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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 A first person narrative

Today marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Charley, a category four hurricane that devastated the Florida citrus industry in more than one way.  As a resident of Hardee County, located on the Peace River Corridor, I experienced firsthand the hardship of growers after this disastrous hurricane, including my own family. Days before Charley made landfall the projections pointed toward the Tallahassee-Panhandle region. We felt like we did not have any reason to be concerned.

charley1On August 12, though, the thought was much different as the system made an unexpected change in direction. It was now headed in a path that would cut through the center of the peninsula.  My family and I packed important documents and pictures and some clothing and secured the barn area. Then the heavy rains, high speed winds, and destructive hail came.

I was terrified when our house’s tin roof was swept away – with us inside. That almost topped seeing the huge oak trees on our property being picked up and twisted around as if they were toothpicks.

Once the hurricane made landfall it moved pretty quickly across the state, but not before causing an estimated 13 billion dollars in damage. As we traveled through the area the day after the hurricane to check on neighbors, it became clear that our family was not the only one that had sustained severe damage: our whole county was devastated.

One neighbor chose to leave his flooded home and property for months to avoid seeing the destruction every day, other neighbors worked together to get supplies they needed to rebuild as fast as they could.  Charley uprooted orange and grapefruit trees, shattered greenhouses, smashed barns, and damaged farm equipment. Many growers had to start over but, some chose not to. They sold their land to be used for development of houses and stores, fearing that the industry would never make a comeback.

For those who did start over it was very costly and time consuming. These were the resilient ones. My family chose to wait until the end of hurricane season but did finally replant the many acres that had been destroyed. The hurricane created another problem for grove owners that affected everyone, not just those in the initial path.Charley

Before hurricane Charley, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services had been working diligently to eradicate citrus canker, but after Charley and the hurricanes that followed struck, this effort was no longer possible. The disease had spread throughout the state. It was then that the goal shifted from eradication to controlling and living with canker.

Ten years later, canker is still an ongoing challenge for growers and with the addition of citrus greening disease, the department and the USDA  have created the Citrus Health Response Program (CHRP) to assist industry with their citrus management strategies, CHRP that concentrates on the development and implementation of standards for citrus inspection, regulatory oversight, disease management and education and training.

Charley made an impact on the state that citizens and citrus growers will never forget. Today the resiliency of growers is still being tested by a number of diseases, but the industry perseveres.


Editors note: The author, Paige Clark, is a public information specialist at the FDACS Division of Plant Industry in Gainesville.


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