February 17, 2017
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
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.
- 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!
February 5, 2016
How are things going at FDACS-DPI? Well . . . fair
We have been oh, so social this week.
Commissioner Adam H. Putnam hit the switch to open the Florida State Fair, and now some of our FDACS-DPI scientists and inspectors are on hand to greet you at our displays at Insect Encounters in the Ag Hall of Fame Building. Visit, and you’ll see some arthropods that are pretty, some that are scary and some that are just plain weird — and get expert explanations.
Regardless of what cats say, Dogs Rule at pest detection
Don’t Pack a Pest program leaders joined our highly trained and very friendly agricultural detector dogs and their handlers, greeting legislators and guests at the Taste of Florida legislative reception at the state Capitol on Wednesday.
Canines continue to amaze scientists with what they are capable of detecting. For example, Verde and handler, Ives Lopez, work at shipping facilities, intercepting invasive species that threaten Florida agriculture. Detector Dog Sierra and her handler Omar Garcia work to detect giant African land snails in Miami, where FDACS is working to eradicate the giant African land snail.
Don’t forget Linus
Of course, while we’re talking about detector dogs, we wouldn’t want to snub Linus, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection detector dog that is the face of the Traveler’s Don’t Pack a Pest program. Don’t Pack a Pest aims to remind international travelers everywhere to declare agricultural items in their luggage. We even provide a handy, mobile-device-friendly web page where you can answer the question, “Can I Bring It?”
Have a delicious Superbowl Weekend
We wish everyone an enjoyable Superbowl weekend. May we suggest you serve up delicious treats using Fresh From Florida ingredients? Go to www.freshfromflorida.com/Recipes/ to see what’s in season and browse the wealth of recipes posted by our culinary ambassador and State of Florida Executive Chef Justin Timineri.
Oh, and by the way, thanks, Chef, for the great cuisine you provided for the Taste of Florida reception.
Today we’re taking you up close to two of the stars of Insect Encounters, annually one of the most popular exhibits at the Florida State Fair held in February. Ian Stocks, Biological Scientist IV, Curator of the Florida State Collection of Arthropods, housed at the FDACS Division of Plant Industry in Gainesville, explains each of the creatures.
The slender brown scorpion, Centruroides gracilis, is the largest of the three scorpion species native to Florida. This one was collected last year on Big Pine Key, and was one of the attractions at the Insect Encounters room. We won’t know for some time, but this one looks like she will soon be a mom, giving birth to live young called scorplings. All three of the scorpions native to Florida are in the genus Centruroides, and although the sting they inflict can be painful, it is not known to be dangerous.
Also on show this year was one of Florida’s largest spiders–the Pantropical Huntsman Spider, Heteropoda venatoria. This species is not native to Florida, but is common in Central and South Florida. The specimen pictured here has a leg span of over 3 inches, and a body length over 1 inch. They are exceedingly fast, as FDACS-DPI photographer Jeff Lotz can attest. Amazingly, they can run up walls and along ceilings as fast as they can run across the floor. Favored prey are the large cockroaches known in Florida as Palmetto Bugs, so many people like to have the spiders around to keep barns, sheds and other structures cockroach-free.
An appropriate note on which to close.
Let’s go to the Fair!
The Florida State Fair continues through February 18.
Hundreds of fair-goers visited the Ag Hall of Fame building and our DPI displays, featuring insects and arachnids (including our office tarantula, Twiggy). Nearby, the FDACS “Florida Agriculture: Then and Now” traveling exhibit, part of the Viva Florida 500 celebration, commemorates the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s landing in Florida. It showcases the growth, expansion and diversification of Florida agriculture over the last 500 years.
Hall of Famers . . .
Tuesday, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam hosted the Florida Ag Hall of Fame. Inducted into the Hall of Fame were:
- Former Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Bronson
- Daniel Botts of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association,
- The late Dr. Eugene Trotter, founder of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources and
- Dr. Paul Nicoletti, a veterinarian and epidemiologist who spent the bulk of his career with the USDA and the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Bees Bound for California . . .
Florida beekeepers were loading hives onto trucks bound for California, where almond growers are facing a critical shortage of bees for pollination of their trees. The pollination process will take about four weeks. Around March 15, the bees will return to Florida to pollinate crops here, then move northward with the warmer weather. Our Florida bees travel as far north as Maine, pollinating crops. Florida is home to the nation’s fifth largest apiary industry.
Junior Detectives Needed …
Members of the FDACS-DPI team working to eradicate the giant African land snail (GALS) from Miami-Dade County outlined the program to about 100 Miami-Dade teachers who serve as science leaders for their elementary schools. The science leaders will return to their schools and, if their principals approve, will promote the Junior Detective Program to their students.
Finally, these Brief but Important Items . . .
- Our 2013 blog series, “Five Hundred Years of Florida Flora Firsts,” featured a history of the sugar industry in the state. Spanish colonial governor Menendez introduced sugarcane into Florida in 1565.
- Visit the “Don’t Pack a Pest Travelers Program booth at the Miami International Boat Show, which opened this week.
- A billboard promoting the “Don’t Pack a Pest” program faces northbound lanes of I-75 near Ocala. Look for others around the state, reminding international travelers to declare agricultural items in luggage. The program has also placed signs at major international airports in the U.S. and Jamaica and videos on American Airlines flights.