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!
March 16, 2016
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.
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.
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.
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.
March 7, 2016
Frequently during his tenure as the chief apiary inspector for the state of Florida, Lawrence Cutts could be seen at fairs and festivals around the state, sporting bee beards while singing about bees.
This past weekend, three generations of Cuttses delighted an audience at the Ninth Annual University of Florida Bee College by making the bee beard a family affair. One-by-one, Lawrence’s son, Stephen, who is currently a FDACS-DPI apiary inspector in the Trenton office, Steven’s son, Logan and finally Lawrence donned beards, each constituted by about 100,000 bees.
Bee beard demonstrations have long been a favorite way for apiarists to reach out to rank-and-file audiences, demonstrating that properly handled, bees can be calm rather than scary.
In the interest of safety, Lawrence did make it a point to tell the audience that no one who does not want to be stung should ever attempt a bee beard.
February 16, 2016
Gary Van Cleef learned more than instruction and presentation techniques from a supervisor training course. He also learned how to fight a wildfire – and last week he put that knowledge to work. Van Cleef is an Agriculture and Consumer Protection Supervisor in the Apiary section of the FDACS Division of Plant Industry
Gary attended the M410 Facilitator Instructor Course at the Florida Forest Service Withlacoochee Training Center in Brooksville a few years ago to add to his skills as a supervisor in Apiary Inspection. On July 9, he suddenly found himself fighting a wildfire near his home.
It was a windy day in Alachua County – so windy that a pine tree was blown over on a power line, snapping the line and setting the tree and the surrounding forest on fire. Van Cleef, who lives about a mile northeast of the La Crosse Citrus Budwood Repository, was heading home after work.
“I rushed home, passing the La Crosse Volunteer Fire Department going the other way. The 911 dispatcher had given the wrong location to the fire department and power company, so I arrived at the scene first.”
Van Cleef, with the help of a neighbor, Bob, a retired fire fighter, had already established a firebreak when the first engine arrived.
“The woods and pasture were so dry the fire was traveling upwind at a fast pace,” Van Cleef said. “There is a mobile home about 100 feet from the origin point along the forest. Bob’s house is downwind, adjoining another pine forest full of dry fuel.”
The Alachua County brush truck arrived last and mopped up the scene. Two other fire engines were stationed on the road and they remained there to prevent the fire crossing to the other forest.
But Gary’s work was not done after the fire was put out.
“The brush and power company trucks got stuck when they were ready to leave, so I pulled them out with the old white, two-wheel-drive Dodge truck I always drive,” he said.
Van Cleef was left with one more chore: clearing the road of two trees that had blown over.
“I wish I had had a pulaski or fire rake that day,” he said. “I learned how to use them from fellow students’ presentations during the M410 course.”
(A pulaski is a specialized firefighting tool combining an axe and adze in one head. Forest firefighters use it to both dig and chop. It is named after Edward “Big Ed” Pulaski, a hero in the annals of the U.S. Forest Service who, in the early Twentieth Century introduced and improved the tool that firefighters still depend on.)
Van Cleef is undaunted by the hair-raising experience.
“Just another day in Apiary Inspection,” he said.
February 11, 2016
Virus is major contributor to colony collapse
Just as beekeepers are moving thousands of honey bee hives from Florida and Georgia to California to pollinate the almond crop there, media reports are warning that human movement of bees is mainly responsible for spreading a virus that contributes to bee deaths, worldwide. The articles are based on a report published in the Journal Science.
Researchers at the University of Exeter in England and the University of California, Berkeley, found human movement of honey bees is mainly responsible for the spread of the deformed wing virus, which was detected in Florida about two years after the varroa mite, Varroa destructor, was detected in Florida in 1987.
Florida State Apiarist David Westervelt, who is chief of Apiary Inspection for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, says the Florida honey bee industry has long been aware of the deformed wing virus and its relationship to the varroa mite. He said DWV on its own is not a major threat to hives. But it can be deadly in a hive that also has varroa mites.
“While the virus by itself does not generally kill off whole lines of honey bees, we are aware that it is a key player in colony collapse,” Westervelt said. “Right now the only things we can do are to work to eliminate varroa mites and develop hardier strains of honey bees.”
Because California has a chronic shortage of honey bees, Florida’s commercial beekeepers annually send nearly 400 semi-trailers of bees to California to pollinate almonds. Each truckload carries on average 480 hives. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services inspects each truckload leaving Florida for California.
Westervelt said the DWV does not normally kill off whole lines of bees by iself, and beekeepers are using treatments including certain acids and thyme oil against the mites.
While the Exeter and Berkeley researchers say European honey bees are now the primary source of DWV, the varroa mite appears to facilitate virus transmission. European honey bees, which are the honey bees cultivated in the U.S. for honey and pollination, acquired the varroa mite from Asian honey bees, possibly via the commercial exchange of queens.
January 25, 2016
FDACS-facilitated field day preceded the conference
On January 5, personnel from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services facilitated a field day for apiary inspectors and professional apiculturists from around the nation, focusing on techniques for protecting honey bees from pesticide exposure and investigating bee kills.
The field day at St. Augustine preceded a joint meeting at Ponte Vedra of the Apiary Inspectors of America, American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) and the American Association of Professional Apiculturists (AAPA).
“The success of this field day was due largely to the high level of cooperation among the agencies involved and the expertise of the facilitators,” said David Westervelt, assistant chief of the Division of Plant Industry Apiary Inspection Section.
Personnel from the Apiary Inspection Section of the Division of Plant Industry, the Bureau of Agricultural Environmental Laboratories and the Bureau of Inspection and Incident Response provided information and hands-on demonstrations.
The field day focused on ways agriculture and apiary inspectors can work together to address colony loss incidents. AIA President Mark Dykes of the Texas Department of Agriculture and Dale Dubberly, Bureau Chief, Bureau of Inspection and Incident response, FDACS, welcomed participants. Jeanette Klopchin, FDACS, reviewed Florida’s Managed Pollinator Protection Plans. Other speakers discussed pesticide label changes, bee statement interpretations and effects of honey bee’s exposure to pesticides.
Outside the classroom, in the hives, faculty demonstrated bee hive handling and basic inspections, basics of bee agriculture, pesticide use by beekeepers, techniques for investigating suspected bee kills and standard sampling procedures for disease and parasites.
ATTENTION: beekeepers, growers/landowners and pesticide users
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has developed a Managed Pollinator Protection Plan (MP3), whose purpose is to establish a systematic and comprehensive approach to mitigate the risks of pesticides to bees and other pollinators while supporting both crop protection and insect pollination. Most importantly, this MP3 is developed through open communication and coordination among key stakeholders; beekeepers, growers/landowners, and pesticide users.
We now invite you to participate in a state-wide pesticide-pollinator awareness survey that aims to collect important background information about the current state of knowledge, common practices, concerns, and other relevant information about pesticides and pollinators in Florida, directly from its stakeholders.
The information obtained with this survey will be used to measure the success of the Managed Pollinator Protection Plan over time and will help tailor our outreach efforts.
This survey is completely anonymous, and no one, not even FDACS, will be able to associate you or your company with any of the responses.
Completing this survey will take approximately 10-15 minutes.
Please choose and only complete the survey that most closely reflects your role in Florida Agriculture.
Grower Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PPPgrower
Applicator Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PPPapplicator
Beekeeper Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PPPbeekeeper
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
Thank you for your time.
Pollinator Protection Specialist
Division of Agricultural Environmental Services
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
(850) 459-5714 mobile
(386) 418-5515 office
Greetings Colleagues and Stakeholders – Please help FDACS distribute this important pollinator–pesticide awareness survey to your contact lists. We appreciate your continued support and promotion. Use of social media is encouraged!