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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.

Warner Brothers just released their brand new movie from the Harry Potter franchise “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” a wonderful movie set in 1926 New York City where a foreign traveler Newt Scamander a magizoologist (a person who studies magical creatures) is writing a manuscript in the hopes of helping non-maj (muggles) understand these fantastic beasts. During his trip to New York he packs a suitcase with various creatures including a thunderbird which Newt hopes to release back to his home in Arizona. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. During his visit, things go crazy and some creatures escape!

Why does this sound familiar?

Because every day people travel all over the world with their suitcase filled to the brim with foreign entities. Sometimes it’s medicine, plants, animals, insects, food, or a commodity they brought back as a souvenir. All of these items have the potential to be dangerous to our native species agriculture and enviornment. Much like the movie, once a fantastic beast escapes, chaos can quickly follow. Non-native species don’t have natural enemies and thus, can quickly populate and destroy valuable natural resources.

The pests that arrive in Florida (giant African land snails, whiteflies, Asian citrus psyllid, etc.), can cause a great deal of trouble. While we can’t “reparo” the situation as quickly as wizards can, biocontrol agents are set in place to mitigate the problem at hand. Phorid flies parasitize imported fire ant populations, Lilioceris cheni beetles eat air potato vines, Tamarixia radiata help control the Asian citrus psyllid (the vector for citrus greening disease), and the list of beneficial natural enemies goes on.

What we do know is the importance of declaring agricultural items when coming through customs.

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While J.K. Rowling is right, the transportation of creatures without a permit is illegal, she was wrong about customs. U.S. Customs and Border Control officers and their canine partners are vigilant and will attempt to catch whatever you bring in. “…undeclared prohibited agriculture items will be confiscated and can result in the issuance of a civil penalty to the traveler for failure to declare the prohibited item.”So stop while you’re ahead. Don’t be a Newt Scamander and remember Don’t Pack a Pest!

 

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry is pleased to pass along this Thanksgiving message posted by Abby Yigzaw, Public Affairs Specialist, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

If you have not tried a citrus and herb turkey yet, I highly recommend it!

Thanksgiving is a celebration of the harvest, shared recipes and a good time to reflect upon all of the things for which we are thankful. We are thankful for the continued citrus harvest and the collaborative efforts underway to protect citrus in the United States. Save Our Citrus is a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about citrus diseases and how to prevent their spread. It relies on a combined effort at the national, state and local level.

America’s citrus is under attack by citrus diseases including citrus greening (Huanglongbing or HLB), citrus canker, citrus black spot and sweet orange scab. If these diseases spread out of control, the result would be completely detrimental to our citrus. We’re thankful that this has not become a reality, and hope it never will.

The first Thanksgiving, centuries ago, was about working together to deliver and share the bounty. While the United States is undoubtedly fighting a serious battle against citrus diseases, we still have a lot to be thankful for. We’re thankful for our bountiful harvest of citrus that remains healthy and marketable. The citrus utilized production for the 2012-2013 season totaled 11.2 million tons. We’re also thankful for the federal, state and local efforts that are just a few of the critical components to the overall goal of citrus health.

Railroad&OrangeGroveAt the federal level, we’re grateful for the efforts of the Huanglongbing (HLB) Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) Group. The HLB MAC was established in December 2013 by USDA Secretary Vilsack in response to the citrus industry’s request for more urgency and greater coordination regarding HLB disease.  Members of the MAC include a variety of state and federal agencies working towards the common goal of improving strategy development, policymaking and resource allocations, to ensure that funds are invested where they can have the greatest impact on combatting HLB.

On the state level, we’re thankful to the state departments of agriculture, universities and other organizations that serve an integral role in spreading messages about citrus disease prevention. The Save Our Citrus campaign is strengthened through the opportunity to coordinate with States and combine resources effectively to maximize outreach efforts.

On a local level, residential citrus tree owners have made a huge contribution to preventing the spread of citrus disease. By using the free Save Our Citrus iPhone app, tree owners have helped positively identify citrus disease. The app users can upload pictures of suspected citrus diseased trees and receive a response back from citrus experts. Hundreds of submissions are received each year from across the country. Through these submissions, confirmed cases of citrus disease have been detected.

Thanks to citrus disease prevention efforts, we’re still able to have a bountiful harvest of citrus in the United States. We appreciate you supporting the efforts of the Save Our Citrus campaign. With your help, citrus is something that we can be thankful for throughout many generations to come. To learn more about the Save Our Citrus campaign, visit http://www.saveourcitrus.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  And don’t forget to look up a citrus and herb turkey recipe!

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