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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.

ThreeGenerations

Three generations from a legendary Florida beekeeping family put on bee beards at the Ninth Annual University of Florida Bee College. L-R Lawrence Cutts, grandson Logan and son Stephen.

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.

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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 lo4908250688_c75496ddb3_nng 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.

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DPI Diary

January 15, 2016

A summary of social media activities by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry

Bee College coming up soon. Will you “bee” there?

The 2016 Bee College, the most extensive and best-attended annual educational honey bee event in Florida, is just around the corner. Professional and back yard beekeepers, as well as BeeCollege2016naturalists, farmers, gardeners, county agents and anyone else interested in honey bees, should plan to attend. Our DPI Apiary staff will be present to meet and greet, facilitate and teach classes.

  • When: 7 a.m. March 4 – 6 p.m. March 5
  • Where: Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience, University of Florida, 9505 N. Oceanside Blvd., St. Augustine, Fla.

The bee college provides lectures in the morning and hands-on workshops in the afternoon. There will be live honey bee colonies on site for open hive demonstrations and protective gear for everyone. You won’t leave hungry, either. Registration includes morning and afternoon snacks, lunch both days, a full banquet dinner on Friday evening and an ice cream social following the Awards Ceremony. Get more information and sign up here. (Image: BeeCollege2016)

Honey bees are amazing. (But you knew that, right?)

TBT this week looked back at a 2014 blog post that explains how bees survive the cold of winter that kills off so many other insects. Not so much of a problem in Florida, of course, but fascinating nonetheless.

Tri-ology: The chronicle of invasive detections

Our blog invited followers to read Tri-ology. The FDACS Division of Plant Industry has published this journal six times each year for the past 54 years. It lists detections of invasive species in Florida, including locations and other details. Eye-opening information for members of the scientific community and laymen as well.

There’s a lot of life in a little soil

SoilMemeFixedSomeone, apparently, has counted individual bacteria in one teaspoon of healthy soil, enabling our friends at USDA-NRCS to produce this meme citing a total that ranges from 100 million to 1 billion.  The USDA-NRCS website provides more down-to-earth information and it’s well worth your time. You can even click on a map to learn how Florida soil is different from other states’ soils and how Florida growers work to enrich our generally sandy soils.

We’ll be seeing you . . .

. . . at the State Fair, we hope. It’s just 20 days away, February 4-15 at the Tampa fairgrounds. Look for FDACS-DPI staff at the ever-popular Insect Encounters at the Florida Hall of Fame Building.

. . . At the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Banquet, February 9. If you have not yet purchased tickets you can do so by following this link: http://floridaaghalloffame.org/annual-banquet-and-ceremony/ .

The reception begins at 5:30 p.m. The dinner and program commence at 7 p.m.

. . . and at the Taste of Florida Agriculture Reception at the Capitol in Tallahassee February 3, 2016.

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Tickets are now on sale for the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame reception and banquet, available on-line at http://floridaaghalloffame.org/annual-banquet-and-ceremony/ . The induction ceremony will be held February 9, 2016 during the Florida State Fair at Tampa. More information is available here.

The four honorees to be inducted for 2016 are Thomas H. Braddock, Dr. Joseph C. Joyce, Billy Kempfer, and Dr. Charles “Chip” F. Hinton. Read the rest of this entry »

DPI Diary

December 18, 2015

Looking toward the holidays and beyond … with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry

 

Don’t Pack a Pest now extends to Turks and Caicos Islands

The Turks and Caicos Islands this week joined five other Caribbean nations who are partnering in the “Don’t Pack a Pest” program. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services developed the campaign in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection. The program has placed more than 680 signs at 52 ports of entry in the U.S. and the Caribbean. Other elements of the campaign include a website that assists travelers in determining which agricultural products are allowed or prohibited entry into the U.S., digital and print advertising, billboards and social media.

SFlaFlood

On average, Miami-Dade County receives 6 inches of rain December through February. Through the first week of December, some portions of the county were inundated with nearly 9 inches of rain.

Florida officials urging Secretary of USDA to issue disaster declaration

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam, Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R) and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez met with several growers on Dec. 14 to discuss the adverse effects of recent flooding on agriculture in the area. The three also urged Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary, to issue a Secretarial Disaster Determination for all counties in south Florida affected by recent flooding.

Get the full story from the Commissioner’s Email Update here.

Where are our strawberries?

Short answer: the Florida strawberry harvest has been delayed by the heat. The Packer, a publication aimed at growers and processors, reports our record heat is delaying much of the Florida strawberry harvest. Growers expect normal volumes won’t be available until early January. Normally they begin harvesting in late November and normal volume begins toward the latter part of December.

Red tide reported in gulf

Tampa Bay area beach lovers will want to monitor red tide reports before hitting the water. Red tide blooms that have caused problems in some parts of Sarasota, Manatee and Pinellas counties are still around and now Hillsborough County is beginning to see some infiltration.

Travelers give Florida international airports decent ratings

Read this Orlando Business Journal article to see how Florida’s international airports are rated in a just-released J.D. Power survey. For example, Tampa International Airport’s satisfaction score ranks it Number 2 in the nation while Orlando International’s score puts it Number 4 and Miami International Airport was ranked at Number 18. Portland International Airport was ranked Number 1. J.D. Power’s airport satisfaction rankings are based on terminal facilities, airport accessibility, security check, baggage claim, check-in and baggage check and terminal shopping.

Wherever you travel … Remember . . .

“Save Our Citrus”

Our Friends at Hungry Pests have posted a wealth of information about protecting citrus at SaveOurCitrus.com. We highly recommend anyone with even one citrus tree on their property visit the site and heed its messages.

Giant African land snail program update

GALS digital billboardThis blog entry updates the numbers summarizing the progress of efforts to eradicate the giant African land snail from South Florida. While our teams are generally finding fewer snails, indicating success toward the goal, snails are still being found by our teams and the general public. Continue to watch for and report suspect snails to our Helpline, 1-888-397-1517.

GALS By the Numbers Update

Green , snap or string. Whatever you call them, Florida beans should be on your holiday menu

SnapBeansAn excerpt from the Fresh From Florida Blog: What is the difference between green beans, snap beans and string beans? Snap beans are abundant in Florida from November to May and are eaten during the winter months all over the country. So, if you plan to add fresh green beans to your menu during the holidays, you can thank our farmers. Try our Florida Snap Beans with Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms recipe and enjoy this special season.

Merry Christmas to all from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry

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Dr. Greg Hodges, Assistant Director, FDACS-DPI, helped guide a tour centered on invasive species.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services welcomed the annual conference of The Association of Structural Pest Control Regulatory Officials toFort Lauderdale August 22-26.

The professional association is comprised of the structural pest control regulatory officials from the fifty states.

Dr. Lisa Conti, Deputy Commissioner of FDACS, greeted conference-goers, who attended sessions on topics including the role of pesticides, risk communication and the future of applicator certification and training.

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Detector Dog Kojak and handler Karen Holton show how packages are searches checked at parcel facilities in Florida.

 

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Detector Dog Raider, with handler Omar Garcia. Raider is specially trained to alert to a single snail species, the invasive giant African land snail.

Dr. Greg Hodges, Assistant Director, and Dr. Tyson Emery, Chief of Plant and Apiary Inspection, both with the Division of Plant Industry, led a tour that centered on invasive species and included demonstrations by two canine teams that specialize in detecting giant African land snails in South Florida and invasive plants, insects and diseases in parcels shipped into Florida.

Dale Dubberly, Chief of Inspection and Incident Response, FDACS, participated in a session on structural fumigation. Jeanette Klopchin, FDACS Agriculture and Environmental Services, served as a facilitator at sessions on pollinators and pollinator protection.

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