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.
November 20, 2015
Planning holiday travel? Manage your risks.
First of all, Commissioner Putnam is reminding motorists of the continuing danger from skimmers at gas pumps. Skimmers are illegal devices placed in gas pumps by criminals bent on stealing customers’ card information and
pin numbers. The number of consumers victimized by each skimmer varies between 100 and 5,000, with an average of $1,000 stolen from each victim. Best bet is to pay inside — especially if you are using a credit or debit card – or pay with cash. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services continues to inspect pumps across the state as part of its mission to protect consumers. It is the state’s clearinghouse for consumer complaints, protection and information. Consumers who believe fraud has taken place can call the consumer protection and information hotline at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352). Click here to learn more about the resources available from FDACS.
Don’t Pack a Pest
Our “Don’t Pack a Pest” program continually reminds travelers to declare agricultural items in luggage when they travel internationally. It’s easy to do your part to exclude invasive pests and diseases: As you pack, check www.dontpackapest.com on your laptop or mobile device to learn what you can pack. And also remember, in Florida and elsewhere, Don’t Move Firewood! Buy it where you use it to avoid moving invasive pests and diseases.
Just five bucks a head buys your Thanksgiving feast
As you plan your feast, remember State Chef Justin Timineri has posted a wealth of Fresh From Florida recipes at www.FreshFromFlorida.com.
And what is the family feast going to cost? Americans can put a traditional Thanksgiving meal for 10 on the table for about $50, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 30th annual price survey. Farm Bureau says this year’s tab for a home-cooked feast for ten is up 70 cents from last year’s average. John Anderson, an economist for AFBF, said turkeys are selling for about $1.44 per pound, up about 9 cents. “Turkey production is down this year but not dramatically. Our survey shows a modest increase in turkey prices compared to last year. But we’re now starting to see retailers feature turkeys aggressively for the holiday,” he said. (Here in Florida, we are noticing some grocery chains are offering whole turkeys for as little as $5 with purchases of other items.)
Info-bites we came across and shared this week:
- How old is beekeeping? Bee Culture magazine says British researchers have found evidence of farmers in what is now Turkey using beeswax as far back as 7000 BC. “Now we know that beeswax was used continuously from the seventh millennium BCE, probably as an integral part in different tools, in rituals, cosmetics, medicine, as a fuel or to make receptacles waterproof,” said researcher Alfonso Alday. Read the full article here.
- The folks at “Save Our Citrus” have invited us to join their awareness campaign, so we’ve been posting some reasons we are thankful for citrus. With the beginning of the citrus harvest season, you’re invited to use the hash tag #thankful4citrus to share your videos/photos/posts.
Have a safe and happy holiday, everyone.
August 21, 2015
Keeping abreast of social media at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry
Keeping it simple
Lest we forget: It’s good to stress basics. We drew “likes” when we posted a link to the DPI section of the FreshFromFlorida website this week, inviting folks to learn about our mission and the invasive pests that threaten Florida agriculture.
Our friends at the Florida Farm Bureau Federation posted a promotional poster touting Florida avocados, so naturally we shared it and reminded folks of our “Save the Guac” campaign. The public can help save the guac by not moving firewood when traveling or camping. Invasive pests move with firewood. We are smack in the middle of Florida avocado season and highly recommend the fruits, which are greener, larger — and, we think, tastier — than those produced elsewhere. The FDACS website has an abundance of recipes using Florida avocados.
Slate gave a shoutout to “Don’t Pack a Pest”
The online publication Slate published a nice piece this week answering the question, “On the U.S. Customs Form, Most People Check ‘No.’ What Happens if you check ‘Yes’?” The answer is usually that Customs and Border Protection agents will ask you some questions, perhaps inspect your luggage and seize materials that cannot be brought into the U.S. We reminded our followers that travelers can discover what is and is not allowed in baggage entering the US at www.DontPackaPest.com and BTW, This video explains what #DontPackaPest is about: Protecting agriculture from pests.
GALS go to Dadeland Mall
Miami area residents shopping for back-to-school items at the Dadeland Mall were greeted with signs reminding them that we’re still working to eradicate the giant African land snails from South Florida. We’re encouraging mall-goers to scan the QR codes on the signs to learn about these dangerous invasive pests that threaten crops, landscapes, human and animal health and even buildings. The GALS program is moving into its fifth year, having begun when the snails were discovered in Miami-Dade in August 2011.
Scientists make progress on greening
A front-page article in the Thursday edition of the Gainesville Sun discusses some of the research aimed at finding new citrus rootstocks that at least show tolerance for, if not immunity to, citrus greening. The Florida Citrus Rootstock Selection Guide is now online in a format that lets visitors interact with the guide.
Greening major issue for discussion at Citrus Expo
Citrus Greening and new rootstocks were hot topics this week at Citrus Expo at the Lee Civic Center in North Fort Myers. Josh Magill filled us in with a report from Southeast AgNet. Since it first appeared in Homestead and Florida City crops a decade ago, citrus greening has cost growers in the juice business $7.8 billion since 2006, according to a 2015 report by UF economist Alan Hodges.
August 7, 2015
A quick summary of the week’s social media activities by the FDACS Division of Plant Industry
Get the bad stuff out of your shed
This week, we remind agricultural producers and others that Florida has an on-going program to help commercial operations safely dispose of cancelled, suspended and unusable pesticides. Operation Cleansweep provides a mobile pesticide collection program that picks up and disposes of such chemicals from farms, groves, greenhouses and nurseries, golf courses and pest control services. For more information, contact Shannon Turner, FDACS, 1-877-851-5285, email: Cleansweep@FreshFromFlorida.com
Get acquainted with our corps of canine inspectors
The department is brightening the dog days of summer by spotlighting our five DPI detector dogs. All of them are rescues, and their mission is to protect Florida’s $120 billion agriculture industry. Learn how these dogs’ keen noses, special training and dedication to detecting pests keep invasives from endangering our crops and landscapes. There’s an excellent video included. http://bit.ly/1EdnSlE
USDA: Rural land value is up in Florida
Value of cropland in Florida increased 0.9 percent ($60/acre) in 2015 over 2014, according to a USDA survey in a report that pegs the average value of cropland per acre at $6,560. The United States farm real estate value, a measurement of the value of all land and buildings on farms, averaged $3,020 per acre for 2015, up 2.4 percent from 2014 values. The 2015 summary of land values contains a series of tables summarizing the date by region and state.
Commissioner Adam Punam’s Consumer Tip for August: Protect your children from identity theft
By the end of August most chidlren will be back in school. Commissioner Putnam reminds everyone that each year more than 50,000 children in Florida become victims of identity theft. Thieves target kids because they usually have clean credit histories and years will pass before the thefts are detected.
Ag research is a great investment
What is the value of publicly funded agricultural research? We re-tweeted a link to a guest commentary by UF-IFAS Vice President Jack Payne that cites a 20-to-1 return on investment from such research.
“Respected academics estimate a 20-to-1 return on investment in publicly funded agricultural research,” Payne observes in a Naples Daily News op ed hailing expansion of a lab at the UF-IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee. That is part, he said, of a statewide strengthening of IFAS. #AgResearch!
(Incidentially, we recently began following Dr. Payne on Twitter, drawing this shout-out from him to our director, Dr. Trevor Smith: “Thanks for the follow, neighbor. Glad to see a Gator appointed head of the division in May.”)
Keep in mind our initiatives to protect Florida agriculture:
- Back-to-school shopping may mean Miami residents will visit the Dadeland Mall, and when they do they will come face-to-face with the giant African land snail on six-foot-tall display signs. It’s part of our continuing efforts to focus attention on the invasive snail, which our dedicated teams have been working to eradicate for the past four years. Watch for it! Report it! If you see a suspect, call the Helpline, 1-888-397-1517.
- Planning to travel internationally? Check www.DontPackaPest.com to make sure you are not packing illegal materials in your luggage.
- Enjoy Florida avocados, but if you camp, don’t move firewood. Moving firewood can also transport invasive pests that threaten agriculture, including Florida avocados, as well as the environment and public health. Learn more at www.savetheguac.com
July 17, 2015
Enlightening friends and followers worldwide with blogs, tweets and posts from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry
Save the Guac!
A University of Florida report caused us to emphasize our Save the Guac campaign when it predicted increasing prices for Florida avocados this season. The increase is expected to be short-term. It is the result of the laurel wilt pathogen spread by the invasive redbay ambrosia beetle is killing trees and threatening Florida’s $100 million avocado industry. Florida produces about 12 percent of U.S. avocados, mainly in Miami-Dade County.
Learn how the public feels about endangered and invasive species
Take an hour next week to learn about public perceptions and attitudes about endangered and invasive species at a free University of Florida PIE Center webinar next Tuesday, July 21, at 2 P.M. Registration is easy as PIE!
The Austin Cary Forest was the site of the 2015 Florida Bee research symposium this week. Those who are interested but were unable to attend can gain insight into the proceedings by downloading the Preliminary Abstract Book.
Speaking of bees . . .
We found this story interesting. The Canadian Broadcasting System is doing its bit to help fight a decline in the world bee population by placing hives on the roofs of its broadcast centers in Montreal and Toronto. It’s expected the 20,000 honey bees in each hive will multiply to 50,000 by the end of the summer.
July 15 was Military Consumer Protection Day and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam reminded us all that more than 1.5 million veterans and more than 65,000 active duty military personnel call Florida home. He offered tips and tools that will help current and former members of the military protect themselves against scams and can actually benefit everyone. In June 2015, the department recovered $250,000 for Florida’s consumers, bringing the total for Fiscal Year 2014/2015 to $5,127,943. Learn more here.
Have fun but heed this BOLO
We wish everyone a great Florida weekend. Have fun, but heed our blog entry and keep your eyes peeled for Giant African Land Snails. Remember, they get more active during the summer. And if you’re traveling internationally, remember: Don’t Pack a Pest!
June 26, 2015
On the alert for invasive fruit flies
At Tuesday’s department-wide AgScience Café event, Dr. Tyson Emery, Bureau Chief, Plant and Apiary Inspection, explained how the Division of Plant Industry’s fruit fly detection program monitors constantly for invasive flies. He invited FDACS colleagues to view this department video. He also offered some history of the program, so we pegged Throwback Thursday to his presentation, offering our followers a review of the first major Mediterranean fruit fly outbreak, a major threat to the Florida citrus industry, in 1929.
A sneeze with eyes?
We linked to a Washington Post article noting the presence in Florida of one of the world’s worst invasives, the New Guinea flatworm. (The writer said it “basically looks like a sneeze with eyes.” Do you agree?) Anyhow, while the flatworm poses no direct danger to humans, it consumes native snails wherever it lands. Bryan Benson, Environmental Supervisor at DPI, noted in a post that a scientist with the FDACS’s giant African land snail program found it in Florida in 2012. The worm has also shown up in France — causing some alarm in culinary circles there, as you might imagine.
Don’t Pack a Pest team at MIA
Our team of videographers was at Miami International Airport this week capturing new video of agricultural detector dogs in action. The resulting video will further promote Don’t Pack a Pest, an international program administered by FDACS that educates international travelers about the dangers of transporting invasives in agricultural items in luggage. More on that at www.dontpackapest.com
The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported some delicious news we can all use: Watermelons are at season peak this week. Enjoy! Also coming to market are Florida avocados, so make sure there’s some guac in your future. One way you can do that is to avoid moving firewood when you travel or camp. Save the Guac.
Congratulations, Mr. Story
A leader in Florida’s citrus industry, Victor B. Story, Jr., has been named 2015 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Florida Farmer of the Year. Story is President and Chairman of the Board of The Story Companies, past president of Polk County Farm Bureau and Florida Citrus Mutual, and previous vice chair of the Florida Citrus Commission. Story has received numerous previous recognitions for his many agriculture industry and civic contributions. Story will now compete against nine other state winners for the 2015 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year title, which will be awarded in October during the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Ga. More here.
June 19, 2015
Today, let’s think about pollinators. We depend on them for our food and fiber. And they need our help.
It’s National Pollinator Week
Our Apiary chief, David Westervelt, happened to mention to us that, on Monday, 25 new beekeepers had registered with the division. That’s one more sign that Florida’s apiary industry is flourishing, as we explained in a recent blog post. It was also a great factoid to kick off National Pollinator Week.
Our social media team embraced National Pollinator Week and invited our friends and followers to do so as well. We found a telling quote from a USDA official that answers the question, “What can we all do to support the pollinators we depend on for our food?”
“It’s so easy to help pollinators, and we need to act now,” said AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo. “Even a small garden, like a window box filled with native plants that bloom during the spring, summer, and fall, will make a difference for bees and other pollinators.”
More information about how to “Plant a Window Box for Pollinators,” as well as other resources, including pollinator-friendly garden blogs and videos, is available at www.usda.gov/peoplesgarden.
One of our Facebook friends was a understandably put out when she posted: “I really wish all these “professional” organizations working on “saving the bees” would stop putting pictures of flies on the front cover. geez, a little fact-checking please.” You can bet we’re going to look at our art at least twice when we blog about bees in the future!
You can do a lot with a Florida avocado
We explained in a blog post hailing the opening of avocado season in the Sunshine State.
We couldn’t resist including some recipes from Chef Justin and pointing to one of our videos that explains the challenges to the industry posed by the laurel wilt disease and the redbay ambrosia beetle that transports the disease. Here’s a link to the videos and an explanation of the Safe the Guac Campaign.
Entomology and Nematology News is on-line
Colleagues at UF-IFAS published Entomology and Nematology News this week and we passed the link along.
Bee Research Symposium set for July
We’re reminding everyone about the first Annual Florida Bee Research Symposium set for July 15-16 at Austin Cary Memorial Forest north of Gainesville. Bee researchers from across the state and region will discuss important industry topics, and the event is open to obeservers. All of the information you need to know about registering for and attending the event can be found here.
And don’t forget the South Florida Bee College
Beekeepers: Put it on your calendar! South Florida Bee College Aug. 14-5 at UF Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab, Ft. Lauderdale. Click here for details.