February 27, 2017
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
March 7, 2016
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.
February 19, 2016
Oriental Fruit Flies Are Gone
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
“…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, 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!
February 16, 2016
Gary Van Cleef 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. Van Cleef is an Agriculture and Consumer Protection Supervisor in the Apiary section of the FDACS Division of Plant Industry
Gary attended the M410 Facilitator Instructor Course at the Florida Forest Service Withlacoochee Training Center in Brooksville a few years ago to add to his skills as a supervisor in Apiary Inspection. On July 9, he suddenly found himself fighting a wildfire near his home.
It was a windy day in Alachua County – so windy that a pine tree was blown over on a power line, snapping the line and setting the tree and the surrounding forest on fire. Van Cleef, who lives about a mile northeast of the La Crosse Citrus Budwood Repository, was heading home after work.
“I rushed home, passing the La Crosse Volunteer Fire Department going the other way. The 911 dispatcher had given the wrong location to the fire department and power company, so I arrived at the scene first.”
Van Cleef, with the help of a neighbor, Bob, a retired fire fighter, had already established a firebreak when the first engine arrived.
“The woods and pasture were so dry the fire was traveling upwind at a fast pace,” Van Cleef said. “There is a mobile home about 100 feet from the origin point along the forest. Bob’s house is downwind, adjoining another pine forest full of dry fuel.”
The Alachua County brush truck arrived last and mopped up the scene. Two other fire engines were stationed on the road and they remained there to prevent the fire crossing to the other forest.
But Gary’s work was not done after the fire was put out.
“The brush and power company trucks got stuck when they were ready to leave, so I pulled them out with the old white, two-wheel-drive Dodge truck I always drive,” he said.
Van Cleef was left with one more chore: clearing the road of two trees that had blown over.
“I wish I had had a pulaski or fire rake that day,” he said. “I learned how to use them from fellow students’ presentations during the M410 course.”
(A pulaski is a specialized firefighting tool combining an axe and adze in one head. Forest firefighters use it to both dig and chop. It is named after Edward “Big Ed” Pulaski, a hero in the annals of the U.S. Forest Service who, in the early Twentieth Century introduced and improved the tool that firefighters still depend on.)
Van Cleef is undaunted by the hair-raising experience.
“Just another day in Apiary Inspection,” he said.
February 12, 2016
Have a happy Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s is a day when it’s important to do things right, and our FLDPI Blog is helping. We’re posting a series of entries that will help you decorate, celebrate and dine using Fresh From Florida products. (Watch for the postings on Facebook and Twitter.) Meanwhile, Fresh From Florida says Florida strawberries are a perfect fruit for the day. (After all, if you cut them right, each slice makes a sweet little red-and-white heart.)
Visualizing the value of Florida crops
We really like this visual from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, reposted by our friends at the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association. You can see at a glance the value of Florida’s top 10 fall and winter fruit and vegetable crops.
But . . . South Florida farmers are not having a good season
That’s a Florida farmer quoted in this article by the News-Press. Heavy rains have swamped crop production on many South Florida farms. In fact, at least 23 crops are behind last year’s production. The crop losses are increasing cost of fresh fruits and vegetables to consumers.
“We’re currently in communication with the South Florida Management District, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and others to monitor the situation and provide support to the impacted communities as needed,” said commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam.
Deformed wing virus in the news
Media reports stemming from a recently published scientific paper blame human movement of bees for spreading the deformed wing virus, which is a major contributor to colony collapse. With hundreds of loads of bees leaving Florida to pollinate California almonds, we talked about the issue with State Apiarist David Westervelt. Read our post here.
What’s that plant? This bug?
Did you know you can submit a plant or insect, spider, snail or other related invertebrate to FDACS-DPI for identification? It’s easy and we’ve even posted videos on our website explaining how. Here’s the link to the page
Been to the fair yet?
This is the last weekend for the Florida State Fair in Tampa.
When you visit, be sure to drop by the Insect Encounters in the Ag Hall of Fame Building. Our scientists and inspectors are at the display and eager to engage with you on all insect issues.
January 25, 2016
FDACS-facilitated field day preceded the conference
On January 5, personnel from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services facilitated a field day for apiary inspectors and professional apiculturists from around the nation, focusing on techniques for protecting honey bees from pesticide exposure and investigating bee kills.
The field day at St. Augustine preceded a joint meeting at Ponte Vedra of the Apiary Inspectors of America, American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) and the American Association of Professional Apiculturists (AAPA).
“The success of this field day was due largely to the high level of cooperation among the agencies involved and the expertise of the facilitators,” said David Westervelt, assistant chief of the Division of Plant Industry Apiary Inspection Section.
Personnel from the Apiary Inspection Section of the Division of Plant Industry, the Bureau of Agricultural Environmental Laboratories and the Bureau of Inspection and Incident Response provided information and hands-on demonstrations.
The field day focused on ways agriculture and apiary inspectors can work together to address colony loss incidents. AIA President Mark Dykes of the Texas Department of Agriculture and Dale Dubberly, Bureau Chief, Bureau of Inspection and Incident response, FDACS, welcomed participants. Jeanette Klopchin, FDACS, reviewed Florida’s Managed Pollinator Protection Plans. Other speakers discussed pesticide label changes, bee statement interpretations and effects of honey bee’s exposure to pesticides.
Outside the classroom, in the hives, faculty demonstrated bee hive handling and basic inspections, basics of bee agriculture, pesticide use by beekeepers, techniques for investigating suspected bee kills and standard sampling procedures for disease and parasites.
ATTENTION: beekeepers, growers/landowners and pesticide users
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has developed a Managed Pollinator Protection Plan (MP3), whose purpose is to establish a systematic and comprehensive approach to mitigate the risks of pesticides to bees and other pollinators while supporting both crop protection and insect pollination. Most importantly, this MP3 is developed through open communication and coordination among key stakeholders; beekeepers, growers/landowners, and pesticide users.
We now invite you to participate in a state-wide pesticide-pollinator awareness survey that aims to collect important background information about the current state of knowledge, common practices, concerns, and other relevant information about pesticides and pollinators in Florida, directly from its stakeholders.
The information obtained with this survey will be used to measure the success of the Managed Pollinator Protection Plan over time and will help tailor our outreach efforts.
This survey is completely anonymous, and no one, not even FDACS, will be able to associate you or your company with any of the responses.
Completing this survey will take approximately 10-15 minutes.
Please choose and only complete the survey that most closely reflects your role in Florida Agriculture.
Grower Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PPPgrower
Applicator Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PPPapplicator
Beekeeper Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PPPbeekeeper
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
Thank you for your time.
Pollinator Protection Specialist
Division of Agricultural Environmental Services
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
(850) 459-5714 mobile
(386) 418-5515 office
Greetings Colleagues and Stakeholders – Please help FDACS distribute this important pollinator–pesticide awareness survey to your contact lists. We appreciate your continued support and promotion. Use of social media is encouraged!