Kids enjoy the interactive exhibits!

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

    Amy Howe speaks with guests about the air potato beetle

    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.img_2770


  • 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!

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First, the disclaimers:

  • DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME or anywhere else, unless you are experienced in handling bees.

  • EXPECT TO BE STUNG. This demonstration should be performed only by experts.

That being said, we found the process of bee bearding to be an interesting one. We followed three members of the legendary Cutts family as they donned bee beards at the Ninth Annual University of Florida Bee College March 4-5 and our photos offer insight into a time-honored demonstration of the basic gentleness of bees, properly handled.

First, prepare the bees and check the weather

Bee handlers want only the calmest, gentlest bees on their faces. So often they will move a hive when the scouts are out gathering nectar. The bees that remain in the hive will be the gentlest.


Locating the queen is one of the first steps.

The optimum temperature for bee beards is above 70 degrees. Colder temperatures make for grumpier bees and, potentially, more stings. The day these photos were taken was less than ideal, with temperatures in the upper 60s and a breeze.

The bees are calmed by misting them with plain water and fed with a bit of vanilla water mist prior to handling them.

Find the queen

After finding the queen, the bee bearder, having placed gauze or cotton in his ears, places her on his (or her) chin. Next, bees, which have been placed in a shallow box, are invited to join the queen.


Logan Cutts, with queen placed on his chin, encourages the colony to join her.

Then, it’s time to sit quietly as bees crawl onto one’s face. An assistant may use a credit card to gently move bees away from eyes, nose  and other sensitive areas of the face.


Stephen Cutts, on the right, has the best beard, because he has been sitting the longest, allowing the bees to move toward his face. His son, Logan, center, is sporting a turtleneck of bees. Lawrence Cutts, left, has just placed the bees and they have not had time to move upward.

All good things must come to an end, of course. The beekeepers use a funnel and a credit card to move the bees back into their box.


As if the bee beards aren’t interesting enough by themselves, Cutts family members usually display a hand puppet and sing songs that clearly articulate the message they are attempting to convey: Bees are important to us all, and in the proper hands, can be downright friendly.




Dr. Gordon Bonn, Supervisor of the Marinas and Canals program, Division of Plant Industry, pauses at the entrance to the 2016 Miami Boat Show. He and other agency representatives greeted hundreds of attendees over the President’s Day weekend, reminding them to help exclude invasive pests from U.S. shores.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services had a strong presence at the Miami Boat Show over the President’s Day weekend, stressing the message, “Don’t Pack a Pest” and urging people to watch for and report the giant African land snail.

“We had many people visit our kiosk in the Central Courtyard to view our outreach materials and take home a message of Don’t Pack a Pest,” said Dr. Gordon Bonn, Supervisor  of the Marinas and Canals program, Division of Plant Industry.

The Don’t Pack a Pest program is administered by FDACS in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The program’s goal is to make international travelers — including boaters — aware of the dangers of bringing agricultural products into the United States.


Jennifer Mestas and Detector Dog Jammer greeted visitors to the kiosk at the Miami Boat Show. In 2015 alone, interceptions of invasives included: white fly, sage plum moth, Lygus bug, European pepper moth, kaffir lime leaves, mealybug, Hawaiian glaber, California pea leafminer, and olive fruit fly and the giant African land snail.

The giant African land snail has been the subject of an eradication program in South Florida that began in August 2011. The snail is known to consumer more than 250 kinds of crops, poses a danger to human and animal health and can damage structures.

As a regulatory agency of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Division of Plant Industry works to detect, intercept and control plant and honey bee pests that threaten Florida’s native and commercially grown plants and agricultural resources.




Tickets are now on sale for the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame reception and banquet, available on-line at http://floridaaghalloffame.org/annual-banquet-and-ceremony/ . The induction ceremony will be held February 9, 2016 during the Florida State Fair at Tampa. More information is available here.

The four honorees to be inducted for 2016 are Thomas H. Braddock, Dr. Joseph C. Joyce, Billy Kempfer, and Dr. Charles “Chip” F. Hinton. Read the rest of this entry »

DPI Diary

October 23, 2015

Sure, we’re being a little melodramatic. That fits for Halloween.


Screams on the radio

GALS digital billboardScary? Yes, indeed! We’re talking about the ads our giant African land snail (GALS) eradication team is sponsoring on Miami’s WIOD radio leading up to Halloween. We’re hoping to catch residents by the ears to remind them that the GALS still threaten human and animal health, agriculture and landscapes and even structures. Learn more here. Watch for them! Report Them! Call our toll-free helpline, 1-888-397-1517.

Hats off to agriscience education

This week the Agriscience Education leadership Program kicked off the first of four learning tours for selected agricscience and science teachers and administrators. Administered by FDACS, the program allows participants to expand their curriculum to include all components of agriculture and help lay a strong foundation for students to build upon. Nominated by school district superintendents and reviewed by a selection committee, middle and high school agriscience teachers, science teachers or administrators are chosen to participate each year. Here’s a link to Southeast Agnet’s report.

Ag Census puts dollar value on agritourism

The things you can learn on social media! For example, Agribusiness at FAMU reminded us this week of the increasing value of agritourism and on-farm recreation. Services such as hunting, fishing, hay rides and farm and farm tours were valued at $704 million using figures from the 2012 Census of Agriculture. That was up 24 percent from 2007.

Our team reaching out in South Florida

We were delighted to re-tweet a post by Jim Ewing @OrganicWriter that included a photo of DPI staffers manning an information booth at the Redland GrowFest last weekend. Looking good, team!


Just beautiful!

We thought this photo posted by Bok Tower Gardens caught the spirit of fall in Florida. The historic Florida treasure sits on one of the highest points of our peninsula.


It’s State Forest Awareness Month

Commissioner Putnam is encouraging Floridians to explore Florida’s state forests during State Forest Awareness Month. There are 37 of them covering more than 1 million acres of pristine and diverse state forest land. “I encourage everyone to take the opportunity to hike, bike, horseback ride, kayak or just explore Florida’s beautiful landscape this month during State Forest Awareness Month, said Commissioner Putnam.” Learn more about the wonders of the forests here.


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Dr. Greg Hodges, Assistant Director, FDACS-DPI, helped guide a tour centered on invasive species.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services welcomed the annual conference of The Association of Structural Pest Control Regulatory Officials toFort Lauderdale August 22-26.

The professional association is comprised of the structural pest control regulatory officials from the fifty states.

Dr. Lisa Conti, Deputy Commissioner of FDACS, greeted conference-goers, who attended sessions on topics including the role of pesticides, risk communication and the future of applicator certification and training.

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Detector Dog Kojak and handler Karen Holton show how packages are searches checked at parcel facilities in Florida.


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Detector Dog Raider, with handler Omar Garcia. Raider is specially trained to alert to a single snail species, the invasive giant African land snail.

Dr. Greg Hodges, Assistant Director, and Dr. Tyson Emery, Chief of Plant and Apiary Inspection, both with the Division of Plant Industry, led a tour that centered on invasive species and included demonstrations by two canine teams that specialize in detecting giant African land snails in South Florida and invasive plants, insects and diseases in parcels shipped into Florida.

Dale Dubberly, Chief of Inspection and Incident Response, FDACS, participated in a session on structural fumigation. Jeanette Klopchin, FDACS Agriculture and Environmental Services, served as a facilitator at sessions on pollinators and pollinator protection.


The search for Florida’s next great student chef has begun with the start of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ “Student Chef Cook-Off.”

Division of Plant Industry

Students in 4th through 12th grade can submit snack recipes featuring Florida-grown products for a chance to compete in the regional and state cook-off. The deadline to enter is Sunday, Sept. 13. For more rules and to submit an entry, visit FreshFromFlorida.com/Cookoff.

Entry requirements include:

  • Must be a Florida student in 4th through 12th grade.
  • Must create an original snack recipe and submit with a photo.
  • The recipe must contain one fresh fruit or fresh vegetable grown in Florida.
  • The recipe must have clear directions, provide four snack-size servings and be prepared in 45 minutes or less.
  • Recipe must promote good nutrition and healthy eating habits.

Students in six regions will submit recipes that will first be judged on nutrition, presentation/appeal and originality. The grade categories are 4th through 5th grade, 6th through 8th grade, and 9th through 12th grade. Three qualifying round winners from each grade category will be invited to cook their recipes for a panel of judges at Publix Aprons Cooking Schools in their region.

Finalist rounds will be held:

  • Oct. 3: Tampa — Central/West
  • Oct. 10: Orlando — Central
  • Oct. 17: Sarasota — West
  • Oct. 24: Boca Raton — South
  • Nov. 7: Tallahassee — Northwest
  • Nov. 14: Jacksonville — Northeast

Each regional cook-off recipe will be judged in person on taste, originality, presentation/appeal and technique. Third-place winners will receive a $50 gift card, second-place winners will receive a $75 gift card, and first-place winners will receive a $100 gift card. All winners will also receive a certificate to attend a free Publix Aprons Cooking School class.

First place winners in the 9th through 12th grade will continue to the state finale cook-off at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa on Feb. 6, 2016. The winner will receive a $500 gift card and title of the “Fresh for Florida Kids Student Chef” for 2015-16.


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