The Apopka Weevil has Become Established in North Florida Citrus

The Apopka Weevil has Become Established in North Florida Citrus

Russ Mizell and Xavior Martini, UF/IFAS Entomologists, NFREC, Quincy

Citrus production in North Florida is expanding rapidly in response to the devastation of citrus in Central and South Florida due to citrus greening disease. Citrus acreage in southern Georgia is also increasing. Florida’s climate is situated in the temperate (North) and subtropical (Central and South Florida) regions. Thus, non-native pests from other similar habitats around the world can and frequently do become established in Florida. For example, some non-native pests of citrus that are well established in subtropical Florida include Diaprepes abbreviatus, better known as the “Apopka weevil,” the sugarcane rootstook borer, and the Sri Lanka weevil, Myllocerus undatus. Both of these weevils feed on citrus leaves as adults and their immature stages feed on the roots. Both species also feed on a wide range of other plant species damaging leaves and roots.

The annual low temperatures observed in North Florida the last few years have been higher, possibly due to climate change, and as a result have enabled some pests usually restricted to the subtropical areas of Florida to expand their ranges into the North Florida temperate zone. In addition, expansion of citrus culture with the corollary acceleration of plant movements across the state increase the risk of pest introduction from southern parts of Florida.

Via this article, we are alerting extension personnel, home gardeners, and more specifically citrus growers and nurserymen that D. abbreviatus has been detected for the first time recently in an established population in Jefferson County, FL. Diaprepes abbreviatus has several hundred known host plants including citrus, sugarcane, vegetables, fruits and many woody landscape plants. Sicklepod, Senna obtusifolia, and pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, appear to be favorite adult hosts in north Florida in August-September. The large black and white-striped and often orange colored adults (Fig. 1 – C and 1D) feed on fresh leaves where they place their white egg masses in pouches (Fig. 1 – A)  made from 2 leaves connected together. The larvae (Fig. 1- B) hatch and fall to the ground where they feed on plant roots often at depths of 1-2 feet or more. There are 2 generations per year in southern Florida, but the number and timing of those that will occur in north Florida remains unknown.  Adult weevils are easily detected, and often occur as mating pairs. They are not known to be great fliers; however, the larvae can be found in, and be spread around while infesting plant roots in containers.

Diaprepes abbreviatus more commonly called Apoka Weevil

Fig. 1: Diaprepes abbreviatus (A) eggs (B) larva, (C) orange form adult, and (D) white form adult. Picture by Tai Huang (A) and Lyle Buss (B, C and D).

This weevil is a quarantined pest, so nurseries in infested counties are required to follow specific insecticide treatments prior to shipping outside of the quarantine area.  Producers of any potentially infested crops should monitor visually for the adult weevils by looking for feeding damage and adult weevils on the crop and associated weeds.

Further information on this insect pest can be found in the following UF/IFAS publication:  Diaprepes Root Weevil, Diaprepes abbreviatus.  

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Control Using Natural Enemies

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Control Using Natural Enemies

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend North Carolina State’s Tomato Field Day, at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River, NC.  Every summer crowds flock from all over the Southeast to learn what’s new in the world of tomatoes.  Since it’s not always convenient for you to drop what you’re doing to make a road trip to North Carolina, I’ll highlight something I learned from the field day.

Stink Bug Control by Dr. Jim Walgenbach

Distribution

The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) was introduced into the United States from Asia.  The insect pest was first found in Pennsylvania and is suspected to have made its way to the US in packing material.  BMSB was first reported in 2009 in Hillsborough County, FL and since been found in additional Florida counties.  It has a wide host range including fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals.

Fifth instar nymph of the brown marmorated stink bug

Fifth instar nymph of the brown marmorated stink bug on raspberry in Allentown, Pennsylvania.  Photo Credit: Gary Bernon, USDA-APHIS

Identification

BMSB has a typical stink bug body shape and size with a mottled brown coloring.  The key identification feature is alternating dark and light bands on the last two antennal segments.

Trissolcus japonicus adults.

Trissolcus japonicus adults. Female to the left; male to the right. Photo Credit: FDACS – DPI

Biological Control with Natural Enemies

Dr. Walgenbach’s team is currently researching the impact of suppressing BMSB populations by native predators such as: katydids; jumping spiders; earwigs; and lady beetles.  Current observations indicate only a minor effect from these predators on BMSB.

Parasitized BMSB

BMSB egg masses parasitized by T. japonicus. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension.

Trissolcus japonicus Assessment

A regional effort has been implemented to monitor the introduction, spread, and efficacy of the Asian parasitoid Trissolcus japonicus.  Trissolcus japonicus is a tiny wasp that parasitizes the eggs of various stink bug species.  It was first collected from China and brought back to quarantine facilities in the US for evaluation, as a potential biological control agent.  Host-specific tests have indicated that T. japonicus prefers to parasitize BMSB eggs over eggs of other stink bug species.  It is suspected that release permits for the wasp will be available from the USDA in the near future.

Reporting in Florida

The brown marmorated stink bug overwinters in homes to keep warm.  If stink bugs are found in yuor home, they may be the BMSB and should be reported to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry.  Specimens should be collected for identification.

To follow the research of Dr. Walgenbach and his colleagues, please visit NC State’s Entomology webpage.

The Bumble Bee – One of Florida’s Vital Pollinators

The Bumble Bee – One of Florida’s Vital Pollinators

Bumble bees and other pollinators often visit the vast fields of cotton flowers in north Florida’s agricultural lands. Although cotton is mainly self-pollinating, pollination by bees can increase seed-set per cotton boll. Note the pollen grains stuck on each bee. Photo by Judy Biss

Bumble bees and other pollinators often visit the vast fields of cotton flowers in north Florida’s agricultural lands. Although cotton is mainly self-pollinating, pollination by bees can increase seed-set per cotton boll. Note the pollen grains stuck on each bee. Photo by Judy Biss

Bumble bees are among the most recognizable of insects. They are large, colorful, and a wonder to watch.  They’re also popularized in media, cartoons, and clip-art images, but beyond the popular images, bumble bees are worthy of our attention as important pollinators of both native plants and agricultural crops.  They are one of hundreds of pollinating bees that are critical to the abundance of our native lands, wildlife, and also our food supply.  Protection of pollinators has received national recognition and many programs are now geared towards pollinator conservation. 

Why is Pollinator Protection Important?

According to the UF/IFAS publication Minimizing Honey Bee Exposure to Pesticides:

The western honey bee is conceivably the most important pollinator in Florida and American agricultural landscapes. The honey bee is credited with approximately 85% of the pollinating activity necessary to supply about one-quarter to one-third of the nation’s food supply. Over 50 major crops in the United States and at least 13 in Florida either depend on honey bees for pollination or produce more abundantly when honey bees are plentiful.

And:

“Growers also use other managed bees species, such as the bumble bee to provide field and greenhouse crop pollination services. Additionally, there are more than 315 species of wild/unmanaged bees in Florida that play a role in the pollination of agricultural crops and natural and managed landscapes. These include mining bees, mason bees, sweat bees, leafcutter bees, feral honey bees, and carpenter bees, among others.”

Pollinator Protection was formally recognized at the federal level in 2014, when the President of the United States signed an official memorandum entitled: Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators  which outlines specific steps to increase and improve pollinator habitat. These steps are geared towards protecting and restoring populations of not only honey bees, but native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies; all of which are vital to our nation’s economy, food production, and environmental health.

Bumble Bee Biology and Ecology

There is much to learn about these fascinating insects.  Here are some facts to feed your curiosity.  Additional resources are listed at the end of this article.

  • Bumble bees belong to the genus Bombus within the family Apidae. As such, they are related to honey bees, carpenter bees, cuckoo bees, digger bees, stingless bees, and orchid bees.
  • There are about 50 species of North American bumble bees.
  • Bumble bees are social and form colonies like honey bees do, but bumble bee colonies are smaller (50 – 500 individuals), and their colonies only last one season.
  • Bumble bees generally make their nests in the ground, using abandoned rodent cavities or under old tree roots, etc.
  • Each spring, a mated queen emerges from winter hibernation and finds a suitable underground cavity. She begins collecting nectar and pollen and laying eggs to build her colony.
  • By late summer and into fall, the only surviving member of the colony are new queens.
  • These queens mate and then they hibernate during winter 2-5 inches deep in the soil. The following spring these queens emerge and start new colonies, repeating the annual cycle.
  • Bumble bees are adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions and can forage in cooler, cloudier, and wetter weather better than other bees. Because of this adaptation, they are generally the first bees out in early spring and the last bees out in the fall.
  • Since bumble bees are adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions, they are also able to feed on a wide variety of flowering plants.
  • Bumble bees do make honey, but only enough to feed the colony during bad weather, when they are unable to go out and forage.
  • Bumble bees, like the blueberry bee collect pollen from certain flowers using a unique behavior called “buzz pollination,” or “sonication.” This behavior is not found in European honey bees. Some plants, blueberries for example, hold tightly to their tiny pollen.  Bumble bees and blueberry bees grab the flower structure and powerfully vibrate their wings while holding onto the flower.  Their whole body vibrates and literally shakes the pollen lose from the flower.
  • Bumble bees are so effective at pollinating important food crops, they are raised commercially and sold to pollinate produce such as tomatoes, peppers, cranberries, and strawberries.
Bumble bees busy at work on our native flowers. Photo by Travis MacClendon. Calhoun County Florida Wasps and Flies

Bumble bees busy at work on our native flowers. Photo by Travis MacClendon. Calhoun County Florida Wasps and Flies

Create Your Own Pollinator Pasture

You can help increase the abundance and health of bumble bees, other native pollinators, and honey bees by creating nectar and pollen rich bee pastures.  These pastures can be filled with annual plants, which grow from seed each year, perennial plants, which return and spread on their own each year, various flowering shrubs and trees, or any mixture of above. You can also manage existing natural areas and woodlands by employing recommended prescribed fire regimes, non-native invasive plant control, and other practices to encourage a diversity of native pollinator plants.

The ideal bee pasture is one in which flowers are blooming as continuously as possible throughout the year. Research shows bees thrive best in open sunny pastures that are as large as possible, with a diversity of plants types. While flowering shrubs along woodland edges are well used by bees, a bee pasture that is allowed to become dominated by trees and shade will become less attractive to bees. A dedicated, open, sunny pasture having nectar and pollen plant diversity is best.  Just as with any field you intend to plant, the first step is to collect a soil sample for analysis of existing nutrients and pH levels. (For more information on soil samples read the article Soil Test First!

Pollinator Plant Types

There are many plants that provide nutritious nectar and pollen for North Florida’s pollinators. Some examples of plants which are good pollinator food sources are maple trees, redbuds, poplars, gallberries, blackberries, palmettos, partridge pea, mint, thistles, goldenrod, asters, tickseeds, sunflowers, squash, melons, and clovers. If you purchase a bee pasture blend from a seed company, make sure it is suited for growing in North Florida and does not contain noxious, invasive, weedy plant species. The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council maintains a listing of documented invasive plants here: List of Invasive Plant Species.

Summary and Resources

The business, biology, and botany of pollination is fascinating and critical to sustainable and diverse food production in Florida and the United States. Bumble bees are just one of the many native pollinators that frequent our forests, fields, and gardens.  Consider turning your fallow lands or backyards into productive bee pasture and reap a sweet harvest.

For more information please see the resources used for this article below:

 

Southern Scientists are Collaborating to Develop Drought Resistant Turfgrasses

Southern Scientists are Collaborating to Develop Drought Resistant Turfgrasses

 

Teamwork is proving that the grass can be green on both sides of the fence, even in the absence of water! Dr. Kevin Kenworthy, Professor, University of Florida, discusses the SCRI Turf Breeding Project, at the Gulf Coast Turfgrass Expo and Field Day – Jay, FL

Bryan Unruh, UF/IFAS Turfgrass Specialist, WFREC

Urban landscapes, golf courses, and sports venues provide many functional, recreational, and aesthetic benefits. Key functional benefits of turfgrass include soil erosion control, carbon sequestration, ground water recharge, and heat dissipation in our cities, that are becoming increasingly covered with concrete and asphalt. Recreational activities on natural turfgrass lead to improved health as children and adults participate in community sports, or spend time maintaining their landscapes. Similarly, a well-kept and properly managed landscape is pleasing to the eye, increases property values, and leads to community pride and ownership. The value of turfgrass to the economy is well documented. Landscape maintenance expenditures and tourism contribute significantly to Florida’s economy.

However, as population grows and water availability for irrigating turfgrass becomes more limited, the resulting policies on water restrictions, and public opinion impact turfgrass production, and the performance of installed turf, posing challenges to the turfgrass industry. To address these concerns, some policy makers have even considered eliminating turf from new construction. However, the ecosystem trade-offs of removing turf are not well understood, and may create more serious consequences.

To address turfgrass water use related issues, a 24-member team of turfgrass breeders, extension specialists, plant physiologists, irrigation engineers, molecular biologists, and agricultural socio-economists from five major universities across the southern U.S. in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas are collaborating together to learn more about turfgrass water use, and to develop grasses that require less irrigation. Funding for this effort stems from the team receiving two United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) grants totaling over $8 million. In the initial project, conducted from 2010-2015, the team exchanged and evaluated nearly 2,000 experimental germplasm accessions, and identified 140 advanced lines for short-term drought stress – 40 each of bermudagrass, zoysiagrass and St. Augustinegrass, and 20 seashore paspalum. Additionally, the majority of these lines were screened for salinity responses, since poor water quality (i.e., salinity) will be an increasing problem in the future.

SCRI Turf Breeding Team at their semi-annual planning meeting held this past summer in College Station, TX.

In 2015, a second project was funded that will allow further evaluation of the 140 advance lines identified in the first project. These grasses will be further vetted under differing drought/irrigation scenarios of long-term drought common to Texas and Oklahoma, versus short-term drought common to Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina. Additionally, shade and salinity assessments will be conducted along with identifying production practices that may limit the acceptance of these improved grasses in the marketplace. The team is also studying socio-economic measures to determine factors that influence producer pricing and consumer demand for improved turfgrasses. Finally, a comprehensive Extension outreach plan is in place to educate, promote and inform end-users of the environmental and economic impacts of newly developed cultivars. Additionally, demonstration landscapes are being installed in each state through partnering extension specialists and agents with industries and government agencies.

Dr. Kevin Kenworthy speaks to the attendees about the SCRI Turf Breeding project at the North Central Florida Turfgrass Field Day in Citra, FL.

Cultivars released from this team effort and include: ‘TamStar’ St. Augustinegrass, ‘TifTuf’ Bermudagrass, ‘Tahoma 31’ Bermudagrass, ‘CitraBlue’ St. Augustinegrass, with several forthcoming zoysiagrasses.

The synergistic approach of this project will avoid duplication of research efforts and capitalize the genetic diversity for developing environmentally sustainable turfgrasses with wider geographical adaptation and broader regional impacts. This CAPs project will significantly increase the productivity, sustainability, and the economic gain of both the individual state turfgrass programs, and the overall turfgrass industry.

For additional information, visit the SCRI Turf Breeding Effort website,or follow the team on Twitter @SCRITURF.

 

2018 Sunbelt Ag Expo Offers Innovation, Technology, & Education – October 16-18

2018 Sunbelt Ag Expo Offers Innovation, Technology, & Education – October 16-18

 

When you visit the Sunbelt Ag Expo in October, make sure you visit the UF/IFAS Barn to visit with members of the Panhandle Ag Team about services available from the Extension Service for farmers, and enjoy some free orange juice and peanuts while you are there.

Becca Turner, Sunbelt Ag Expo

The Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition will celebrate its 41st Anniversary show October 16-18, 2018. Over 1,200 exhibitors will display and demonstrate products and welcome thousands of visitors to the 100 acre show site.

Crowned as North America’s Premier Farm Show ® and the largest Farm Show in America with field demonstrations, the Sunbelt Ag Expo brings together all segments of agribusiness including farmers, educators, policy-makers, ag-enthusiasts and families.  All attending the show will see the latest innovation and technology that the agriculture industry has to offer.

Education is the key component of the show with over 300 seminars and demonstrations offered over the 3-day event.  These seminars and demonstrations are taught in exhibit areas for beef, dairy, poultry, forestry, pond management, equine and cattle management.  Farmers and ranchers attending gain beneficial knowledge on the latest in cutting edge techniques from industry leaders and university specialists.  The Expo works with 21 different education sponsors to host a strong seminar and demo schedule.  These education sponsors include major universities and colleges with six of these having permanent exhibit buildings on-site.   New this year, the Expo will feature Youth Educational Challenges for 6th-12th graders as a competitive and fun opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge in six different content areas.

The Hoss Tools Sustainable Living Center focuses on topics for the specialty gardener. If you are interested in learning how to garden year round, visit this section.  Greg Key, owner of Hoss Tools will offer a bounty of information on gardening tips, tools and more in the demonstration garden.

A crowd pleaser is the 600-acre research farm’s field demonstrations. These demos showcase harvesting and tillage equipment for cotton, peanuts, corn, soybeans and hay. As in the past, cotton will be harvested during the show!  In addition, hay demos will include all facets of hay harvesting from cutting to baling and will provide visitors the opportunity to see 80 different types of hay harvesting equipment run in a true farm setting.

Expo is honored to have Kentucky as the 2018 Spotlight State. The Kentucky Spotlight State Committee has put together an all-encompassing exhibit themed “Kentucky Start to finish: Pioneering Innovation.”  The exhibit will also feature a special section on Agricultural Safety, including seminars and demonstrations.

There’s never a dull moment during the 3-day show and attendees will find there is something for the entire family.  There is a daily rolling Antique Tractor Parade, the American Grand Finals Stock Dog Trials (the largest field of competition in recent Expo history), and even a Cow Milking Contest. Add in rural lifestyle fun, truck, tractor and ATV test drives, and the venue is perfect for rural enthusiasts.

Chip Blalock, Show Director, says, “The Sunbelt Expo is an unbelievable showcase of rural living blanketed with agriculture’s newest ideas and technologies. Its 3-days of fun, education and dreaming about agriculture’s future as we team together to feed, clothe and house a growing population around the world.”

The Sunbelt Ag Expo is open Tuesday through Thursday, October 16-18, from 8:30 AM to 5:00 (T,W) and 4:00 (Th).  Admission at the gate is $10 per person per day. Advanced and discount tickets can be purchased online.  The Show site is four miles southeast of Moultrie, GA on Hwy 133. For more information, go to the show website at www.sunbeltexpo.com.

Now’s the Time to Start Preparing for Cool-Season Food Plots

Now’s the Time to Start Preparing for Cool-Season Food Plots

A buck chases a doe through plots of wildlife forages being evaluated at the University of Florida’s North Florida Research and Education Center. Photo Courtesy of Holly Ober

I know it feels too hot outside to talk about hunting season or cool-season food plots, but planting time will be here before you know it and now’s the time to start preparing. The recommended planting date for practically all cool-season forage crops in Northwest Florida is October 1 – November 15. Assuming adequate soil moisture, planting during the first half of the range is preferred. Between now and planting time there are several factors that need to be considered and addressed.

Invasive and/or Perennial Weed Control

Deer and other wildlife species utilize many soft/annual “weeds” as forage so controlling them is usually not a major concern. But from time to time unwanted perennials (grasses and woody shrubs) need to be controlled. An unfortunate and all too common example of and unwanted perennial is cogongrass – a highly invasive grass that should always be controlled if found. Effective control of perennial weeds, like cogongrass generally involves the use of herbicides. Late summer/early fall is a very effective time to treat unwanted perennials. Fortunately, this coincides well with the transition between warm-season and cool-season forages. If you have unwanted, perennial weeds in your food plots get them identified now and controlled before you plant your cool-season forages.

Typically the white, fluffy seadheads shown on the cogongrass above are not visible this time of year. Cogongrass is pale green and appears as leaves coming straight out of the ground – no visible stem. It typically has a white midrib that is slightly off-center in the leaves. The leaf margins are very rough/sharp especially when the felt from the top of the leaves downward. If you suspect you might have cogongrass, contact your county agent for conformation and follow their control recommendations. 
Photo Credit: Mark Mauldin

 

Soil Fertility Management

In my experience, the most common cause for poor plant performance in food plots is inadequate soil fertility. Before planting, collect and submit soil samples from each of your food plots. Laboratory analysis of the samples will let you know the fertilizer and lime requirements of the upcoming cool-season crop. It is very important to have the analysis performed prior to planting so performance hindering issues can be prevented. Otherwise, during the growing season, by the time you realize something is wrong, it will likely be too late to effectively address the problem. This is particularly true if the issue is related to soil pH. To affect soil pH in a timely manner lime needs to be incorporated into the soil. Incorporation is impossible after the new crop has been planted. Soil analysis performed at the University of Florida’s Extension Soil Testing Lab cost $7 per sample. Your county’s UF/IFAS Extension Agent can assist you with the collection and submission process as well as help you interpret the results.

Variety Selection & Seed Sourcing

It takes time to find the best products/varieties. Just because forage seeds are sold locally, doesn’t mean that the crop or specific variety is well suited to this area. The high temperatures and disease pressure associated with Florida, even in the “cool-season” mean that many products that do very well in other parts of the country struggle here. Below are some specific forages that are favored by wildlife (specifically white-tailed deer) and generally well adapted to Florida. You may discover that these varieties are not sitting on the shelf at the local feed & seed. Often local suppliers can get specific varieties, but they must be special ordered, which adds time to the process. Hence the need to start planning and sourcing seed early.

If you are debating trying food plots on your property for the first time, please carefully consider the following. Food plots are not easy.  Making productive food plots that provide a measurable, positive impact to the wildlife on your property takes considerable time, effort, and money. Considering this, food plots really only make sense when viewed as habitat improvements that provide long term benefits to multiple wildlife species. If you are looking for nothing more than a deer attractant during hunting season, food plots are not a very practical option. For more information on getting started with food plots contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension Office and check out the reference below.