The consequences of commercial agriculture continue to be revealed as the overuse of crop chemicals breeds insects and weeds resistant to modern day pesticides and herbicides. As the well-known quote made famous by the movie Jurassic Park goes, “Nature always finds a way.”
This has proven true in more ways than one; however, one the most notable involves the increasing prevalence of chemical-resistant pests. One of the latest examples of this includes the whitefly, which has grown immune to pesticides and is now causing crop devastation.
The insect, first discovered in a retail nursery in Arizona, causes disease among plants by drawing fluid from their leaves before excreting a sticky residue that promotes the growth of fungus. This is turn blackens leaves, making photosynthesis more difficult.
Gardeners in South Florida wary about new insects resistant to pesticides
“The Q-biotype whitefly turned up in April in the heavily manicured gardens of an affluent neighborhood in south Florida’s Palm Beach County, where landscapers were spraying the flowers and shrubs regularly with insecticides,” according to the AFP.
The discovery surprised experts, because until now the insect has only been found in greenhouses in about 24 states. The fact that it’s migrated outdoors is a great concern for fruit and vegetable growers, due to the adverse effects the whitefly has on crops like tomatoes, beans, squash, cotton and melons.
The insects are “much more difficult to control” now that they are outdoors, said Lance Osborne, a professor of entomology at the University of South Florida, adding that they may never be fully eradicated.
“The resistance to pesticides — that is what really sets them apart,” Osborne told attendees during a class about the whitefly invading South Florida. “The best single treatment we have kills 90-91 percent of them. That is as good as we can do without multiple applications.”
The insect is capable of spreading “more than 100 viral diseases,” weakening plants and spoiling delicious food crops, according to the AFP.
Invasive insect being found all over Florida
Since the whitefly was discovered outdoors in Florida in April it’s been found in “more than 40 locations across the state, including residences, wholesale nurseries and retail plant outlets, crawling on the leaves of hibiscus, eggplant, lantana, ficus hedges and porter weeds.”
The state agriculture department reports that the whitefly can live on 600 different types of plants, half of which are cultivated in Florida.
“The reason we are worried about the Q is because it has such a huge host range and is resistant to pesticides,” said Osborne. “They attack so many crops — there is always something in the ground these things will attack.”
State officials say that Florida’s warm climate in conjunction with the foot traffic it receives from tourism makes it an ideal breeding ground for invasive pests and diseases.
Resistant head lice
“The Q-biotype whitefly poses a serious risk to Florida’s $120 billion agriculture industry and the more than two million jobs it supports,” said Florida agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam.
Insects resistant to chemicals have become increasingly common, as more and more pesticides are dispensed to combat them. It has recently become evident that the majority of head lice are now resistant to common insecticide treatments.
“New evidence shows that head lice have developed resistance to two types of common over the counter insecticide treatments for lice infestation,” according to the Daily Caller.
“JME studied 48 states and found that, on average, 98 percent of head lice in at least 42 states managed to grow gene mutations that enable them to become resistant to different insecticides other wise known as pyrethrins, pyrethroids, and permathrins.”
As modern-day chemical use continues, the emergence of new pesticide-resistant insects is certain to increase.