Save the Pollinators

March 28, 2017

Ideas of how to make pollinators feel more at home, near your home.

Cheerios may be in the spotlight now for its #BringBacktheBees program which is mailing seed packets across the nation to homeowners who are interested in preserving native pollinators. The problem is the website does not list the scientific names of the specific wildflower seeds, generalized names such a “poppy” or “wildflower” raises red flags for nature enthusiasts who are aware of the threat some species may bring.

While we can’t say for sure if these seeds are a threat to Florida, we have some alternative methods to ensuring Florida pollinators hang around.

  1. Plant your own wildflowers


    If you like the idea of having wildflowers around, try planting some Florida natives. You can find these at your local nursery or even large box stores. Nurseries are inspected annually for pests and diseases. So buying through a nursery or store is recommended. Visit the Florida Wildflower Foundation which has an index of flowers and what they attract. By planting flowers, you get a beautiful view and the pollinators get a new playground.

  2. Create a nesting sitewood-325150_640

    Not all pollinators nest in the same way. Some dig underground, some call tree stumps or unpruned shrubs home. But it’s safe to say that most pollinators like undisturbed areas. Leave a patch of land in your yard undisturbed. It will keep your yard work to a minimum and do some good for our pollinators.

  3. Limit or avoid the use of pesticides


    Pesticides might rid you of your problematic pests; however, they may also rid you of your helpful pollinators. Consider limiting your use of pesticides to a bare minimum and encouraging native natural predators.

  4. Keep your flowers blooming


    Planting native wildflowers isn’t the only thing you can do. To ensure the prosperity of your insect friends, arrange your garden so you have something in bloom year round. Pollinators need to feed year round, not just in spring.

  5. Provide clean waterwater-187880_640

    Insects need water, too. By filling a shallow dish with water and adding a few half submerged stones, you’re giving insects a landing pad to get to the water.

  6. Build a bee condomason-bee-281185_640

    Some bees prefer solitude over colonies; thus, making a bee condo will attract a variety of pollinators, including the mason bees. They are solitary workers and can pollinate more effectively than honey bees. A bee condo can be made quickly and can be mounted on a post or the side of a building. Find the instructions here and make one of your own today.

  7. Get your own bee hivebees-1631206_640

    Backyard beekeeping is popular and legal in Florida. You must register your hive through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry, Bureau of Plant and Apiary Inspection; find out more information by attending meetings here or at your local bee club.

  8. Encourage otherstree-1574165_640

To quote Michael Jackson, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make the change.” Share your progress with your friends, show them the impact you’ve made and why they should take action, too. Tag us on Facebook @FDACSDPI or Twitter @FLPlantIndustry and show us what you’ve done.

Every little bit helps pollinator populations.

cabbageMilk and cookies, Valentine’s Day and flowers, peanut butter and jelly some things are just meant to be together. For St. Patrick’s Day it’s corned beef and cabbage, which has been an American tradition since the 1800s. But did you know that cabbage became popular as a result of a damaging agricultural fungus?

More than 150 years ago, Ireland was a large agricultural nation, many Irish people were tenant farmers and the potato, imported from South America, was a staple crop. In the mid 1800s potato plants started to show signs of a strange disease that caused potatoes to rot. This disease spread across Ireland, drastically reducing their potato production, causing mass starvation economic devastation, and what is known today as the Irish Potato Famine.

The culprit behind the famine was late blight or potato blight (Phytophthora infestans), a fungus-like airborne microbe not native to Ireland. The Irish Potato Famine is just one example of how invasive species can devastate the environment and agricultural systems in an area, consequently affecting the lives and livelihoods of people in that region.

With the devastation the potato famine had brought to Ireland, the Irish turned to cabbage as a primary source of sustenance. Many affected by the agricultural ruin fled the country for America, bringing with them an assortment of cabbage dishes. One popular dish is bacon and cabbage. Yes, I said bacon, and no I do not mean corned beef. Originally bacon was a primary source of protein for the Irish because of the high cost of beef. It was cheap, and readily available. Once in America the situation changed. Corn beef was the cheaper alternative and quickly became an Americanized version of cabbage and bacon.

In Florida, cabbage remains a wonderful affordable vegetable that is widely grown; ranking 3rd in the nation accounting for approximately 13% of U.S. cabbage production.  Cabbage can be readily found in season from November to June.

So while donning your greenest attire and feasting on your annual corned beef and Florida cabbage, you can education your family and friends about the wonderful history of cabbage and its abundant heritage in Florida.

Check out these great cabbage-inspired recipes:

Hearty Florida Cabbage Soup

Hearty Florida Cabbage Soup

Baked Cabbage Egg Rolls 

Bake Cabbage Egg Rolls

Shrimp Tacos with Cabbage

Shrimp Tacos with Cabbage

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


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

    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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Flies you Might Like

December 20, 2016


Phorid fly attacking red imported fire ant photo by Jeffery Lotz


Ouch- the red imported fire ant, we all know this tic-tac sized fierce biting nuisance. You probably stepped in a pile of these ants as a child or know someone who has, so you know how painful they can be. Unfortunately, this fire ant problem is not just in Florida. They have been found across the southeastern United States and even in Puerto Rico.  While these are troublesome pests to people, they are even more problematic for agriculture, natural environments, and wildlife including native ant species, deer, turtles, alligators, rodents, birds, and other ground nesting animals.

Help is on the way via a natural solution…

The red imported fire ant comes from South America where a group of tiny phorid flies are its natural enemies. These host-specific flies attack and parasitize the fire ant, resulting in its death.

The fly injects its egg into the midsection of the ant, the egg hatches and the larva (maggot) lives for two to three weeks within the ant, eventually traveling to the ant’s head where it releases an enzyme which causes the head to fall off. The phorid fly maggot ingests the contents of the head capsule and then utilizes it as a pupal case.


Pictured from left: Amy Croft, Shanna Swiers, Catherine White, Elise Schuchman, and George Schneider

Phorid flies have been reared at the Division of Plant Industry in partnership with the USDA since 2001 with the help of dedicated and skilled team members who attend to these flies daily. Since its start, there have been four species of phorid flies reared at DPI’s Gainesville location, each attacking different sized worker ants and active at different times.

Fire ants are collected in the field and brought back to the DPI Gainesville lab. Once in the lab, technicians place them in attack boxes which are specially designed to prompt movement of the ants allowing phorid flies to attack. Once the flies have been introduced to the attack boxes, the ants remain exposed for 48 hours allowing for maximum parasitization to take place.

Parasitized ants are distributed throughout the southeast to agricultural lands such as cattle farms and other natural areas which are then monitored for impact. While these flies are not available for distribution to the general public, the work being done helps to manage the imported fire ant numbers.


Pictured from left: Haley Lower, AJ Wilson, Liam Patrick, Daniel Ammann

Few other organizations research the phorid fly, which makes the work done at the Division of Plant Industry so important.

Between July and September alone, 349,614 phorid flies were reared at the Gainesville location, adding to the millions reared over the past 15 years.

It is the hope that releasing phorid flies will reduce the chemical control applications used on fire ants, thus reducing harmful impacts of these pesticides on humans, wildlife, and the environment.

Let the team know!

Share your thoughts in the comments and let us know what you think about the work DPI and the USDA are doing!






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.


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!

Little Apple of Death

October 24, 2016

Manchineel Tree Hippomane mancinella, or as the Spanish called it, “Manzanita de la muerte” (little apple of death) is a deceiving fruit-bearing tree that can even inflict harm to anyone standing beneath its branches.

This tree is quite irritating all the way around not a single piece of this tree is safe. Burning the wood could cause noxious smoke, touching the tree could cause allergic dermatitis, the milky sap could cause blindness if it comes in contact with the eye, and ingesting the fruit may cause death.  The toxins Hipponmain A and Hippomanin B were discovered to have varying levels of toxicity depending on its maturity.

Despite the maturity level of the tree, it can still cause serious damage. A survivor noted that the fruit tasted sweet before it started to make their throat swell shut. Luckily, they were treated quickly and survived the incident.

Historically, parts of the tree have been used for various defense mechanisms. Native Americans are reported to have placed leaves of the tree into springs to poison those who drank from it, as well as covering the tips of their arrows with the milky sap to make wounds even more deadly. This is what was reported to have killed Juan Ponce de Leon, the Spanish explorer who discovered Florida. When he tried to settle in the Charlotte Harbor, the Calusa attacked him and his men with the poison-covered arrows. The wounds he incurred in battle led to his death in 1521.


Photo by Mica

This deadly tree can be found in the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Mexico, Central, northern South America and most importantly Florida.

Don’t worry too much, while this was once an abundant tree in Florida it is currently only found in the Cape Sable region of the Everglades National Park.

While this tree’s impact is dangerous, it’s important to note that it can be fatal. If you come across this tree please proceed with caution. Avoid the area at all costs and do not consume the fruit.

If you are interested in knowing more about the Manchineel tree and other deadly plants in a safe environment, visit the Florida Museum of Natural History and explore “Wicked Plants” (a touring exhibit here until January 2017).



Dr. Paul Skelley took a moment to speak with us about a wonderful event that happened last week, the International Congress of Entomology 2016. Six thousand entomologists from around the world descended on Orlando, Florida an event that has only been held in the United States two other times since its founding in Brussels, Belgium in 1910.

This year’s ICE theme “Entomology Without Borders” emphasized the global impact of entomology and a multidisciplinary approach to exploring and expanding our scientific frontiers.

While many of our DPI staff presented at the ICE 2016 (see the full list of DPI employees who participated and their topics below), they also hosted a small group at DPI on Sept. 28.

Dr. Paul Skelley, a taxonomic Entomologist and the collection manager of the Florida State Collection of Arthropods, extended an invitation to entomologists to visit the world renowned museum in Gainesville, Florida. Many national and international taxonomists had the chance to view specimens in the state collection and to continue or start new research collaborations. “We know so many individuals from correspondence only. This was our first time face to face. It was an opportunity to have a collaboration party,” said Dr. Skelley. The International Congress of Entomology, much like the Olympics rotates every four years and the destinations are always different. Location have included Korea, Italy and even the Netherlands, so for the ICE to be so close brought “potential and opportunity are to our doorstep,” said Dr. Skelley.

When asked the importance of having these visitors come to DPI, Dr. Skelley stressed that the arthropod museum is “for these people and students to use as resources. These entomologists had the ability to come and hopefully identify some of the species in the museum. They may also borrow specimens for continued research in their field, and ultimately share materials from their studies building on the state resources for use by local workers. It is a win-win scenario.”

Paul has been communicating with some of these scientists for over 20 years, admitting that this ICE was like a family reunion.

Happy Entomological Reunion!

  • Soybean aphid (Aphis glycines) Genome Assembly Process and Status-Felipe N. Soto-Adames
  • 0305Biological control of the brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) using Euthyrhynchus floridanus (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae)- Julio Medal
  • 0043Surprising results and implications of the Florida psyllid testing project- Susan Halbert
  • 0417Impacts of novel insecticides to three opiine braconid parasitoids Fopius arisanus (Sonan), Diachasmimorpha longicaudata (Ashmead), and Psyttalia fletcheri (Silvestri) based on adult mortality under foliar cover spray application – Trevor Smith
  • 1130Expanding small fruit production in Florida: responding to an economic disaster with eyes wide open – Ian Stocks
  • 1559Genetic and behavioral differentiation between two closely related whitefly parasitoids – Antonio Francis and Eric Rohrig
  • 1835History of alien invasive arthropod detections in Florida – Michael Thomas and Paul Skelley
  • 1839Florida exotic whitefly invaders from the last decade- Ian Stocks
  • 1842Biocontrol in Florida using herbivores, parasitoids, and predators – Eric Rohrig
  • 2565Synergistic / additive interactions among components of food-based baits underlie female attraction in three invasive fruit fly species- Trevor Smith
  • 2659Surface active mites in the northern Chihuahuan Desert, USA – Cal Welbourn
  • 4067The Anastrepha Project: Morphological, molecular, and biological studies of adults and larvae – Gary Steck, Bruce Sutton, Erick Rodriguez, Pratibha Srivastava
  • 4544The genus Pharaxanotha (sensu lato), Erotylidae that pollinate cycads – Paul Skelley and Kyle Schnepp
  • D3410Biological control based strategies to manage privet whitefly, Aleurotrachelus trachoides, in Florida- Antonio Francis
  • D3653How many is too many? Risk assessment of giant African snail (Achatina fulica) – Shweta Sharma, Katrina Dickens, Amy Howe and Shannen Leahy
  • D3669Scents and sensibility: Florida’s eradication efforts and long-term plans for giant African snail (Achatina fulica) – Amy Howe



*Only DPI employees are listed. To see a full list of presenters please visit: http://ice2016orlando.org/scientific-program/xxv-ice-2016-official-program-book/

*Bolded names indicate first author,

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