DPI Diary

August 15, 2014

A digest of social media activities by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry

Don’t Pack a Pest visibility increases

The Don’t Pack a Pest travelers program continues to reach out to international travelers with its message about transporting invasive species in luggage. This week three new billboards went up on the highway approaches to Miami, Tampa and Orlando International Airports. The boards call attention to the program’s revamped website http://DontPackaPest.com   that lets travelers determine whether specific agricultural items can be carried into the U.S. in luggage. We invite everyone to check it out.DPAPBoard4Aug14

Asparagus stabs starfruit (Oh, my!)

starfruit_asparagusThis is not a violent crime — or a crime at all, really. Rather, it is a fanciful recipe that our friends at Brooks Tropicals offer as a way to introduce children to asparagus by having it spear an attractive slice of Florida starfruit atop a fruit salad. We think it’s fun.

These fraudsters promise but can’t deliver

FRAUDSeeking a concealed carry weapons permit in Florida? The only way to get one is through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer services. This week the department issued a fraud alert centered on a fraudulent website that promices concealed weapon licenses for Florida. This site is not in any way affiliated with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the only official authority to offer concealed weapon permits for the state of Florida. Do not provide this site with any personal information. Consumers that have utilized this fraudulent site are asked to notify the department at 1-800-HELP-FLA or file a complaint.

Remember Charley?

This week marks 10th anniversary of Hurricane Charley, the first of four storms that ravaged the state in 2004. Our DPI blog offered up this first-person account from a public information staffer who was present in her family’s Hardee County home as Charley peeled back the metal roof and ravaged the family’s citrus operation. http://wp.me/pVBiK-15K

Citrus industry somber, but hopeful

“Citrus industry down, but not out.” That was the way some reporters characterized the mood at this week’s Citrus Expo. Although they are suffering from citrus greening disease, growers are hopeful increased funding for greening research will save the industry.

How to license a nursery in Florida

SealThumbnailSometimes it’s good to mention the basics, and so this week we posted a link to our website that gives you everything you need to know about the licensing process for nurseries. Licensing is part of our mission here at FDACS Division of Plant Industry.



 A first person narrative

Today marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Charley, a category four hurricane that devastated the Florida citrus industry in more than one way.  As a resident of Hardee County, located on the Peace River Corridor, I experienced firsthand the hardship of growers after this disastrous hurricane, including my own family. Days before Charley made landfall the projections pointed toward the Tallahassee-Panhandle region. We felt like we did not have any reason to be concerned.

charley1On August 12, though, the thought was much different as the system made an unexpected change in direction. It was now headed in a path that would cut through the center of the peninsula.  My family and I packed important documents and pictures and some clothing and secured the barn area. Then the heavy rains, high speed winds, and destructive hail came.

I was terrified when our house’s tin roof was swept away – with us inside. That almost topped seeing the huge oak trees on our property being picked up and twisted around as if they were toothpicks.

Once the hurricane made landfall it moved pretty quickly across the state, but not before causing an estimated 13 billion dollars in damage. As we traveled through the area the day after the hurricane to check on neighbors, it became clear that our family was not the only one that had sustained severe damage: our whole county was devastated.

One neighbor chose to leave his flooded home and property for months to avoid seeing the destruction every day, other neighbors worked together to get supplies they needed to rebuild as fast as they could.  Charley uprooted orange and grapefruit trees, shattered greenhouses, smashed barns, and damaged farm equipment. Many growers had to start over but, some chose not to. They sold their land to be used for development of houses and stores, fearing that the industry would never make a comeback.

For those who did start over it was very costly and time consuming. These were the resilient ones. My family chose to wait until the end of hurricane season but did finally replant the many acres that had been destroyed. The hurricane created another problem for grove owners that affected everyone, not just those in the initial path.Charley

Before hurricane Charley, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services had been working diligently to eradicate citrus canker, but after Charley and the hurricanes that followed struck, this effort was no longer possible. The disease had spread throughout the state. It was then that the goal shifted from eradication to controlling and living with canker.

Ten years later, canker is still an ongoing challenge for growers and with the addition of citrus greening disease, the department and the USDA  have created the Citrus Health Response Program (CHRP) to assist industry with their citrus management strategies, CHRP that concentrates on the development and implementation of standards for citrus inspection, regulatory oversight, disease management and education and training.

Charley made an impact on the state that citizens and citrus growers will never forget. Today the resiliency of growers is still being tested by a number of diseases, but the industry perseveres.


Editors note: The author, Paige Clark, is a public information specialist at the FDACS Division of Plant Industry in Gainesville.


DPI Diary

August 8, 2014

National Farmers Market Week, spiders generate traffic on our website, emerald ash borer is spreading and bug-food advocates want you to eat crickets.

An apt, one-word description of our social media activity this week would be “colorful.” The United States Postal Service marked the 15th Annual National Farmers Market Week by issuing a commemorative Forever stamp.


The artist chose and arranged the products so that each stamp has a large focal point; each stamp is complete in itself yet forms a cohesive whole with the entire stamp strip. The stamp art was created using acrylic paint. Text on the back of the 20-stamp sheet describes the appeal of farmers markets. http://uspsstamps.com/stamps/farmers-markets

Put a bug on, not in, your computer

wcalendar_aug2014_1280x1024While we’re featuring appealing and informative artwork, you might want to beautify your computer’s wallpaper with this wallpaper designed  by Cyndi Moncrief of the Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) Program. It features the Air Potato Leaf Beetle, Lilioceris cheni Gressit and Kimoto, which is currently being successfully used for biocontrol of the invasive air potato vine. Our FDACS-DPI labs are rearing the beetle, which only eats the invasive air potato. You might also peruse past wallpapers for information about other plant pests and topics.

Cracking down on deceptive charities

A new Florida law, strongly supported by Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam, takes a stronger stand against deceptive and misleading charities. The Commissioner talked with Franko Galoso on Commissioner’s Spotlight on Southeast AgNet. You can listen to that interview here.

There’s something about arachnids . . .

Spiders fascinate, and sometimes inspire fear in humans. We think that is why the section, “Venomous Spiders In Florida,” has traditionally been one of the most-visited page on FreshFromFlorida.com, the FDACS website.

Emerald ash borer is spreading

Emerald Ash Borer adult.

Emerald Ash Borer adult.

Our colleagues at the Don’t Move Firewood website pointed out this week that the emerald ash borer is now in Boston, 3 new counties in Arkansas and more parts of Iowa and Tennessee. Moving contaminated firewood makes a bad problem worse. The EAB is only one of the pests and diseases that can be spread by moving firewood. When you camp, buy certified firewood at your destination. Be a happy camper, but DON’T MOVE FIREWOOD.

IFAS innovations: Do-it-yourself insect traps

Using a yeast-sugar-water mixture, berry growers can easily keep tabs on the spotted wing drosophila, a pest that causes millions in damage each year in the U.S. A UF/IFAS study shows. farmers can easily determine if it is in their fields – and if it is, how prevalent. Punch holes near the upper rim of a covered plastic cup and pour in a yeast-sugar-water mix to about 1 inch high in the cup. Details here: http://news.ifas.ufl.edu/2014/07/ufifas-study-finds-simple-solution-to-monitoring-major-berry-pest/

“Will Americans buy snacks made from bugs?” asks NPR.

Insects can be a great source of protein, and in many parts of the world, people gobble them up. Eating bugs is called entomophagy, if you want to get technical. But here in the U.S., consumers far prefer burgers to bugs and turn up their collective noses at eating crickets, locusts and mealworms. Bug-food advocates – yes, there really are folks out there who want you to eat the bugs they’re farming — are using a tried-and-true marketing tactic: be clever and cute. “Crickets have as much calcium as milk,” one advocate says, while proffering bug-snacks at the Denver fair. “And then, environmentally, they’re a lot more sustainable than chickens and particularly cows and pigs.” Get the rest  of the story from NPR, here:


In a playful mood, we introduced “What is it Wednesday?” to our social media with this picture:


What it is, is a “Bee-Gum,” a hollowed out log in which bees naturally form colonies. This Bee-Gum stands in the office of our apiary chief, David Westervelt. We think it’s at least 100 years old.

Be on the lookout for GALS

Giant African land snails found in residential area of Miami-Dade.

Giant African land snails found in residential area of Miami-Dade.

Where has the giant African land snail been found in Florida? We posted this link to the 26 Core Zones in Miami-Dade: http://wp.me/pVBiK-15n. The snail has not been found outside of Miami-Dade County, where it was discovered in 2011. We hope to increase public awareness outside of the infested area to keep the snails from being transferred to other parts of Florida, or entering Florida through one of our air- or seaports.

Numbers Tell Story of “Don’t Pack a Pest”

Linus suitcase

Linus the agriculture detector dog is the face of “Don’t Pack a Pest.”

A major initiative to keep invasive pests and diseases from entering Florida and the U.S., the Travelers Don’t Pack a Pest program is beginning its fourthyear. The program is administered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) in partnership with the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Its objective is to increase awareness among international travelers of the dangers of bringing agricultural products, which may carry invasive pests and diseases, into the United States and elsewhere including the Caribbean. The key components of the Don’t Pack a Pest program include signage and a video featuring Linus, the agricultural detector dog, as the spokesdog.  The video and signage are on display at major ports of entry throughout the U.S. and Caribbean.The program website, http://dontpackapest.com,  helps travelers determine what agricultural items they can carry in luggage. The program asks travelers to comply with a simple request: When you Travel, Declare Agricultural Items, and please Don’t Pack a Pest!

Blaze-battling bruin turns 70

Happy Birthday, Smokey Bear. The icon for forest fire prevention turned 70 this week and the Florida. Forest Service plans a party in his honor Saturday at Wakulla Springs State Park



Travelers Don’t Pack a Pest Program . . . by the numbers

Linus suitcase

Linus, the agriculture detector beagle, is on the job as the face of the Don’t Pack a Pest Travelers Campaign

The Travelers Don’t Pack a Pest program is administered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), in partnership with the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The program’s objective is to increase awareness among international travelers of the dangers of bringing agricultural products, which may carry invasive pests and diseases, into the United States and elsewhere including the Caribbean.

The key components of the Don’t Pack a Pest program include signage and a video featuring Linus, the agricultural detector dog, as the “spokesperson.”  The video and signs ask travelers to comply with a simple request: When you Travel, Declare Agricultural Items, and please Don’t Pack a Pest!

7/8/11: Date program officially launched at Miami International Airport

20: Number of U.S. International Airports where program video is played in CBP Passport Control areas

85: Percentage of international travelers that pass through the 20 CBP Model Port airports

350+: Number of program signs installed at major ports of entry in the U.S. and the Caribbean

MILLIONS!: Number of impressions delivered by DPAP signage/video program and other DPAP outreach

62: Percentage of international travelers deplaning at Miami International Airport who report seeing the Don’t Pack a Pest program signage or video

8: Number of Caribbean island partners in the program – Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. Johns, U.S. Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands

12: Estimated number of invasive pests or diseases introduced into Florida each year

141,000: Number of giant African land snails collected in Miami since 2011 after one of the pests was smuggled in to the U.S. by a passenger

$138 billion: Annual amount spent on managing invasive species in the U.S.


Updated August 2014

Giant African land snail currently confined to Miami-Dade County

The giant African land snail is an invasive species that has been threatening the environment in South Florida since September  2011, when it was found in Miami-Dade County. The snail is known to consume more than 500 plant species as well as stucco on buildings. It can grow as long as eight inches and as wide as four inches.

snailbucketThis species of snail poses serious health risks to humans and animals that come into physical contact with them. It is important to report them when you see them because GALS can multiply quickly by laying up to 1,200 eggs per year. They can  live up to nine years. They might be spread on cars or other objects, including plants, that are moved around thestate. The snail has been found in 26 different core areas of Miami-Dade County and has not been found elsewhere in the state.

A FDACS inspector looks for giant African land snails in Miami-Dade County.

A FDACS inspector looks for giant African land snails in Miami-Dade County.

Teams from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, with the cooperation of the public, have captured about 141,000 snails since the beginning of the eradication program. The giant African land snail can cause a significant amount of damage to crops, landscapes and human and animal health wherever it is found. It is illegal to import the GALS into the United States without a permit. If you suspect you have seen one  in your area, report it. Call the Division of Plant Industry Helpline at 1-888-397-1517. We here at DPI could not keep the state of Florida safe from GALS and other invasive species without the help of members of the  the public who call in when they  find a suspect snail. The vast majority of captures have been the result of the public reporting sightings of GALS. We thank you for your cooperation and your assistance in the eradication of the Giant African Land Snail.


Here is a link to view a map of the core zones.



DPI Diary

July 25, 2014

Summarizing our social media posts this week

Laurel wilt remains serious threat

Laurel Wilt Symptoms

This photo illustrates laurel wilt symptoms.

Media reports that laurel wilt disease is killing swamp bay trees in the Everglades prompted us to remind everyone that the fungal disease also threatens redbay and other tree species in the laurel family (Lauraceae)., including the state’s avocado trees. The disease is caused by a fungus (Raffaelea lauricola) that is introduced into host trees by a non-native insect, the redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus). More information on laurel wilt and the FDACS-DPI “Save the Guac” campaign is available here, on the DPI website.

Four additions to the Noxious Weed List

This week, the addition of four species of plants to Florida’s Noxious Weed List provided an opportunity to explain to our social media followers the significance of the list in protecting our environment from invasive bad actors. Each of the newly added plant species appeared previously as a “Weed of the Month” on our website and is displacing native plants. Learn about the newly listed invasive plants and the significance of the list of noxious weeds here.

In praise of the Florida Citrus Repository

Kudos to the GrowingProduce.com for this article hailing the May opening of the Florida Citrus Repository in LaCrosse. Growing Produce editorialized, “LaCrosse will offer a tremendous service to nurseries, growers, and research facilities.… FDACS DPI is doing what is necessary to position Florida’s citrus industry for long-term success.”

Florida Citrus Repository at LaCrosse

Florida Citrus Repository at LaCrosse


Fresh From Florida will be represented at Orlando show

Our FDACS colleagues at Fresh From Florida are planning a treat for folks who attend the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Show September 7-9 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Attendees will be welcomed at the “Fresh from Florida” pavilion. A number of Fresh From Florida member companies are participating. If you are a member of the “Fresh From Florida” program and are interested in being part of the exhibit, please contact Urban Expositions at www.urban-expo.com.Raising awareness for wildland firefighters

Forest Service teams with Disney

This month the Florida Forest Service  teamed with Disney, sponsoring a short educational video about Forest Service efforts to protect Florida from wildfire, which played just prior to showings of the new movie, “Planes: Fire & Rescue.” Members of the Florida Forest Service greeted guests and demonstrated firefighting equipment at some theaters in Orlando, Tampa and Miami.

Student chefs invited compete in statewide cookoff

calling-all-kid-chefs-cook-off-kicks-offThe Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is searching for student chef ambassadors to promote “Fresh From Florida” recipes and products. Finalists will compete in regional events. Entry requirements:

  • You must be a Florida student going into fourth to the 12th grade.
  • You must create an original recipe and submit with a photo.
  • The recipe must contain one fresh fruit or fresh vegetable.
  • The recipe must have clear directions, provide four snack-size servings and be prepared in 45 minutes or less.
  • Your recipe must promote good nutrition and healthy eating habits.

Deadline to enter is Sept. 15. For more rules and to submit your entry, go to www.FreshFromFlorida.com/Cookoff.


Division of Plant Industry

Division of Plant Industry

These plant species are pretty — but dangerous

Four new plant species have been added to Florida’s list of noxious weeds. Agriculture officials have determined that they pose a serious threat to agriculture, have a negative impact on protected plant species or disrupt naturally occurring native plant communities.

Each of these species has previously been featured as a Weed of the Month by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry.

Ligustrum sinense

Ligustrum sinense


Ligustrum sinense, also known as Chinese privet and small leaved privet,  was introduced to the United States as an ornamental shrub in 1852 and was observed to have escaped from cultivation in the Southeast by the 1930s. Tolerant of low light conditions and poor soils, it has colonized abandoned homesteads, vacant lots, pastures and forests, and is now regarded as one of the major weeds of woodland habitats in the southeastern United States.

Nymphoides cristata

Nymphoides cristata

Nymphoides cristata, crested floating heart, and Nymphoides peltata, yellow floating heart, or fringed water lily, were introduced to Florida through the aquatic plant trade and are now thoroughly naturalized, replacing native species.

Ardisia crenata

Ardisia crenata

Ardisia crenata is an attractive ornamental that that has escaped from cultivation into Florida’s natural areas. It is now thoroughly naturalized and is replacing native species. Forms with white or pink fruits are sometimes encountered.

It is unlawful to cultivate, introduce, possess, move or release  these species  and others listed as noxious weeds without a state or federal  permit. In order to issue such a permit, FDACS must determine that the species can be contained to prevent its escape into the environment or that it will not pose a threat to agriculture, beneficial organisms or the environment, or become a public nuisance. A federal permit can be issued by USDA with the assent of the Florida Department of Agriculture.

View the complete list of noxious weeds here.


Photos courtesy of UF-IFAS




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