The Zika virus has quickly become a major health threat, and researchers at Virginia Tech are looking for ways to curtail its spread.
Fralin Life Science Institute’s Vector-Borne Disease Research Group team members, from left: Zhijian “Jake” Tu, professor of biochemistry; Brantley Hall, biochemistry graduate student; Atashi Sharma, entomology graduate student; and Igor Sharakhov, associate professor of entomology
The virus, which is primarily spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito, has been passed on to a growing number of Americans since early 2016, and the World Health Organization has declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
Biochemist Zhijian “Jake” Tu is one of several Virginia Tech researchers zeroing in on the Zika virus. Tu is studying genes that turn biting female mosquitoes into males, and he is exploring genetic strategies to stop the transmission of the Zika virus by reducing the number of female mosquitoes. Male mosquitoes do not bite and are harmless to humans, while female mosquitoes bite humans to get the blood they need for egg production.
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Mosquitoes commonly occur throughout all parts of Virginia. They are not only annoyances but also potential carriers of disease, including the Zika virus.
While the commonwealth boasts an abundance of outdoor activities to enjoy, Virginia summers have their drawbacks, too. Whether you’re hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains or hosting a backyard barbecue, chances are you’ll find yourself swatting at pesky mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes commonly occur throughout all parts of Virginia. They are not only annoyances but also potential carriers of disease, including the Zika virus. Virginia Cooperative Extension reminds residents that understanding basic mosquito habits and taking steps to disrupt their lifecycles can reduce the threat significantly.
The key to controlling mosquitoes is removing the standing or stagnant water where they thrive and reproduce, according to Eric Day, manager of the Virginia Tech Insect Identification Lab.
“The big pest mosquitoes in Virginia are container breeders, so in natural situations their larvae are developing in tree holes, which are holes in trees that collect water,” Day says. “In yards and around businesses, they are going to be breeding in locations such as stopped-up gutters, birdbaths, old containers, tires, or any structure that collects and holds water.”
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Take a peek into the fascinating world of entomology at the fifth annual Hokie BugFest! This unique festival will happen on Saturday, Oct. 17, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Inn at Virginia Tech (Latham Ballroom). The Inn is on the edge of the Virginia Tech campus off Price’s Fork Road, close to the 460 Bypass and near downtown Blacksburg. Free parking is available.
Activities and exhibits include a live Bug Zoo, Roachzilla! (giant cockroaches), luminescent and cave-dwelling bugs, ant colonies, games, and crafts. Arthropod enthusiasts can admire giant “bird-eater” tarantulas, observe bright-blue death-feigning beetles, see a working beehive, and visit departmental research displays. The themes of science and discovery are interwoven into all activities.
This year we are pleased to welcome David George Gordon, a renowned bug chef from Seattle who will prepare insect delicacies several times during the day. Come find out why eating bugs may be good for you.
Also new this year are a pollinators exhibit from Bayer Bee Care Center and a professional face painter. A member of the Virginia Tech Police Department will host a display on forensics and insects in crime solving. Continue reading
Associate Professor Dini Miller, at left, and master’s student Molly Stedfast are studying bed bugs and teaching people how to manage infestations in homes and businesses.
Bed bugs are natural parasites of people, evolving with human populations for the past 35,000 years. Insecticides developed in the 20th century nearly eradicated bed bugs from developed nations, but since the early 2000s, population growth and increased international travel, as well as mounting pesticide resistance, have brought bed bugs back with a vengeance. Read More