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.


Giant African Land Snails

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.


Asian Citrus Psyllid

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.


Fruit Flies

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.


Michael C. Thomas, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bugwood.org

Redbay Ambrosia Beetle

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.


Africanized Honey Bees

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.


Johnny N. Dell, Bugwood.org

Love Bugs

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.



Leah,Bauer, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, Bugwood.com

Emerald Ash Borer

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.


Dr. Paul Skelley took a moment to speak with us about a wonderful event that happened last week, the International Congress of Entomology 2016. Six thousand entomologists from around the world descended on Orlando, Florida an event that has only been held in the United States two other times since its founding in Brussels, Belgium in 1910.

This year’s ICE theme “Entomology Without Borders” emphasized the global impact of entomology and a multidisciplinary approach to exploring and expanding our scientific frontiers.

While many of our DPI staff presented at the ICE 2016 (see the full list of DPI employees who participated and their topics below), they also hosted a small group at DPI on Sept. 28.

Dr. Paul Skelley, a taxonomic Entomologist and the collection manager of the Florida State Collection of Arthropods, extended an invitation to entomologists to visit the world renowned museum in Gainesville, Florida. Many national and international taxonomists had the chance to view specimens in the state collection and to continue or start new research collaborations. “We know so many individuals from correspondence only. This was our first time face to face. It was an opportunity to have a collaboration party,” said Dr. Skelley. The International Congress of Entomology, much like the Olympics rotates every four years and the destinations are always different. Location have included Korea, Italy and even the Netherlands, so for the ICE to be so close brought “potential and opportunity are to our doorstep,” said Dr. Skelley.

When asked the importance of having these visitors come to DPI, Dr. Skelley stressed that the arthropod museum is “for these people and students to use as resources. These entomologists had the ability to come and hopefully identify some of the species in the museum. They may also borrow specimens for continued research in their field, and ultimately share materials from their studies building on the state resources for use by local workers. It is a win-win scenario.”

Paul has been communicating with some of these scientists for over 20 years, admitting that this ICE was like a family reunion.

Happy Entomological Reunion!

  • Soybean aphid (Aphis glycines) Genome Assembly Process and Status-Felipe N. Soto-Adames
  • 0305Biological control of the brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) using Euthyrhynchus floridanus (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae)- Julio Medal
  • 0043Surprising results and implications of the Florida psyllid testing project- Susan Halbert
  • 0417Impacts of novel insecticides to three opiine braconid parasitoids Fopius arisanus (Sonan), Diachasmimorpha longicaudata (Ashmead), and Psyttalia fletcheri (Silvestri) based on adult mortality under foliar cover spray application – Trevor Smith
  • 1130Expanding small fruit production in Florida: responding to an economic disaster with eyes wide open – Ian Stocks
  • 1559Genetic and behavioral differentiation between two closely related whitefly parasitoids – Antonio Francis and Eric Rohrig
  • 1835History of alien invasive arthropod detections in Florida – Michael Thomas and Paul Skelley
  • 1839Florida exotic whitefly invaders from the last decade- Ian Stocks
  • 1842Biocontrol in Florida using herbivores, parasitoids, and predators – Eric Rohrig
  • 2565Synergistic / additive interactions among components of food-based baits underlie female attraction in three invasive fruit fly species- Trevor Smith
  • 2659Surface active mites in the northern Chihuahuan Desert, USA – Cal Welbourn
  • 4067The Anastrepha Project: Morphological, molecular, and biological studies of adults and larvae – Gary Steck, Bruce Sutton, Erick Rodriguez, Pratibha Srivastava
  • 4544The genus Pharaxanotha (sensu lato), Erotylidae that pollinate cycads – Paul Skelley and Kyle Schnepp
  • D3410Biological control based strategies to manage privet whitefly, Aleurotrachelus trachoides, in Florida- Antonio Francis
  • D3653How many is too many? Risk assessment of giant African snail (Achatina fulica) – Shweta Sharma, Katrina Dickens, Amy Howe and Shannen Leahy
  • D3669Scents and sensibility: Florida’s eradication efforts and long-term plans for giant African snail (Achatina fulica) – Amy Howe



*Only DPI employees are listed. To see a full list of presenters please visit: http://ice2016orlando.org/scientific-program/xxv-ice-2016-official-program-book/

*Bolded names indicate first author,

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