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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.

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!

DPI Diary

March 1, 2016

Safe Travels

PrintCapture out some Don’t Pack a Pest coloring books and learn while you color. Learning with Linus is a fun and informative way to teach your little ones about the importance of packing. If you’re planning on traveling this summer take some time to look at what you should not bring back from your vacation destination.

Some Plants Like it Dry

Record heat and above-normal rainfall have played havoc with fruit and vegetable farming in Florida, making tighter supplies and higher prices likely for at least the next couple of months, agriculture experts say.

South Florida was hit the worst with eight inches of rain in four days causing a decline in: cucumbers, endive, escarole, radishes, squash, grape and roma tomatoes.

“When plants get too much water, it crowds out the oxygen in the soil and the roots cannot breathe,” said Paul Orsenigo. Paul grows corn, green beans and leafy vegetables on his farm, Growers Management, in Palm Beach County.

Turning Research into Wine

Florida A&M University Center for Viticulture and Small Fruit Research has been around since 1978. They are currently working on a long-term project focused on the many variations of the muscadine grape through traditional breeding, biotechnology and in-vitro selection. The college creates jellies, jams, spreads, wine and toppings for ice cream in its quest for knowledge.

“Our research in muscadine grapes is very important because it places us at FAMU as one of the world’s leaders in developing new muscadine varieties for both eating as well as wine making. Grapes are one of the most nutritious fruits in the world, loaded with nutraceuticals and phytochemicals which can fight cancer, high blood pressure, [and] improve health of the heart,” said Robert Taylor dean of the College of Agricultural and Food Sciences.

Bee CollegeCapture

Zarchary Huang of Michigan State University and Kim Flottum of Bee Culture Magazine along with DPI’s very own apiary department will be speaking at the Bee College, an upcoming event in St. Augustine in early March. The event is open to all enthusiasts, beekeepers, gardeners, and naturalists. If you are interested in the event please pre-register, walk-ins will incur an additional fee. To see a full list of classes and find out how to register, please visit their website.

Summer Camp

UF’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is conducting a new summer program “to immerse student to issues and disciplines in agriculture and life sciences and how it relates to the community, Florida and globally,” said Charlotte Emerson, the director of student development and recruitment for the college.

The program will be held July 10 to July 15, it will take up to 25 students and cost $350 Florida residents will be given preference. The program will include a banquet for all students and two guest lecturers: Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, and Elaine Turner, the dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Giant African Land Snails

A reminder for the residents of Miami-Dade and Broward counties: please be on the lookout for giant African land snails. These invasive snails, of which more than 160,000 have been collected since 2011, are known for causing massive amounts of damage to plants and buildings, as well as carrying a parasite that can infect humans and animals. Visit FreshFromFlorida.com to see images of the invasive snail, and if you think you have seen a giant African land snail call our helpline:

Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. gals_web

1-888-397-1517

(352) 395-4600 (Outside North America)

Or email us at: DPIHelpline@FreshFromFlorida.com

What’s in season now?

During the month of March you can buy these Fresh From Florida crops: bell pepper, broccoli, cabbage, carambola, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, grapefruit, guava, lettuce, mushroom, orange, papaya, peanut, potato, radish, snap bean, squash, strawberry, sweet corn, tangerine, and tomato.

If you’re interested in the freshest crops check out the Florida Fresh app. This new app shows you what to plant in your area and what crops are in season! Check it out now on your Android or IOS device.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

DPI Diary

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.

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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.

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Highly trained and friendly: Detector dog Verde and her handler, Ives Lopez, left, and Omar Garcia and Sierra, right, flank admirers at the Taste of Florida reception in Tallahassee.

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.

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Giant African land snails are one of the worst invasive alien species. Learn about Florida’s successful program to eradicate this dangerous pest.

 

These numbers demonstrate progress toward eradication of Giant African Land Snail from Florida

Giant African land snails (GALS) were found in Miami-Dade County neighborhoods in September 2011 and in neighboring Broward County in September 2014. As eradication efforts continue, officials say a significant decline in the snail population shows the program is succeeding.

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The snails can grow to be eight inches long and attack more than 500 plant species. The snail can also damage structures by consuming stucco to obtain calcium to build its shell and are known to carry a strain of meningitis to which humans and animals are susceptible. Surveys continue statewide. But to date the snail has not been found anywhere else in Florida. Learn more about the program here. The eradication program is a joint effort by FDACS and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Below are key numbers, as of January 30, 2015, related to the snail eradication program.

9/8/11: Date the giant African land snail was discovered in Miami

500+: Number of agricultural crops known to be consumed by the snail

8” x 4”: Maximum size attained by individuals of the species

Nine: Maximum years in the life span of individuals

1,200: Number of eggs an adult can lay in one year

159,387+: Number of GALS found between September 2011 and November 20, 2015

29: Number of core areas where the snail has been found

666: Number of properties on which snails have been found

61,882: Number of properties within a one-half-mile arc of positive properties

Nine +: Number of years it took to eradicate the snail after it was found in Florida in 1966

17,000: Total number of snails collected in the 1966-1975 eradication program

$1 million: Cost of that eradication (in 1960s dollars)

One: Number of successful GALS eradication programs on record

2012: Year in which FDACS scientists confirmed the rat lungworm in snails captured in Miami

95: Percentage of cases identified due to calls from the public to the Helpline

1-888-397-1517: Number to call to report a suspect snail to the FDACS toll-free Helpline.

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DPI Diary

August 28, 2015

Sometimes we think of DPI Diary as a tasty fruit salad of information that’s just too juicy to pass up. (And sometimes we pass along recipes for actual salad.)

Think before you bring ag products into Florida

Specific rules and regulations apply to importing agricultural products into Florida. Commercial shippers and travelers have to follow them, so we posted a summary of the state and federal rules here. Travelers can get help from www.dontpackapest.com

Who will be Florida’s next Great Student Chef?

Cookoff_banner1_bannerTheFlorida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has kicked off its popular “Student Chef Cook-Off.” Students in 4th through 12th grade can submit snack recipes featuring Florida-grown products for a chance to compete in the regional and state cook-off. The deadline to enter is Sunday, Sept. 13. For more rules and to submit an entry, visit FreshFromFlorida.com/Cookoff.

Mall signs remind shoppers to watch for GALS

This month we have had signs posted at the #Dadeland Mall reminding back-to-school shoppers to watch for & report giant African land snails. For four years our teams have been on a continuous seek and-destroy mission against the invasive pests. Look for Them! Report Them!  Call our Helpline, 1-888-397-1517.

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Master Gardeners serve their communities

Master Gardener Cindy Paulhus of Seffner was recognized in the Tampa Tribune this week for her work at Seeds of Faith Community Garden at Bay Life Church in Brandon. Garden organizers offer garden plots for rent to the general public for $35 a year, during the growing season.

A teachable moment

We linked to a blog post pointing out that this would be a good week for parents to explain to kids how farms play a key role in producing most of those back-to-school clothes and supplies, a landscape architect very correctly tweeted: “Let’s not forget the lesson about farm plants that need pollinators that need wildflowers as much as Sunshine n rain.” Point well taken.

ButterflyLadyIn another post we noted the important role native bees, butterflies, moths and other insects and animals play in pollination. We pointed to Native Buzz, a University of Florida citizen science project aimed at learning more about nesting preferences, diversity and distribution of native bees and wasps. Some kind folks are providing homes for such creatures. Fascinating.

Erika approaches; Florida is in the cone of uncertainty

Craig Fugate, head of FEMA and former head of Florida’s emergency preparedness programs, tweeted “It’s Hurricane Season, #Erika may head your way Florida, Got A Plan? This link will take you to a useful set of templates to guide you through the process: http://flgetaplan.com 

Here is a helpful link to the National Hurricane Center.

We also passed along a poster from UF IFAS Solultions that links to tips for disaster prep and planning.

Is agriculture really important?

You bet! Witness this factoid posted by Agribusiness at FAMU: “Agriculture is an essential sector of the U.S. economy. It is the nation’s largest employer, generating more than 23 million jobs, with 17 percent of the civilian workforce involved in some facet of American agriculture.”

Throwback Thursday

This week we harkened back to the days — not so long ago — when Lake County led the state in citrus production. The Citrus Tower at Clermont, one of Florida’s oldest tourist attractions, is still in place. Its namesake crop is not. The tower opened in 1956. You can still ascend to the top, but the view no longer includes citrus trees spreading to the horizon.

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Dr. Temple Grandin to speak at UF

Our colleagues at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine reminded us that on Sept. 24, renowned farm animal behaviorist and autism advocate Dr. Temple Grandin will be speaking at 7 p.m. at  the UF Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on “Helping Different Kinds of Minds Be Successful.” Free and open to the public.

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