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!
November 9, 2016
Wood from white ash trees makes up a majority of Louisville Slugger’s baseball bats and have been for many years. Parent company Hillerich & Bradsby Co. has unwillingly sought other options as a result of the decline in white ash trees in the New York and Pennsylvania area due to the invasive emerald ash borer (EAB).
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 noted 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.
As a result of the decline in white ash trees, the Hillerich & Bradsby Co. has looked into alternatives to their most popular wood, including maple and yellow birch. While these don’t mimic the exact strength and flexibility of the white ash tree, they will have to do for the time being. Athletes like Tim Tebow have already made the switch to a maple wood bat, which doesn’t seem to affect his ability to hit home runs. While others like recently retired Derek Jeter used a white ash bat his entire career.
America’s favorite pastime isn’t the only thing in jeopardy local trees in states where the beetle is established are at risk. Densely populated areas could be riddled with stumps by the time the borer has struck that area.
While the emerald ash borer is not in Florida yet, it’s important to “Burn It Where You Buy It,” a slogan by the Don’t Move Firewood campaign that notes the importance of not transporting firewood. Wood can be infested even if there aren’t any visible signs. If you are interested in the Don’t Move Firewood Campaign please check out their website for more information.
If you suspect you have a tree that may be infested, please contact your local extension office.
August 2, 2016
We know you’ve heard about the popular augmented reality game “Pokémon Go,” but do you know how it all began?
As a child, Satoshi Tajiri the creator of Pokémon was initially interested in collecting arthropods (an invertebrate animal from the phylum Arthropoda.) In a 1999 interview with Time Magazine Tajiri said, “As a child, I wanted to be an entomologist. Insects fascinated me. Every new insect was a wonderful mystery. And as I searched for more, I would find more. If I put my hand in a river, I would get a crayfish. Put a stick underwater and make a hole, look for bubbles and there were more creatures.” He collected them as a child, and after dropping out of high school he pursued an education in electronics. He then spent six years developing a game in which the main character collects fictional creatures in pokeballs. With his passion for arthropods and his love for technology he created Pokémon.
Many of Tajiri’s original Pokémon were modeled after his arthropod obsession. Characters like Caterpie, Pinsir, and Scyther all originated from real creatures. Overtime additional Pokémon have been added to the pokedex and the theme of arthropods is consistent even with new characters like Ledyba, Yanma, and Nincada.
At the Division of Plant Industry, we host one of the largest arthropod museum in North America, with over nine million specimens and growing. New species are being discovered daily. Take Spencer K. Monckton for example, according to BuzzFeed, Spencer just identified a new species of bee, which he named Chilicola charizard after the iconic original Pokémon Charzard.
Fingers crossed “Pokémon Go” will lead to the encouragement of more entomologists, much like the young Tajiri and Monckton.
Drop by and make us your original Pokestop. If you or your young aspiring Pokémon trainers would like to schedule a tour to see the origins of Pokémon in our arthropod museum, please contact Charles Whitehill, our office is open Monday-Friday 8am-5pm.
May 6, 2016
Moms make the world go round. But some moms go above and beyond to make sure their kids have a fighting chance.
For example Elasmucha dorsalis, a stink bug, is known for its superb maternal instincts. Unlike other insect moms Elasmucha dorsalis cares for her young for up to two months after hatching. She is known to lead her young to food, such as fruit or flowers, and stand guard while they eat. She also flaps her wings when threatened by predators, or if a nymph (juvenile insect) sends out alarm pheromones.
Another nurturing insect mom is the Platycotis vittata or oak treehopper, which has been known to attack approaching predators to protect her offspring. The nymphs emit a vibration notifying each other and setting off a chain reaction of vibrations. This warning alerts the mother to the presence of predators, who prey on nymphs as a food source. The mother treehopper will stand guard over the nymphs, protecting them from whatever she can. If we were giving out awards, the treehopper would most certainly deserve one.
While the Elasmucha dorsalis is not found in Florida, it is worth noting that
they are not a nuisance of any kind. However, the oak treehopper is found in Florida, but its effects are inconsequential to its oak host. However, all moms deserve recognition…even the small ones.
While the oak treehopper cares for her young for up to six weeks, and the doting Elasmucha dorsalis cares for her young for up to two months, they cannot compare to the 18+ years of attention that our human moms give us. Moms change diapers, attend parent-teacher conferences, soothe wounds, wipe tears, and are always there for their children.
No matter how big or small, a mom will always be there for her young. So this Mother’s Day, give your mom a hug, look her in the eyes and tell her how much she means to you.
Happy Mother’s Day from The Division of Plant Industry!
January 13, 2016
Tri-ology is a publication issued six times per year by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry (DPI). Each issue summarizes detections resulting from nursery plant inspections, routine and emergency program surveys, requests for identification of plants and pests from the public and samples that are occasionally received from other states or countries for identification or diagnosis.
The most recent bulletin, covering September–October 2015, can be viewed and downloaded here. Examples from the current circular include:
Bactrocera dorsalis, Oriental fruit fly. Based on the large number of flies detected in a concentrated area of the Redland Agricultural District in late August, a quarantine area regulating the movement of oriental fruit fly host plants was established on September 4, 2015. All entities within the quarantine production, sale or distribution of oriental fruit fly host material have been placed under a compliance agreement program requirements.
Pseudocercospora artanthes (leaf spot) was found infecting Piper auritum (Vera Cruz pepper) at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in Duval County. This fungal pathogen flourishes when temperatures are moderate (~76 F) and humidity is high.
Bischofia javanica Blume (Javanese bishopwood) is an evergreen tree that can reach 18 meters in height in Florida, but up to 40 meters in natural areas of its native range. This species has escaped from cultivation in Central and South Florida to invade old fields and disturbed wet sites and is listed as a Category I invasive by Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC). Bishopwood was introduced to Florida in the early 1900s. Almost four decades ago, it was included in a list of “pestiferous” ornamentals in South Florida and has continued to be a problem species, but one that is rarely sold now
Aphelenchoides besseyi Christie, 1942, the rice white-tip nematode, was detected in foliar tissues of the hybrid, annual ornamental, Zinnia elegans.
Tri-ology is produced by DPI’s Bureau of Entomology, Nematology and Plant Pathology, hence the name “Tri-ology.” The Botany Section is included in this bureau. Tri-ology has been published for 54 years. and recent volumes are available on-line, here.
For earlier volumes, contact the FDACS-DPI Library, located at the Doyle Conner Building, 1911 SW 34th Street, Gainesville, FL, 32608, email dpi-library@FreshFromFlorida.com or call the Helpline, 1-888-397-1517.
Today we’re taking you up close to two of the stars of Insect Encounters, annually one of the most popular exhibits at the Florida State Fair held in February. Ian Stocks, Biological Scientist IV, Curator of the Florida State Collection of Arthropods, housed at the FDACS Division of Plant Industry in Gainesville, explains each of the creatures.
The slender brown scorpion, Centruroides gracilis, is the largest of the three scorpion species native to Florida. This one was collected last year on Big Pine Key, and was one of the attractions at the Insect Encounters room. We won’t know for some time, but this one looks like she will soon be a mom, giving birth to live young called scorplings. All three of the scorpions native to Florida are in the genus Centruroides, and although the sting they inflict can be painful, it is not known to be dangerous.
Also on show this year was one of Florida’s largest spiders–the Pantropical Huntsman Spider, Heteropoda venatoria. This species is not native to Florida, but is common in Central and South Florida. The specimen pictured here has a leg span of over 3 inches, and a body length over 1 inch. They are exceedingly fast, as FDACS-DPI photographer Jeff Lotz can attest. Amazingly, they can run up walls and along ceilings as fast as they can run across the floor. Favored prey are the large cockroaches known in Florida as Palmetto Bugs, so many people like to have the spiders around to keep barns, sheds and other structures cockroach-free.
An appropriate note on which to close.
October 10, 2014
Our on-line library contains hundreds of circulars
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry maintains a library of entomology circulars describing hundreds of species found in Florida and we’re constantly adding to it.
We recently added two new circulars, on the West Indian Flatid Planthopper, Melormenis basalis in Florida (Hemiptera: Flatidae and the Stained-glass Moth, Samea ecclesialis Guenée (Lepidoptera: Crambidae).
These circulars are provided as a service to the scientific community, agricultural producers and the general public.
The overall listing for entomology circulars is at: