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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.

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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
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    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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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!

grill_208572658_smallCollege football season has just begun and Florida teams are off to a decent start, but what many people like myself, are more concerned with is the FOOD! Watching the game is all well and good but it’s nothing without a good hot dog, boiled peanuts, or even a cold lemonade. I mean that’s why we all get together and hang out in the hot Florida sun for five hours before the football game right?

What you may not consider when chowing down on your favorite snacks is where they come from. When people think of Florida they think of theme parks, beaches, and our outstanding colleges. But what people don’t consider is that Florida is a major producer of various agricultural items. For example, Florida grows oranges, potatoes, peanuts, corn, tomatoes, sugarcane, and blueberries amongst other things. Florida is a very diverse state in terms of agriculture and may contribute more to what you consume then you think.

Game Day

Florida is the number one producer of oranges in the country…but you knew that already. Many tailgaters will start their day with a fresh glass of Florida orange juice or for the fancy tailgaters a mimosa! You may have even had a bowl of locally grown watermelon, strawberries and blueberries for breakfast, those are all Florida grown too!

During your tailgate, you and your friends have grilled up some burgers, and hot dogs. Don’t forget to dress them up with lettuce, tomatoes, ketchup and relish! Florida grows 32,000 acres of tom
atoes annually, and 18,000 acres of cucumbers are produced in Florida just for pickles! That doesn’t include the 10,000 acres of cucumbers for your grocery store or garden salads.peanuts

Kick off

You’ve made it to the game and you’re still hungry, me too! Time to grab some peanuts! They’re a better option compared to the premade pretzels or imitation cheese that comes on those nachos. Florida is the second highest peanut producer after Texas, growing 180,000 acres annually! Peanuts are so popular they have their own day (National Peanut Day Sept. 13)

Do you need something a little bit more substantial? What about hot dogs or hamburger? Florida contributes 15,000 acres of wheat to the nation. Keeping you well stocked on buns and bread for any and all of your lunch time desires. While you’re out you better grab some French fries to go with your hot dog or hamburger. Florida produces 29,000 acres of potatoes annually.

And lastly, don’t forget about your drinks. Florida grows 409,000 acres of sugarcane that could be in your soda, orange juice, lemonade, or even sports drinks.

While these concessions are delicious, it’s important to remember how vulnerable they can be. Importing agricultural commodities from various areas can introduce new threats to our delicate ecosywheatstem. Do your part and remember when traveling, Don’t Pack a Pest, and Don’t Move Firewood. By remembering this you could be preventing the importation of invasive species, thus, saving our state from a major agricultural problem, as well as preserving our tailgating necessities for seasons to come.

All statistical figures are courtesy of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Survey.

DPI Diary

February 19, 2016

Oriental Fruit Flies Are GoneOriental fruit fly Bactrocera dorsalis (1)
What started out as a state of emergency has now ended with the February 13th lifting of the Oriental fruit fly quarantine in the Redland area of Miami-Dade County . This dangerous pest threatened Miami-Dade’s 1.6 Billion agricultural industry.

“The entire Miami-Dade community stepped up to the plate to help eradicate this pest. Everyone affected by this threat rolled up their sleeves and pitched in to defend not only Miami-Dade County’s $1.6 billion agriculture industry, but also Florida’s more than $120 billion agriculture industry,” Adam Putnam Commissioner of Agriculture.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and the USDA will continue to monitor the 56,000 fruit-fly traps state wide to prevent future infestations.

Citrus Greening means less green for Florida 
1040002052016“…Florida is facing the prospect of losing its signature crop and its more than $10 billion economic impact.”said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. Citrus Greening is to blame.

Since citrus greening was first detected in 2005, Florida has lost $7.8 billion in revenue. With a new proposal by Commissioner Putnam, he would implement a cost sharing program with farmers. This would allow the removal or destruction of abandoned citrus groves that still harbors citrus greening. This proposal is still in the legislative process.

Miami Boat Show 

There was a great turn out this past weekend at the Miami Boat Show. The Florida Department of Agriculture was there to stress the importance of Don’t Pack a Pest.

The Don’t Pack a Pest program is administered by FDACS in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The program’s goal is to make international travelers — including boaters — aware of the dangers of bringing undeclared agricultural products into the United States. Visit DontPackaPest.com for more information.

Woman of the Year 

Congratulations to Lisa Hinton for being awarded the 2015 Woman of the Year in Agriculture at the Florida State Fair.

All in a hard days work 

Gary Webb Pasco Count Fair 02-15-2016 Inspection 2

  • Gary Webb, Plant Inspector, Dade City, had a busy week reaching out to the public. He participated in a Nature Coast Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area exotic plant cleanup. He assisted in pulling and treating coral ardesia and some other invasive plants in an effort to keep our state parks clean and exotic plant free. On Monday, he inspected plants at the Pasco County Fair for the Youth Plant Show and Auction. This event taught students about the importance of agricultural. Some pests were even found, and they were used as an additional learning tool for students.
  • Gary Van Cleef,  a Division of Plant Industry Supervisor in the apiary section, 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. He was able to quickly respond to a fire he encountered on his way home from work. Way to go, Gary.

Don’t forget growers, beekeepers & stakeholders complete the FDACS Pesticide-Pollinator Awareness Survey!

 

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Dr. Gordon Bonn, Supervisor of the Marinas and Canals program, Division of Plant Industry, pauses at the entrance to the 2016 Miami Boat Show. He and other agency representatives greeted hundreds of attendees over the President’s Day weekend, reminding them to help exclude invasive pests from U.S. shores.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services had a strong presence at the Miami Boat Show over the President’s Day weekend, stressing the message, “Don’t Pack a Pest” and urging people to watch for and report the giant African land snail.

“We had many people visit our kiosk in the Central Courtyard to view our outreach materials and take home a message of Don’t Pack a Pest,” said Dr. Gordon Bonn, Supervisor  of the Marinas and Canals program, Division of Plant Industry.

The Don’t Pack a Pest program is administered by FDACS in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The program’s goal is to make international travelers — including boaters — aware of the dangers of bringing agricultural products into the United States.

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Jennifer Mestas and Detector Dog Jammer greeted visitors to the kiosk at the Miami Boat Show. In 2015 alone, interceptions of invasives included: white fly, sage plum moth, Lygus bug, European pepper moth, kaffir lime leaves, mealybug, Hawaiian glaber, California pea leafminer, and olive fruit fly and the giant African land snail.

The giant African land snail has been the subject of an eradication program in South Florida that began in August 2011. The snail is known to consumer more than 250 kinds of crops, poses a danger to human and animal health and can damage structures.

As a regulatory agency of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Division of Plant Industry works to detect, intercept and control plant and honey bee pests that threaten Florida’s native and commercially grown plants and agricultural resources.

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DPI Diary

January 29, 2016

Plant fanciers favor “Fresh from Florida,” a festival features big bugs, Florida bees hit the road west and the Florida State Fair and Strawberry Festival open next week.

“Fresh from Florida” plants ar preferred

Consumers prefer plants with the “Fresh from Florida” label. Research by a UF-IFAS economist indicates 83 percent of respondents recalled noticing the “Fresh from Florida” logos on plants in retail garden centers. To be designated as “Fresh from Florida,” 51 percent of the product must originate in the Sunshine State, according to Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services guidelines.

Big bugs nestled in the gardens

BigBeetleSaturday is a “Bug A Palooza” day at Orlando’s Leu Gardens. The gardens are currently featuring the giant sculptures of insects by David Rogers. Bug A Palooza, which runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., features hands-on activities, crafts and even an insect petting zoo.

Important survey for growers and beekeepers

Please help FDACS distribute this important pollinator–pesticide awareness survey to growers, beekeepers and other stakeholders. If you are a stakeholder, take the survey. Sharing on social media is encouraged!

Bees are on the move

HoneyBeeFlowerFlorida beekeepers are moving bees, first to California to pollinate 1.7 million acres of almonds and then to other states. National Geographic posted this great animated map to indicate the movement of hives and the crops that depend on them for pollination.  Our DPI Apiary inspectors are busy certifying truckloads of bees for the voyage.

Plan to “bee” there!

It’s the most extensive educational honey bee event in the state of Florida and it will be held Friday and Saturday, March 4-5 at the Whitney Marine Lab, 9505 Ocean Shore Boulevard, St. Augustine, FL 32080. It’s the annual Florida Bee College and beekeepers, naturalists, farmers, gardeners, county agents, and anyone interested in honey bees should plan to attend. DPI’s apiary inspectors play a major role in the college.

Don’t Pack a Pest

The folks at Forbes magazine included agricultural products on a list of “10 things to bring on every international flight (and three things not to).” We want travelers to know they can usually answer the question “Can I bring it?” by visiting www.Dontpackapest.com

Florida State Fair and Strawberry Festival open next week.

The Florida Strawberry Festival opens its gates March 3 in Plant City. Festivities include strawberries, shortcake, big name concerts, rides, games, shows, animals and exhibits, and the fun won’t stop until The Band Perry’s concert closes out the Festival on March 13.

The Florida State Fair runs February 4-15 at the state fairgrounds in Tampa. Staff members from the Division of Plant Industry will be manning Insect Encounters at the Hall of Fame Building. Remember, you can reserve tickets now for the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Banquet and Ceremony, Feb. 9 beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Our friends at Florida Ag in the Classroom send this reminder: Registration for the 2016 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference is open! The conference will be held June 20-24th in Litchfield Park, Arizona. Early bird registration is now through April 15th. http://naitcconference.usu.edu/index.cfm

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