During summer and fall, a lot of us spend hours trekking through forested areas and pasture lands, either for work, if we are lucky, or by simply enjoying the great outdoors. Unfortunately, there are not-so-nice life forms that also enjoy this time of year, like poisonous plants. There is a long, long list of enemies when discussing poisonous plants. However, there are a few more common, native plants, like poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac and poisonwood that we should be fully aware of in our surroundings, along with their friendly mistaken counterparts. This article will help to distinguish poison ivy from Virginia creeper.
Figure 1: Poison Ivy on Left / Virginia Creeper on Right in Fall Colors. Credit: Sydney Park Brown, UF/IFAS.
Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) grows in just about any location imaginable. Poison Ivy is probably the most common and most irritating (mentally & physically) poisonous plant one will come in contact with. This is a woody shrub that can reach 6 feet in height or grows like a vine up to 150 feet tall on trees. As a vine, it is often found on fences and trees. The leaf forms three leaflets, which can be 2-6 inches in length and may have smooth edges or can be toothed. Leaves are shiny with a tint of red most of the year. Leaves will turn purple before dropping in the fall. Remember the old saying when it comes to identifying poison ivy, “leaflets three, let it be.”
Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is commonly mistaken for poison ivy. It is a climbing vine as well with similar growth patterns. However, there are some distinguishing traits, as Virginia Creeper has five leaflets, instead of three. Virginia Creeper also has blue-black berries along with tiny, sticky segments that are used to attach to surfaces. During the fall, Virginia Creeper leaves turn red before dropping.
There are some important precautions about poison ivy that we should remember when out and about. Warmer months correspond with the increased sapping stage of poisons plants, which means the allergic reaction from contact is both more likely, and possibly more severe. The four native poisonous plants mentioned earlier all contain urushiol. This is a plant oil that causes a severe skin rash when contact is made. People have different sensitivity levels to exposure. Symptoms appear within a couple of days and the itching and burning of the skin can last weeks. Over the counter products with the active ingredient dient bentoquatam can help prevent or reduce the reaction. This product must be applied before contact is made. If exposed, as soon as possible clean area with warm, soapy water and rinse with cool water. Contaminated clothing should be washed separately from other laundry. Severe reactions may need professional medical treatment.
Poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and poisonwood. Credit: Cook (2012); Larry Korhnak, UF/IFAS
Contact your local county extension office for more information on poisonous plants in your area. Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publications: “Identification of Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac and Posionwood,” by Sydney Park Brown.
A UF beekeeper inspecting a hive removed from a bee box at the UF Bee Research Unit. Credit: Camila Guillen, UF/IFAS.
With Tupelo season approaching in the next couple of months, February and March is a great time for closer observation and management of honey bee hives. For overall management during late winter – early spring, it’s important to continue feeding colonies, especially if the colony is light or weak. Strong colonies tend to expand during this time, however, so it may soon be time to make nucs/splits and add supers. It’s also a good idea to repair, or paint any equipment needed for the upcoming honey production months.
On the disease front, one specific condition to keep an eye on is nosema. This can cause problems for us in North Florida during winter, especially late winter. Worldwide, nosema is the most significant disease to affect bees. The biology of nosema can be described as a single celled fungus. The fungus actually lives in the gut of the bee. Nosema can spread quickly by bee to bee activities such as feeding and cleaning. There are two species of Nosema: apis & ceranae. The species are very difficult to differentiate.
Three symptoms can help diagnose the disease. It’s important to note that this time of year is when the symptoms will be most pronounced. One symptom is when bees are wandering on the ground in front of the hive. But, this is not a true indicator. There are other diseases that cause this behavior. K-wing is also a sign. This is when the forewing and hindwing become detached and form a “K.” Again, not a definitive indicator, as other diseases can also cause this behavior. However, a unique symptom is fecal staining, most notably on bee boxes. This happens when bees are leaving the hive after being confined to the bee box for a long period due to unfavorable weather. The bees simply expel fecal material upon exiting the box.
Controlling nosema is a challenge to say the least. The use of Fumigillin-B is the best course of action. This can be applied to colonies by mixing it with sugar water as feed. However, treating species apis is much easier than treating species ceranae. Colonies may need four gallons of the treatment, if Nosema ceranae is the culprit. Lab results would be needed to conclude which species is present.
American foulbrood (AFB) and European foulbrood (EFB) are other diseases that can strike a hive. Colonies can be treated with Terramycin or Tylan for AFB prevention or Lincomix or Terramycin for EFB prevention. These products do require a prescription or veterinary feed directive (VFD) from a licensed veterinarian.
So, what’s blooming now you may ask? For the Panhandle, blueberry, cherry, orange, red maple, plum, Spanish needle, titi, clover, and willow are just some of the potential options for your bees.
The information provided in this article will help you manage your bees through the remainder of the winter season. For more information on beekeeping, please contact your local county extension office.
[important]Don’t forget to sign up for the Panhandle Bee College, Friday & Saturday March 23-24! For Registration, Agenda, and lodging Information, click this Link:
Supporting information for this article can be found at, “February Beekeeping Management Calendar” by Mary Bammer, Extension Coordinator, Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab, and the UF/IFAS Entomology Department’s Nosema Webinar by Dr. James D. Ellis.
Figure 1. Ambrosia Beetle Damage. Credit: Ray Bodrey, UF/IFAS Gulf County Extension.
Questions come into the Extension Office from time to time about why sawdust is accumulating around remaining trees on recently cleared or developed tracks of forested land. The sawdust is more than likely a sign that ambrosia beetles are on the offensive.
The ambrosia beetle, Platypus spp., is a member of a large family of species known as Platypodidae. Most species are found in the tropics, with very few species found in Florida. This beetle is a type of boring insect, which are attracted to recently killed trees with high moisture content. Adult males initiate the boring into the tree and develop galleries, which are tunnel like mazes just under the bark layer. Males are joined by a single female during this event. Pheromones are released at this point, signaling more ambrosia beetles to descend into the area, which in turn causes simultaneous attacks on trees. Mated pairs tunnel throughout the sapwood, but rarely into the heartwood. The tunnels are where larvae are produced. Adults eventually emerge from the original entry hole.
Due to the ambrosia beetle’s natural attraction to freshly cut dead wood, the beetle can be a pest to the lumber industry, causing economic damage. It is also an issue when thinning trees for housing developments. Equipment scrapes on tree trunks can lead to a slow demise and in turn attract ambrosia beetles, which accelerates the demise. This can lead to quick, unwanted tree death in real estate landscapes. The beetle is a common culprit of tree death, simply because of the number of beetles typically found in dead or dying trees. However, it is very rare for the ambrosia beetle to attack healthy trees. Even if ambrosia beetle damage on a healthy tree has been documented, it is quite likely that the tree was already under duress. Excess water is often the underlying natural issue.
Typically, there is no active management protocol, as the beetle attacks dying or dead trees. However, land clearing is a typical cause of why ambrosia beetles thrive in some areas. Trees can be accidentally damaged by equipment during this process. Equipment scrapes and trenching activities that damage the root systems are just some examples.
For more information please contact your local county extension office.
More information on this topic can be found in the following the UF/IFAS publications:
A recent increase in the spread of cogongrass has landowners scrambling to find ways to stop this invasive plant. There are ways to combat cogongrass, with positive identification and persistent treatment being paramount.
Figure 1: From left to right, Cogongrass Infestation, Uneven Mid-Rib, and “Toothpick” Root. Credit: Ray Bodrey, UF/IFAS Gulf County Extension
Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) is found all over the world. In the U.S, it is primarily found in the southeast. Cogongrass was purposely introduced as a soil stabilizer for pasture lands in Florida during the 1930’s and 1940’s. It wasn’t long before ranchers and agricultural scientists realized that cogongrass was an invasive species. Once established, cogongrass has the ability to overrun a pasture to the point that it will become the dominant plant species. It’s a perennial grass with a vast, ever expanding root system. This grass can grow in any soil type and is drought tolerant. Therefore, it thrives no matter how poor the soil environment. The major concern with cogongrass is its ability to alter and eliminate native plant habitat.
Cogongrass can be confused with other grasses, like switchgrass. This is especially possible early in the year before the bloom. To identify cogongrass, first investigate the growing pattern. Cogongrass usually infiltrates an area in patches. As shown in figure 1, the grass blades are flat and have a defining white mid-rib. Blade edges are finely serrated, yellow to green in color and are uneven in width on each side of the mid-rib. The root system has a distinct “toothpick” root shoot that points upwards. As shown in figure 2, the seed head is fluffy, white, and feather shaped. The seed head can alarmingly yield 3,000 seeds per head.
Figure 2: Cogongrass Spreading / Seed heads. Credit: Mark Mauldin, UF/IFAS, Washington County.
The pest management strategy that has been most successful for cogongrass eradication consists of multiple types of herbicides sprayed over multiple year applications, with follow-up spot treatments. Prescribe burning can also be used in concert as an integrated approach. The following table provides treatment recommendations for cogongrass in grazing lands.
Please note the following precautions, however, when using Imazapyr (Arsenal/Stalker):
- Imazapyr will severely injure or kill non-target species such as Bermudagrass, Bahiagrass and hard wood trees.
- It has a long soil half-life and will remain in the soil months after application.
- Because of its soil persistence, Imazapyr can also move down slope during rainfall events, killing or injuring other non-target plants.
- Oaks and other hardwood trees are especially sensitive to Imazapyr.
- Imazapyr can only be used as a “spot-treatment” with no more than 10% of the pasture area treated per year.
The total expense for control efforts can be daunting to the landowner. Fortunately, the Florida Forest Service will soon be implementing a Cogongrass Treatment Cost-Share Program. This program will be administered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida Forest Service, which is funded through a USDA Forest Service grant. The program offers up to a 50% reimbursement towards the cost of approved herbicide treatments on non-industrial private land over a 2-year period. The Florida Forest Service will soon be accepting applications. For more information, please contact your County Forester, or contact your local county extension office.
Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publication:
Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) Biology, Ecology, and Management in Florida Grazing Lands by B. A. Sellers, J. A. Ferrell, G. E. MacDonald, K. A. Langeland, and S. L. Flory
January and February are pivotal months for area beekeepers. Although our warm climate is great for beekeeping, there are a few things to keep in mind while managing bee colonies this time of year.
For general management, it’s important to feed colonies in January and February, especially if the colony seems light. It’s also a good idea to repair or paint any equipment needed for the upcoming honey production months. During January, sand pine, maple, and willow are the typical blooming plants for North Florida. For February, blooming plants include plum, cherry, viburnum, sweet clover, blueberry, haw, fetterbush, oak, and swamp titi.
One specific topic to keep an eye on is a disease known as “Nosema.” This can cause problems for bees in North Florida during winter, especially late winter. Worldwide, Nosema is the most significant disease affecting bees. The biology of Nosema can be described as a single celled fungus. The fungus actually lives in the gut of the bee. Nosema can spread quickly by bee to bee activities such as feeding and cleaning. There are two species of Nosema: apis & ceranae, and the species are very difficult to differentiate.
Figure 1: K-wing condition. Credit: UF/IFAS Entomology Department.
So, how do you know if this condition exists in your colonies?
Three symptoms can help detect the disease. It’s important to note that this time of year is when the symptoms will be most pronounced. One symptom is when bees are wandering on the ground in front of the hive, but there are other diseases that cause this behavior as well. K-wing can also be a sign. This is when the forewing and hindwing become detached and form a “K” (Figure 1.). Again, this is not a definitive indicator, as other diseases can cause this condition as well. However, a symptom unique to Nosema is fecal staining, most notably on bee boxes. This happens when bees are leaving the hive after being confined to the bee box for a long period, due to the season’s unfavorable weather. The bees simply expel fecal material upon exiting the box.
Controlling Nosema, is a challenge to say the least. The use of Fumigillin-B is the best course of action. This can be applied to colonies by mixing in with sugar water as feed. However, treating the Nosema species apis is much easier than treating species ceranae. Colonies may need four gallons of the treatment if Nosema ceranae is the culprit. Lab results would be needed to conclude which species is present in your colonies.
The information provided in this article will help you manage your bees through the remainder of the winter season. Remember to feed your bees, catch-up on equipment repair, and look out for signs of Nosema over the next couple of months. February is a great time to pollinate citrus and blueberries as well. If you suspect Nosema, or for more information on beekeeping, please contact your local county extension office.
Supporting information for this article can be found at the UF/IFAS EDIS Publication, “Florida Beekeeping Management Calendar” by Dr. James D. Ellis & Dr. C.M. Zettel Nalen, and the UF/IFAS Entomology Department’s Nosema Video by Dr. James D. Ellis.