USDA, Dover AFB partner for Japanese beetle infestation control test
By Roland Balik, 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 28, 2018
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture selected Dover AFB as a test site for a Japanese beetle biological control project that consisted of using dead Japanese beetles as a host for a single-cell, fungal-like pathogen to reduce the reproductive capability of the beetle.
The pathogen, Ovavesicula popilliae, is specific to Japanese beetles and has no effect on humans or other insects, and its presence in water wells poses no hazards according to the USDA.
Adult Japanese beetles are most noticeable during June through September in the eastern third of the U.S. They can cause damage to vegetation and, as a result, civilian and military airfield operations initiate precautions against beetle transportation via aircraft to protected states, mainly nine states west of the Rocky Mountains.
Approximately 500 dead, pathogen-infested Japanese beetles were delivered to the 436th Civil Engineer Squadron pest management section Aug. 9, 2018, by the local USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection and Quarantine representative, Darryl Moore, state plant health director.
“The biggest reason why we are doing this experiment is to transfer the fungus to the beetle population here in Delaware and reduce the population in the Dover area,” said Moore.
Moore and Pest Management personnel buried the dead infected beetles at five pre-selected locations around the base with each location consisting of 10 three-inch deep holes and placing approximately 10 beetles in each hole.
“The life cycle of a beetle is a year,” said Kenneth Barnes, 436th CES pest management section supervisor. “They are in the ground as grubs [also called larvae] over the winter, emerge as adults in the summer months and then return into the ground in the fall to lay their eggs and die.”
The mode of transfer for the fungus to the next generation of beetles relies on contact with the soil around infected beetles.
“It's a very basic principle; the fungus is alive although the beetles are dead and it transfers into the soil,” said Moore. “The insects live as eggs and larvae in the soil and the fungus will transfer from the soil to the insects.”
This method of exposing the fungus into the soil at other locations in the eastern U.S. has produced results showing a decline in beetle populations.
“The Japanese beetle is an agricultural pest,” said Moore. “They love roses and grapes, those are two big ones to California, especially grapes used for the wine industry.”
When the base is in quarantine status for the beetles, aircraft are sprayed with d-PHENOTHRIN 10% by pest management personnel donned in personal protective gear.
“We try to keep the beetles from here [from] getting out there,” Barnes said. “So how that impacts our aircraft and us here in the shop. When we go into quarantine or regulated mode, which is usually around the end of June to right up to the first of July, … all the aircraft are notified through Tanker Airlift Control Center that if they are transiting Dover and your flight mission takes you to one of the nine western protected states, the aircraft has to be treated within 72 hours prior to departure.”
It takes about 10 minutes for a two-person team to safely treat a C-5M Super Galaxy, and about five minutes for C-17 Globemaster IIIs and Boeing 747s.
“This year, Dover [AFB] went into quarantine status on June 29 and came out of quarantine on August 20,” said Airman 1st Class Jamie Tstinic, 436th CES pest management journeyman. “During the quarantine, designated personnel were on call 24/7 to go in and spray an aircraft.”
Nearly 50 aircraft were sprayed for beetles by the pest management section during the quarantine. Additionally, personnel also sprayed aircraft with chemicals to limit the spread of Zika via mosquitoes.
“Even though the Japanese beetle quarantine is a relatively short period during the summer, it also coincides with our year-round Zika mitigation program on aircraft requiring treatment,” said Barnes. “Since May 1, 2016, the shop treated its 400th aircraft for Zika and beetles on Aug. 27.”
Results of this test won’t be known until next summer when adult beetles emerge from the ground.