March 28, 2017
Ideas of how to make pollinators feel more at home, near your home.
Cheerios may be in the spotlight now for its #BringBacktheBees program which is mailing seed packets across the nation to homeowners who are interested in preserving native pollinators. The problem is the website does not list the scientific names of the specific wildflower seeds, generalized names such a “poppy” or “wildflower” raises red flags for nature enthusiasts who are aware of the threat some species may bring.
While we can’t say for sure if these seeds are a threat to Florida, we have some alternative methods to ensuring Florida pollinators hang around.
Plant your own wildflowers
If you like the idea of having wildflowers around, try planting some Florida natives. You can find these at your local nursery or even large box stores. Nurseries are inspected annually for pests and diseases. So buying through a nursery or store is recommended. Visit the Florida Wildflower Foundation which has an index of flowers and what they attract. By planting flowers, you get a beautiful view and the pollinators get a new playground.
Create a nesting site
Not all pollinators nest in the same way. Some dig underground, some call tree stumps or unpruned shrubs home. But it’s safe to say that most pollinators like undisturbed areas. Leave a patch of land in your yard undisturbed. It will keep your yard work to a minimum and do some good for our pollinators.
Limit or avoid the use of pesticides
Pesticides might rid you of your problematic pests; however, they may also rid you of your helpful pollinators. Consider limiting your use of pesticides to a bare minimum and encouraging native natural predators.
Keep your flowers blooming
Planting native wildflowers isn’t the only thing you can do. To ensure the prosperity of your insect friends, arrange your garden so you have something in bloom year round. Pollinators need to feed year round, not just in spring.
Provide clean water
Insects need water, too. By filling a shallow dish with water and adding a few half submerged stones, you’re giving insects a landing pad to get to the water.
Build a bee condo
Some bees prefer solitude over colonies; thus, making a bee condo will attract a variety of pollinators, including the mason bees. They are solitary workers and can pollinate more effectively than honey bees. A bee condo can be made quickly and can be mounted on a post or the side of a building. Find the instructions here and make one of your own today.
Get your own bee hive
Backyard beekeeping is popular and legal in Florida. You must register your hive through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry, Bureau of Plant and Apiary Inspection; find out more information by attending meetings here or at your local bee club.
To quote Michael Jackson, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make the change.” Share your progress with your friends, show them the impact you’ve made and why they should take action, too. Tag us on Facebook @FDACSDPI or Twitter @FLPlantIndustry and show us what you’ve done.
Every little bit helps pollinator populations.
March 17, 2017
Milk and cookies, Valentine’s Day and flowers, peanut butter and jelly some things are just meant to be together. For St. Patrick’s Day it’s corned beef and cabbage, which has been an American tradition since the 1800s. But did you know that cabbage became popular as a result of a damaging agricultural fungus?
More than 150 years ago, Ireland was a large agricultural nation, many Irish people were tenant farmers and the potato, imported from South America, was a staple crop. In the mid 1800s potato plants started to show signs of a strange disease that caused potatoes to rot. This disease spread across Ireland, drastically reducing their potato production, causing mass starvation economic devastation, and what is known today as the Irish Potato Famine.
The culprit behind the famine was late blight or potato blight (Phytophthora infestans), a fungus-like airborne microbe not native to Ireland. The Irish Potato Famine is just one example of how invasive species can devastate the environment and agricultural systems in an area, consequently affecting the lives and livelihoods of people in that region.
With the devastation the potato famine had brought to Ireland, the Irish turned to cabbage as a primary source of sustenance. Many affected by the agricultural ruin fled the country for America, bringing with them an assortment of cabbage dishes. One popular dish is bacon and cabbage. Yes, I said bacon, and no I do not mean corned beef. Originally bacon was a primary source of protein for the Irish because of the high cost of beef. It was cheap, and readily available. Once in America the situation changed. Corn beef was the cheaper alternative and quickly became an Americanized version of cabbage and bacon.
In Florida, cabbage remains a wonderful affordable vegetable that is widely grown; ranking 3rd in the nation accounting for approximately 13% of U.S. cabbage production. Cabbage can be readily found in season from November to June.
So while donning your greenest attire and feasting on your annual corned beef and Florida cabbage, you can education your family and friends about the wonderful history of cabbage and its abundant heritage in Florida.
Check out these great cabbage-inspired recipes:
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
February 27, 2017
National Invasive Species Awareness Week is organized to bring attention to the impacts, prevention and management of invasive species – and all those who are working toward healthy, biodiverse ecosystems. Florida knows all too well about the impact of invasive species and how they can damage our fragile environment. Below are just a handful of the current invasive species plaguing Florida’s natural area and threatening our agriculture.
In 2011, FDACS began an eradication program to address a large infestation of giant African land snails in Miami-Dade county. The giant African land snail is one of the most damaging snails in the world because they consume at least 500 different types of plants, can cause structural damage to buildings due to consumption of plaster and stucco, and can carry a parasitic nematode that can cause a form of meningitis in humans. The snail is one of the largest land snails in the world, growing up to eight inches in length and more than four inches in diameter. With a life expectancy of close to nine years and the ability to reproduce rapidly eradication s essential to protecting Florida.
As of February 2017, over 166,000 GALS have been destroyed and the program is on track to achieve eradication in the next four years.
The Asian citrus psyllid was found for the first time in the U.S. in 1998 in Delray Beach, FL., but no associated Huanglongbing (HLB) infection was found at that time. Agriculture officials imposed quarantines and took other actions to control the spread of the psyllid. However, with the abundance of citrus and other hosts present in the state, psyllid populations grew and became established. As the vector for HLB, it is critical to try to manage the Asian citrus psyllid populations in Florida. The division rears and releases hundreds of thousands of Tamarixia radiata, a beneficial parasitic biological ____ insect that attacks Asian citrus psyllids.
Exotic fruit flies are considered some of the most serious of the world’s agricultural pests due to their potential economic harm and threat to our food supply. They attack hundreds of different fruits, vegetables, and nuts, including oranges, grapefruit, lemons, apples, guava, mango, tomatoes, and peppers. Exotic fruit flies include: Mediterranean, Oriental, melon, Mexican, guava and peach to name a few.
The redbay ambrosia beetle spreads a fungus causing laurel wilt disease as it bores into healthy trees in the laurel family. The beetle may spread the disease when it migrates from infested trees to healthy ones. The beetle and disease are also spread when infested plants and wood are moved from one location to another. Susceptible trees include the avocado, red bay, swamp bay, pondspice and silk bay trees – all native to Florida.
A way to identify a tree affected by laurel wilt is to look for toothpick like tubes around the truck of the tree or for piles of fine sawdust, dropping foliage with a reddish or purplish discoloration, or even black discoloration on sapwood surface. Check out SavetheGuac.com to learn more about laurel wilt and the redbay ambrosia beetle.
Honey bees brought to the U.S. in the 1600’s by European settlers soon became one of the most economically beneficial insects. Their gentle nature made them easy to manage. In 1956, researchers in Brazil imported honey bees from Africa in an attempt to create a honey bee that would be better suited to tropical conditions. The thought was that when the African honey bees (AHB) were bred with European honey bees, the African honey bees would lose their most defensive nature. However, that was not the case. In 1957, 26 African queen bees escaped from a breeding program in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Soon the hybrid Africanized honey bees became established and expanded their range through South and Central America. The first report of Africanized honey bees in the United States was made in Hidalgo, Texas in 1990. Since then, they have been found throughout the southeast. If you have a wild bee hive in your yard, it is imperative that you take precautions and never try removal without a certified beekeeper.
Although invasive, love bugs are generally harmless, except to your car’s paint. Love bugs congregate in swarms and are a big nuisance for motorists. After love bugs die, the fatty tissue left behind can stain clothing and cause holes to form in the paint on a car if not removed quickly.
Emerald ash borers are an invasive species discovered in 2002 near Detroit, Michigan, and have since spread. The spread is largely caused by the transportation of firewood within and between states. As the name states, the insects have a beautiful metallic emerald green coloring, but looks can be deceiving. This wood-hungry insect has been known to eat all varieties of ash trees in North America.
The insects feed on ash trees where they then lay their eggs inside the bark. During the summer months, the eggs will hatch and the larvae will eat the tree from the inside out, starving it from water and proper nutrients. When the borers emerge from the tree they leave behind a D-shaped hole, a tell-tale sign of emerald ash borers. Another indicator is an abundance of woodpeckers who are fond of the EAB in the larval stage. The EAB is not currently in Florida, to prevent the invasion of emerald ash borers don’t move firewood.
So what can you do?
What can you do to protect Florida’s natural environment from invasive species? Don’t Pack a Pest if you are traveling please declare all agricultural items. Pests travel in all shapes and sizes, by declaring your agricultural commodities you are protecting Florida’s agriculture. Don’t move firewood. Always buy local firewood and buy it where you burn it. Lastly, be aware! If you spot something suspicious such as a giant African land snail, call our helpline at 1-888-397-1517 or email us at DPIHelpline@FreshFromFlorida.com.
February 17, 2017
While thousands of people roam about the Florida State Fair in search of a new fried food or even their next favorite ride, many are learning new information about their state. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry (DPI) is center stage in the Agricultural Hall of Fame at the 2017 Florida State Fair, exhibiting an array of fascinating information. DPI has so much to share with the community, including the history of the department, the statewide inspection conducted to detect new pests and diseases, the biological methods used to protect Florida’s agriculture against invasive species, the importance of pollinators and more.
Insect Encounter and More exhibit Includes:
- The Bureau of Plant and Apiary Inspection brought with them two hives of live bees for the public to observe. Florida honey bees are an important part of the agricultural process. “Without honey bees to pollinate, approximately 1/3 of the food we eat every day would disappear.” This display will also teach you what to do when you encounter a swarm of aggressive bees and how to protect yourself. But back to the nice bees, if you would like to learn more about the beekeeping process, an apiary inspector will be on site to answer your questions.
- The Bureau of Methods Development and Biological Control brought along one of its
most requested insects, the air potato beetle (Lilioceris cheni)! The air potato beetles were introduced into Florida after their host plant, the air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera) rapidly started growing. This vine can shield sunlight from surrounding plants causing problems if left untreated. You can request air potato beetles for your area by filling out the form.Another important insect for a very different reason is the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP). This psyllid is known for carrying huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening disease. The bureau of methods is rearing a parasitic wasp Tamarixia radiata that attacks the Asian citrus psyllid. Hundreds of thousands are released in citrus producing areas of the state to help reduce the number of ACPs. The bureau also has developed traps to capture and identify the source of the problem. Learn more about the DPI’s beneficial insect programs at the fair where FDACS employees will answer your questions.
- The Bureau of Entomology, Nematology and Plant Pathology developed the Insect Encounters display. Preserved insects have been on display at the Florida State Fair since 1904, and DPI’s Insect Encounters is always a major draw. The bureau brought along an array of living insects including slender brown scorpions, bess beetles, a Mexican red knee tarantula, butterflies, and more. Trays of preserved specimens from the Florida State Collection of Arthropods Museum Gainesville are also on display. The museum hosts over 10 million specimens to assist with identification requests by the public and for scientist around the world. If you have an insect you would like to have identified, please call 1-888-397-1517 or visit FreshFromFlorida.com to learn how to prepare and submit the sample.
- Botany’s exhibit hosts an interactive display where you can flip through various noxious weeds and their biological control. Much like our entomology department, our botany team can assist the public with the identification of plants. If you would like to have a plant identified, please view the same submission videos for more information.
- Citrus Health Response Program– “The goal of the Citrus Health Response Program (CHRP) is to sustain the United States’ citrus industry, to maintain grower’s continued access to export markets, and to safeguard the other citrus growing states against a variety of citrus diseases and pests. This is a collaborative effort involving growers, federal and state regulatory personnel and researchers.” Florida’s citrus industry is a top priority! Learn about the CHRP program and the services it provides.
- Learn about the importance of declaring imported commodities and about the phytosanitary certificates needed to move plants in and out of the state at the Plant Inspection table. Without the declaration of imported goods, many invasive species can enter the state. Examples include giant African land snails, Asian citrus psyllid, and various exotic and economically significant fruit flies. These invasive pests can negatively impact Florida’s important agriculture and can cost the state millions of dollars in eradication efforts. Plant inspectors place an array of traps throughout the state for early detection of invasive pests, These traps have names including: McPhail, multi-Lure, boll weevil, purple prism, tri-color or bucket, black Lindgren funnel, orange paper delta, white plastic delta, green Lindgren funnel, and the Jackson trap. Learn what each trap is used for while they’re on display!
- The Don’t Pack a Pest campaign reminds travelers the importance of declaring agricultural items. This international campaign encourages travelers to check the online website DontPackaPest.com before they arrive at their ports of departure. Knowing if you can or can’t bring back a particular agricultural item will make the traveling experience smoother and quicker. The program is a partner with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, The United States Department of Agriculture, United States Customs and Border Protection, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Learn more at DontPackaPest.com.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry’s exhibit is just a small sample of what the Florida State Fair has to offer in terms of education. Make sure to stop by the FDACS-DPI exhibit and bring the kids! Kids can enjoy the exhibits, stickers, coloring books, temporary tattoos, as well as live insects! Enjoy the fair through February 20th!
December 20, 2016
Ouch- the red imported fire ant, we all know this tic-tac sized fierce biting nuisance. You probably stepped in a pile of these ants as a child or know someone who has, so you know how painful they can be. Unfortunately, this fire ant problem is not just in Florida. They have been found across the southeastern United States and even in Puerto Rico. While these are troublesome pests to people, they are even more problematic for agriculture, natural environments, and wildlife including native ant species, deer, turtles, alligators, rodents, birds, and other ground nesting animals.
Help is on the way via a natural solution…
The red imported fire ant comes from South America where a group of tiny phorid flies are its natural enemies. These host-specific flies attack and parasitize the fire ant, resulting in its death.
The fly injects its egg into the midsection of the ant, the egg hatches and the larva (maggot) lives for two to three weeks within the ant, eventually traveling to the ant’s head where it releases an enzyme which causes the head to fall off. The phorid fly maggot ingests the contents of the head capsule and then utilizes it as a pupal case.
Phorid flies have been reared at the Division of Plant Industry in partnership with the USDA since 2001 with the help of dedicated and skilled team members who attend to these flies daily. Since its start, there have been four species of phorid flies reared at DPI’s Gainesville location, each attacking different sized worker ants and active at different times.
Fire ants are collected in the field and brought back to the DPI Gainesville lab. Once in the lab, technicians place them in attack boxes which are specially designed to prompt movement of the ants allowing phorid flies to attack. Once the flies have been introduced to the attack boxes, the ants remain exposed for 48 hours allowing for maximum parasitization to take place.
Parasitized ants are distributed throughout the southeast to agricultural lands such as cattle farms and other natural areas which are then monitored for impact. While these flies are not available for distribution to the general public, the work being done helps to manage the imported fire ant numbers.
Few other organizations research the phorid fly, which makes the work done at the Division of Plant Industry so important.
Between July and September alone, 349,614 phorid flies were reared at the Gainesville location, adding to the millions reared over the past 15 years.
It is the hope that releasing phorid flies will reduce the chemical control applications used on fire ants, thus reducing harmful impacts of these pesticides on humans, wildlife, and the environment.
Let the team know!
Share your thoughts in the comments and let us know what you think about the work DPI and the USDA are doing!
December 12, 2016
The poinsettia is the most popular holiday plant this time of year. They come in an array of different colors from pink, blue, purple, white, orange, even multi-colored but are traditionally red. You’ve seen these beautiful plants in every supermarket from November to December but they mysteriously disappear after New Year’s Day.
Many people toss them, knowing they will buy new ones next year. Others will attempt but fail to keep up with the 12 hours of dark that is required to alter the color on the bracts (bracts are the leaf-like structures that change colors). However, may fortunate and/or skilled gardeners will nurture their plants keeping them alive all year allowing them to grow to 10-feet tall, enjoying their colorful autumnal bloom.
Native to southern Mexico, poinsettias were originally used by the Aztecs for dye and medicinal purposes. The plant was introduced to the United States by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Ambassador to Mexico, who brought the plant back to South Carolina in 1828. He began propagating and dispersing the plant amongst his friends. By 1836, the plant gained the common name poinsettia. In honor of Joel Poinsett, December 12th has been titled National Poinsettia Day, marking his passing and honoring his botanical achievements.
Poinsettias are not poisonous, however, those with latex allergies or sensitivities might want to avoid the sap, which contains latex (check it out, latex is a natural product). What you should be concerned about are pets and children. It is not edible, and those with cats, dogs, horses, cows and birds should proceed with caution when this plant is around their animals.
Don’t throw your poinsettia away. This seasonal plant can bloom until March, and then be saved until next November when it will bloom all over again. Check out UF/IFAS for tips on how to care for your poinsettia through the holiday season and beyond.
Happy National Poinsettia Day!
November 30, 2016
Warner Brothers just released their brand new movie from the Harry Potter franchise “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” a wonderful movie set in 1926 New York City where a foreign traveler Newt Scamander a magizoologist (a person who studies magical creatures) is writing a manuscript in the hopes of helping non-maj (muggles) understand these fantastic beasts. During his trip to New York he packs a suitcase with various creatures including a thunderbird which Newt hopes to release back to his home in Arizona. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. During his visit, things go crazy and some creatures escape!
Why does this sound familiar?
Because every day people travel all over the world with their suitcase filled to the brim with foreign entities. Sometimes it’s medicine, plants, animals, insects, food, or a commodity they brought back as a souvenir. All of these items have the potential to be dangerous to our native species agriculture and enviornment. Much like the movie, once a fantastic beast escapes, chaos can quickly follow. Non-native species don’t have natural enemies and thus, can quickly populate and destroy valuable natural resources.
The pests that arrive in Florida (giant African land snails, whiteflies, Asian citrus psyllid, etc.), can cause a great deal of trouble. While we can’t “reparo” the situation as quickly as wizards can, biocontrol agents are set in place to mitigate the problem at hand. Phorid flies parasitize imported fire ant populations, Lilioceris cheni beetles eat air potato vines, Tamarixia radiata help control the Asian citrus psyllid (the vector for citrus greening disease), and the list of beneficial natural enemies goes on.
What we do know is the importance of declaring agricultural items when coming through customs.
While J.K. Rowling is right, the transportation of creatures without a permit is illegal, she was wrong about customs. U.S. Customs and Border Control officers and their canine partners are vigilant and will attempt to catch whatever you bring in. “…undeclared prohibited agriculture items will be confiscated and can result in the issuance of a civil penalty to the traveler for failure to declare the prohibited item.”So stop while you’re ahead. Don’t be a Newt Scamander and remember Don’t Pack a Pest!