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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.

DPI Diary

December 4, 2015

Update on social media posts and re-posts by FDACS-DPI this week.

Travel tips abound

As the holiday travel season ramps up, we’re continuing to remind international travelers to declare agricultural items in luggage, and we’re pleased our messages are getting retweets, likes and shares. Check www.dontpackapest.com and exclude forbidden items. The website is mobile device-friendly and easy to navigate – a helpful tool for travelers.

We’re also working, along with the national Don’t Move Firewood campaign, to remind RV-ers and campers to buy and burn firewood at their destinations. Moving firewood can also move invasive pests, causing serious threats to agriculture, landscapes, structures and human health. Learn more about one invasive pest in particular that threatens Florida’s avocado crop on our “Save the Guac” page, here.

GALS By the Numbers

GALS Billboard2This week we published updated numbers related to the giant African land snail eradication efforts in South Florida. Thusfar, FDACS teams have collected more than 159,387 of the snails in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Surveys continue statewide. The snail has not been found anywhere else in Florida — although we encourage all Florida residents to “Watch for it. Report it,” using the toll-free Helpline, 888-397-1517. Learn more about the program here.

Fuchs Inauguration Week

FuchsTractorThe University of Florida has been celebrating President Ken Fuchs’s inauguration this week, and photos make it clear he is president of a land grant university. This photo was posted by UF-IFAS Vice President Jack Payne, whom we enjoy following on Twitter.

A 64-year-old albatross?

Apropos of nothing related to the Division of Plant Industry’s mission, but just doggone interesting, is the news from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about the world’s oldest banded bird. She’s Wisdom, a 64-year old Laysan albatross. Each year, she returns to nest on Midway Atoll National Wildlife refuge . . . and she’s apparently not ready to retire from nesting. USFWS reports she has laid an egg. More here.

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Wisdom minds an egg. (Photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service)

 

 

Traveling for the Thanksgiving holidays? Don’t Pack a Pest.

Invasive pests and diseases could be lurking on any agricultural product in your suitcase or in your vehicle – on an orange, in the soil on your flip flops and even in the firewood for the campfire. So don’t move firewood.

If infested items are brought across state or national borders, invasive pests and diseases can spread. Invasive species are, by definition, non-native. They evolved in a different ecosystem, so they will have few natural enemies in their new home. They will likely compete with native species for resources — food, water and light. Often, invasive species are harmful to agricultural crops and threaten natural resources.

DPAP postcardCelebrate, but maintain our national security.

Here are three important tips to remember when traveling:

  • Don’t bring agricultural products home with you. That includes fruits and vegetables, meats, plants, etc. Be sure to clean the soil from your shoes or clothing before repacking for the return home.
  • Don’t move firewood. If you are camping, buy local, certified firewood when you arrive. Firewood may harbor pests that could be potentially harmful if introduced into new environments.
  • Spread the word. Tell others about the dangers of importing pests. If you see or hear of any invasive pests or witness the entry of any illegal agricultural products, report them by calling the FDACS Helpline at 1-888-397-1517.

If you are traveling internationally, check www.dontpackapest.com to learn what you can bring back into the U.S.

We wish you safe, pleasant and pest-free holiday travels.

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