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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

Bee Aware!

January 12, 2011

When it comes to saving bees in Florida, FDACS/DPI has a unique plan of action. Consumers who call the Division of Plant Industry Helpline with concerns of a bee swarm or infestation are often shocked when the helpline operator tells them that eradication is the best option. Callers want to know why an agency that protects Florida’s apiary industry would remotely suggest eradicating bees. Well, there is a method to the perceived madness.

The Division of Plant Industry supports managed bee hives. We know that without properly managed bee colonies, agricultural productivity would suffer. Further, without managed bee hives, Africanized honey bees could easily move into areas without managed colonies. The Africanized honey bee is not only dangerous to the apiary industry, but also Floridians who might come in contact with the insect. Though the Africanized honey bee is established in Florida, through education, trapping programs, and the help of managed European honey bee colonies, we can attempt to keep Africanized honey bee populations low.

What’s the difference between European and Africanized honey bees?

European honey bees (left) and Africanized honey bees (right) can be difficult to distinguish.

Honey bees brought to the U.S. in the 1600s by European settlers soon became one of the most economically beneficial insects, and their gentle nature made them easy to manage. In the 1950s, African honey bees (AHB) were imported to breed with European honey bees (EHB) in order to produce a honey bee better suited to tropical conditions. Researchers expected that when African honey bees were bred with European honey bees, the African bees would lose their defensive nature. However, this was not the case, and since the 1950s, Africanized honey bees have become established in the southeastern region of the United States. It is very difficult to distinguish Africanized honey bees from European honey bees, and the species can only be verified through USDA identification testing.  AHB are more defensive, and defend their nests with less provocation, in greater numbers and for longer distances. AHB swarm as many as 16 times per year. EHB only swarm once or twice per year. (Swarming is a reproductive behavior that occurs when bees are looking for a new nest site.) AHB are not selective of nesting sites and will quickly inhabit empty spaces, holes or cavities. EHB are more selective and prefer drier sites three to four feet above ground.

Protect Yourself from Stinging Insects

Always survey your surroundings, especially when outdoors, for stinging insects. It is easy to understand wanting to swat at a stinging insect, but it is important not to provoke Africanized honey bees. Bees release an “alarm pheromone” after they sting, which signals other to come and attack. For AHB, this could mean the entire hive. Follow these guidelines to protect yourself:

  • Have a plan and communicate it with your family for avoiding/responding to stinging insects.
  • In case of an allergic reaction, have a bee sting kit available.
  • Eliminate potential nesting sites. Check walls and eaves of structures. Plug holes.
  • Remain alert for bees. Look for bees in work areas before using power equipment such as weed eaters, lawn mowers and chain saws. Noise excites bees.
  • If bees begin to chase you, run away in a straight line, cover your face (particularly your nose and mouth) and get inside a building or vehicle. Even if a few bees get in with you, it is better than remaining outside where there is greater potential for larger numbers of bees and stings.
  • Contact a licensed pest control operator to remove the nest.
  • Remove the stinger by scraping it with a fingernail or credit card. Squeezing the stinger will release more venom.
  • See a doctor if breathing is difficult, if you are stung several times, or you are allergic to bee stings.

Be aware of your environment and stay safe. Call 888-397-1517 for more information, or print out this brochure or reference.

Bee Aware of where bee hives could be located in your surroundings.

 

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