met the same fate as the previous force. Records are incomplete but the French may have lost up to 50,000 in the yellow fever epidemic.

Napoleon, unable to control the best sugar producing country in the New World, withdrew his troops. He sold the Louisiana territory to the new United States government for $15 million. Haiti declared independence in 1804.

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Diptera and Slugs

Tetanocera elata

Tetanocera elata
Photo: Piet Schuttelaar

Tetanocera elata is in the family Sciomyzidae that contains several species that are predators and parasitoids of slugs. It spends its first 2 larval instars as a slug parasitoid, then becomes a predator of other slugs species to develop into the pupa stage. The predatory larvae actively pursue prey and are believed to inject a paralytic toxin that immobilizes their prey. T. elata has potential as a biocontrol agent of slug pests.

The Kerry Slug, Geomalacus maculosus is a rare species of slug that is protected. Giordani and colleagues* tested the ability of T. elate to prey on the Kerry Slug. They observed the slug being attacked, immobilized and fed upon by T. elata. Caution is urged in the use of T. elata as a biocontrol species because of the potential harm to the rare slug.

Experiments to determine host range of parasitoids and predators are often done prior to introduction and use in pest control. This knowledge can be used to protect non-target and endangered species from harm.

*Irene Giordani, Tracy Hynes, Inga Reich, Rory J. Mc Donnell & Michael J. Gormally. 2014. Tetanocera elata Larvae Feed on Protected Slug Species Geomalacus maculosus: First Record of Predation J Insect Behav.
DOI 10.1007/s10905-014-9457-1

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Insects, Amber, Art

Fly In Amber Photo: Guy

Fly In Amber
Photo: Guy Inannuzzi

The movie and book, Jurassic Park, sparked interest in amber containing fossil insects, particularly among people interested in other areas of science and technology. Guy Inannuzzi became hooked on fossils in amber and applied his skills in optics and photography to produce artistic photos that capture the beauty and wonder they contain. His website,, contains numerous photos of fossil insects. Inannuzzi has a series of photos with captions that explain important features of the biology. This is definitely a site that anyone interested in fossil insects or insect photography will want to visit.

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Vegetable Leaf Miner

Vegetable Leafminer

Vegetable Leaf Miner Photo:

Do your tomato plants look healthy but the leaves look like something is making tunnels? That might be the work of the vegetable leaf miner, the larva of a fly, Liriomyza brassicae. Vegetable leafminers pupate in soil and develop into adults in 1-2 weeks. They lay eggs on the leaves of tomatoes and other vegetables. The larva hatches after about 3 days and enters the mesophyll of the leaf to feed on the cells between the upper and lower leaf surfaces. The larva moves forward as it feeds creating a tunnel. The small end of the tunnel is where the newly hatched larva entered. The large end is where it left the leaf. It requires only about a week to feed, develop and drop from the leaf into the soil to form a pupa. It requires a week or more to develop from pupa to adult. The flies can produce a new generation every 3-4 weeks. Damage may be slight at first, but populations can quickly grow large enough to cause reduction in productivity.

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Friday Cat-erpillar Blogging: Caterpillar Encounter

This weekend Purdue Entomology will have our annual Tippecanoe Butterfly Encounter from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Evonik Corporation, Tippecanoe Laboratories Wildlife Habitat Area. This is a great opportunity for the public to learn more about nature and some of the current issues related to butterflies and butterfly populations. We discuss butterfly identification, how to attract butterflies to a garden, the imporance of host plants and butterfly life cycles and biology. This year I plan to introduce a caterpillar quiz to highlight some important aspects of biology.

The Red Spotted Purple, Limenitis arthemis, and the Viceroy, Limenitis archippus, are closely related species. The adults are both mimics of other species. The Red Spotted Purple is part of the Pipevine Swallowtail mimicry complex and the Viceroy is a mimic of the Monarch Butterfly. Consequently, the color patterns of the adults have little in common and there is little superficial resemblence. However, the caterpillars have a very similar appearance, and are difficult to distinguish. To positively ID the caterpillars, it is useful to rear them to adults.

Butterflies, like the majority of insect species have complete metamorphosis. They have a set of larval genes that produce the caterpillar features and a set of adult genes responsible for adult features. In caterpillars, the larval genes are expressed and the adult genes silent. In the adult, the caterpillar genes are silent and the adult genes expressed. This allows both caterpillars and adults to evolve faster with fewer restrictions. A change in a larval gene that would better adapt the caterpillar can be made that only affects the caterpillar and not the adult. A change in an adult gene that would better adapt the butterfly to its environment can be made without affecting caterpillar characteristics. Insects with complete metamorphosis can have a form adapted to to feeding, growth and development (such as a caterpillar) and an entirely different form (a butterfly) devoted to dispersal and reproduction. This arrangement has been very successful as evidenced by the fact that the majority of terrestrial species are insects that have complete metamorphosis.

Limenitis Caterpillars

Caterpillars in the Genus Limenitis
Left: Red Spotted Purple; Photo: jneal
Right: Viceroy; Photo: Richard Seaman

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Out of Control Spider Control

House Fire

Spider Control Starts House Fire

Non-standard methods of pest control often produce non-standard results. A Seattle man wanted to kill a spider that was in a crevice in the wall of his house out of reach. In what could have been a scene from Wile E Coyote and Road Runner, the man took a can of spray paint, lit the paint propellent on fire and shot flames into the crack in the wall. What could go wrong?

Unfortunately, the flames caught the wall on fire. The man tried to douse the flames with water, but the water could not reach inside the wall. The flames quickly burned up the wall and spread to the attic shooting flames out of the house. Firefighters were called to extinguish the blaze while worried neighbors soaked their own houses and lawns with water to prevent the fire from spreading.

Money quotes from the Seattle Fire Department:

There are safer, more effective ways to kill a spider than using fire. Fire is not the method to use to kill a spider.

Regarding the spider:

I’m pretty sure the spider did not survive this fire. The whole wall went.


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