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“We know how to control fire ants and do it economically in urban settings,” Sparkssaid. “We haven’t found an affordable way to control them in open rural areas, such aspastures.” “We’re developing control programs,” she said. “We’re studying learning how to bestuse the control programs we already have. And we’re finding more environmentallyfriendly ways to control fire ants.” “If you get rid of them one year and don’t treat the next,” she said, “they’ll be the firstthings to come back. But they’ll become established in higher numbers, because theywon’t have larger mounds to compete with. Instead of 20 to 40 mounds, you’ll havehundreds.” But zapping fire ants is an every-year commitment. “If you treat them only one year,”she said, “you’ll be worse off than if you didn’t treat them at all.” “I don’t anticipate that phorid flies will be released in Georgia for fire ant control untilscientists at the Gainesville laboratory have studied them for many years,” Sparks said. “The fact that it’s a biological control agent indicates this fly won’t totally eliminatefire ants,” said Beverly Sparks, a University of Georgia entomologist. “We can get them out and keep them at levels that are acceptable in urban settings,”Sparks said. “But if you have 300-400 acres of pastures, it’s no longer cost-effective.” But don’t expect the tiny flies to decapitate Georgia fire ants soon. Scientists are working on other biological controls, too. For now, though, everythingthey know about killing fire ants won’t get rid of them. “All we can do now is controlthem,” Sparks said. “We tend to think of fire ants in terms of eradication,” Sparks said. “Phorid flies andother biological controls will stress colonies. They’ll suppress them. But they won’ttotally get rid of them.” Sparks’ research shows the best fire ant control is a simple two-step process.”Broadcasting a bait twice a year will reduce fire ant populations by 90 percent,” shesaid. “Then supplement the bait by treating problem mounds that survive with a contactpesticide.” A few phorid flies in Florida will have Georgians cheering them on in their naturalwork, chopping off fire ants’ heads. With current products, effective fire ant control costs $20 to $25 per acre per year, shesaid. In home lawns, school yards and recreational fields, that’s reasonable. So scientists look for new ways to control them. Another UGA researcher, Ken Ross,is studying fire ant genetics. The technology to eliminate fire ants hasn’t arrived, she said. But for most people,controlling them is another matter. The U.S. Department of Agriculture released some Brazilian phorid flies July 9 tobegin field tests near its Gainesville, Fla., lab. But Sparks said biological controlagents won’t banish fire ants from U.S. soil. Sparks, a research and extension scientist in the UGA College of Agricultural andEnvironmental Sciences, focuses her own research on controlling fire ant populations. Specifically, Ross is trying to find why fire ants go from single-queen tomultiple-queen colonies. In the latter, worker ants sometimes destroy egg-layingqueens. If he can find the genetic trigger that causes that, he may be able to causesingle-queen mounds, in effect, to commit suicide. The prospect is fascinating, as is the ant-beheading phorid fly. The tiny fly lays its egginside a fire ant’s body. The egg hatches into a larva, which moves into the ant’s headand causes it to fall off. The fly completes its development inside the fallen head. Fire ants compete intensely with each other, she explained. Untreated, their populationwill level off at 20 to 40 mounds per acre. But don’t get too excited. Having to treat fire ants year after year is far too costly to be practical in farm-sizeareas. read more
July 9, 2014 546 Views FHFA HARP Mel Watt Refinance 2014-07-09 Derek Templeton Watt: Skepticism Holding Down HARP Numbers in Daily Dose, Government, Headlines, News In a town hall-style meeting in Chicago Tuesday, Mel Watt, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), blamed fear of being taken in by a scam for eligible homeowners’ reluctance to take advantage of the Home Affordable Refinance program (HARP).”We are down to the people who don’t believe this is a credible program,” Watt said in a meeting with community groups and housing counseling agencies at a Chicago Public Library branch. “We’ve got approximately $72 million that we’d like to give away in this metropolitan area. People won’t come in and say I want that money.”According to an FHFA report, the number of homeowners refinancing monthly through HARP has dropped nationally to just less than 20,000 loans in April 2014, down year-over-year from almost 107,000 in April 2013.FHFA contends that on average, homeowners who refinance through HARP are saving $191 per month by lowering their interest rates. HARP allows homeowners to refinance regardless of if they owe more on the home than it is actually worth.The Chicago event was anticipated because there was some speculation that Watt could announce another extension for the program, which is currently set to expire in December of 2015. The speculation proved fruitless, however, with no such announcement taking place.Instead, Watt announced that Chicago was going to be the second city admitted into the federal government’s pilot Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative intended to assist homeowners who are behind on their mortgages, help neighborhoods recover, and reduce the inventory of REO properties held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Detroit, the first city in the program, was admitted in May.FHFA estimates that hundreds of thousands of citizens nationwide, including 36,000 in the City of Chicago alone, are eligible to benefit from HARP but have yet to step forward. Officials have noted that as interest rates rise, the incentive to participate fades.With more promotional events scheduled in the coming months in cities around the nation, the push is on to get as many eligible homeowners as possible into a refinance before an interest rate increase shrinks the eligibility pool. Share read more