July 24, 2015
Twiggy gets a new skin
Spiders make some folks want to jump out of their skins. Today, our office tarantula crawled out of hers. Maybe we were prescient when, Monday, we linked to a time-lapse video potsed by Purdue University that showed one of their tarantulas molting. In case you missed it, read our blog entry here.
Time to update your wildfire action plan
With more than 30 active wildfires burning in Florida, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam is encouraging all Floridians to adopt a year-round wildfire action plan. This has been a dry year in much of the state and the drought in Southeast Florida seems to be worsening.
Tour by Alachua County Extension and IFAS teaches residents about water resources
Kudos to Alachua County Extension office and UF-IFAS. They invited interested residents to participate in a three-day tour focusing on water resources this week. Thursday focused on agriculture and efforts to control runoff and the tour visited a commercial Nursery and an adjoining UF-IFAS cattle facility, both of which lie along a tributary to the Santa Fe River.
Giant African land snails invade Keys in new novel
Last weekend a member of our social media team picked up author Tom Dorsey’s newest book, Shark Skin Suite, and on the first page of the first chapter encountered the giant African land snail. Read the blog that resulted, here. wp.me/pVBiK-1m6 Watch for the giant snails and if you see a suspect, detain it without touching it, and call the Helpline, 1-888-397-1517 to get action from our GALS response teams.
July 24, 2015
Twiggy molted today.
The tarantula that graces the FDACS-DPI Technical Assistance office has been off her feed for a few days and this morning we found her flat on her back on the webbing bed she had created before the big event. After completing the shedding, which took a little over an hour, she lay for a while on her back Now, she has flipped from the supine position. She is tired.
Spiders’ molting is a natural process of renewal. They are much like snakes in that way. Right now, her skin is soft and will be susceptible to injury for a few days until it has hardened. By Monday, she should be as good as new. In fact, a good part of her will be brand new! We’ll collect her old skin as a conversation piece.
We’ve seen this happen before, but it always spurs interest around the office. Arachnophobia does not run rife in a workplace that is heavily populated with entomologists. And with internationally known spider expert Dr. G.B. Edwards working just down the hall, Twiggy is assured the best of care.
By the way, Dr. Edwards is the author of one of the most-visited Pest Alerts on the FDACS web site, “Venomous Spiders of Florida.” We find it reassuring that only two types of venomous spiders occur in Florida.
Editor’s Note: Twiggy is one of several tarantulas keeping employees at the FDACS Division of Plant Industry company during work hours. Tarantulas are not native to Florida. Anyone planning to import spiders should be aware that importing or moving exotic organisms including spiders, insects or scorpions from any other state or country requires a permit. Learn more here.
July 20, 2015
Giant African land snails slime their way into our summer reading
Here at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry (DPI), we spend a lot of time inspecting for, catching and studying the giant African land snail, and reaching out to the public with information about it.
The snail is a scary invasive pest. It can grow up to eight inches long. It threatens more than 500 plants, including important agricultural crops. It poses a health threat to human and animal health and even consumes concrete from structures to obtain calcium for its thick shell.
In our leisure time, some of us who read for fun have noted the massive mollusk has sliming its way into our summer fiction. Tim Dorsey’s newest book, Shark Skin Suite, places the invasive snails in the company of giant iguanas and Burmese pythons in the South Florida environment. In fact, they show up on the first page of Chapter One.
Dorsey’s books celebrate the foibles and occasional weirdness of Florida. Fans will not be surprised that this one, once again, features Florida amateur historian, movie buff and psychotic killer Surge Storms as he helps an attractive young female attorney obtain justice for ordinary people caught up in the aftermath of the housing bubble. The giant African land snails contribute to the mayhem by puncturing vehicle tires and occasionally chowing down on buildings.
While the plot is centered in Miami and Key West, Storms and his troubled sidekick travel the state from the Keys to Tampa and Orlando and on to North Florida, where he delights in the ambiance and history of Micanopy and expounds on the unique ecology of Paynes Prairie. The prairie, incidentally, is where one of the villains meets his end in a way that could only happen there.
But let’s get back to those snails.
It is by fictive license that the snails are placed in the Keys’ landscape. In reality, the giant African land snails have so far been detected only in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. See a map of core areas where GALS have been found here.
But absent the continuing, intensive efforts of USDA, FDACS and other agencies to contain and eradicate them, they could indeed cause major damage to agriculture, the ecology, human and animal health and structures, elsewhere in the state.
That is why we continue to ask all Floridians to “Watch for Them and Report Them.”
Report suspects to our FDACS Helpline, 1-888-397-1517.
July 17, 2015
Enlightening friends and followers worldwide with blogs, tweets and posts from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry
Save the Guac!
A University of Florida report caused us to emphasize our Save the Guac campaign when it predicted increasing prices for Florida avocados this season. The increase is expected to be short-term. It is the result of the laurel wilt pathogen spread by the invasive redbay ambrosia beetle is killing trees and threatening Florida’s $100 million avocado industry. Florida produces about 12 percent of U.S. avocados, mainly in Miami-Dade County.
Learn how the public feels about endangered and invasive species
Take an hour next week to learn about public perceptions and attitudes about endangered and invasive species at a free University of Florida PIE Center webinar next Tuesday, July 21, at 2 P.M. Registration is easy as PIE!
The Austin Cary Forest was the site of the 2015 Florida Bee research symposium this week. Those who are interested but were unable to attend can gain insight into the proceedings by downloading the Preliminary Abstract Book.
Speaking of bees . . .
We found this story interesting. The Canadian Broadcasting System is doing its bit to help fight a decline in the world bee population by placing hives on the roofs of its broadcast centers in Montreal and Toronto. It’s expected the 20,000 honey bees in each hive will multiply to 50,000 by the end of the summer.
July 15 was Military Consumer Protection Day and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam reminded us all that more than 1.5 million veterans and more than 65,000 active duty military personnel call Florida home. He offered tips and tools that will help current and former members of the military protect themselves against scams and can actually benefit everyone. In June 2015, the department recovered $250,000 for Florida’s consumers, bringing the total for Fiscal Year 2014/2015 to $5,127,943. Learn more here.
Have fun but heed this BOLO
We wish everyone a great Florida weekend. Have fun, but heed our blog entry and keep your eyes peeled for Giant African Land Snails. Remember, they get more active during the summer. And if you’re traveling internationally, remember: Don’t Pack a Pest!
July 15, 2015
Florida‘s campaign against the giant African land snail won’t end until the invasive mollusks are eradicated from the state.
Summer rains cause giant African land snails (GALS) to be more active, making it more likely that South Florida residents will see one. The invasive snails continue to be the targets of an unprecedented effort by state and national agricultural agencies which has resulted in a steady decline in the numbers of giant GALS in South Florida, but officials warn against public complacency.
Teams from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) continue to search for these dangerous, invasive snails. Public awareness and watchfullness are vital program elements.
Ninety five percent of snail finds have been the result of reports from the public since the snails were first detected in Miami-Dade County neighborhoods in September 2011. In September 2014, GALS were detected in neighboring Broward County, the first time they had been found outside Miami-Dade. Teams from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have collected almost 159,000 snails.
Giant African land snails can grow to be eight inches long and pose a serious threat to landscapes, crops, buildings and human and animal health. They are known to attack more than 500 plant species, many of them important agricultural crops. They damage structures by consuming stucco to obtain the calcium they need to build their shells.
Scientists have confirmed some of the captured snails carry the rat lungworm parasite, which can cause a form of meningitis in humans and animals. The teams stress that no one should handle any snail or slug without gloves and everyone should remember to wash hands and fresh produce. (A good general rule is to avoid eating raw or undercooked snails, frogs or shrimp/prawns.)
The public should continue to watch for the snails and report suspects to the FDACS Helpline, 1-888-397-1517.
Program officials urge the public to never move suspect GALS off-property, handle or consume them. Also, never move plant material from properties in the 29 core areas where the snail has been found.
Public vigilance and cooperation with the inspectors continues to be crucial. It is important for homeowners to allow inspectors access to their properties for continued survey and control efforts.
In August, visitors to the Dadeland Mall will see signs reminding them to watch for and report GALS. The “Look for Them! Report Them!” campaign continues to spread the word to Miami-Dade residents, periodically using billboards, mall signage, bus benches, radio, cable television, print ads and social media.
Members of the team in Miami also reach out to the public regularly through personal contact, presentations to community organizations and staffed displays at civic events.
Commissioner Putnam shares some Fresh From Florida Recipes for the 4th
Enjoy these recipes from Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam
With Independence Day approaching, many Floridians are planning and preparing for their annual backyard barbecues.
Before you head out to your local grocer or farmers market, take a look at these “Fresh From Florida” recipes that are sure to be a hit at your July 4th celebration.
Open Face Watermelon Sandwiches
Kick off your barbecue with this light and cool starter. There’s nothing more refreshing than Florida watermelon!
Grilled Gator Kabobs
Switch up your typical backyard barbecue foods with these Florida native kabobs. It’s sure to be a hit this holiday!
Florida Sweet Corn with Southern Barbecue Butter
It isn’t a barbecue without corn on the cob, and your favorite barbecue sauce is sure to spice up this side dish.
Happy Independence Day, everybody.
July 1, 2015
DO have great holiday . . . but Save the Guac, Don’t Pack a Pest and Don’t Move Firewood.
The Independence Day weekend is one of the year’s most festive and we hope everyone will join family and friends for some good, healthy, all-American fun. Maybe you’re planning on scalloping in northwest Florida waters, swimming or canoeing in a spring, camping or otherwise enjoying the good things Florida offers.
Some of those good things are edible, and State Executive Chef Justin Timineri has posted some excellent Fresh From Florida recipes here for your dining and snacking pleasure.
Just a few minutes’ thought before you join the festivities can ensure your family’s safety and protect our environment, so we invite you to browse the department’s collection of on-line consumer resources. Here you can learn how to avoid bringing invasive pests, plants and diseases into Florida or moving them around our state. Remember, invasive pests can hitch rides in luggage, on firewood, on plants or exotic organisms or on vehicles, and once they become established they can threaten crops, human and animal health, landscapes and even structures.
With just a little thoughtful web browsing, you and your family can have a fabulous holiday while protecting our Great American Outdoors.
Happy Fourth of July!