Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson announced that a redbay ambrosia beetle, the vector of laurel wilt disease, has been found in an insect trap in the Emerald Lakes subdivision of Miami-Dade County. Prior to this find, the redbay ambrosia beetle had not been found south of Martin County. It is not known if all redbay ambrosia beetles carry the pathogenic strain of laurel wilt disease. Advanced diagnostic tests are underway to determine what strain the beetle trapped in Miami-Dade County carried.
“The detection of this potentially destructive beetle demonstrates the effectiveness of the Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey program that is the state’s early detection system against harmful plant pests and diseases – finding this tiny insect among the high volume of other insects and debris in these traps, is like finding a needle in a haystack,” said Bronson. “This detection has triggered an intensified survey effort in South Florida and particularly around the avocado production area,” Bronson added.
Laurel wilt is a destructive disease of redbay, avocado and other trees in the laurel family (Lauraceae). The disease is caused by a fungus (Raffaelea lauricola) that infects the sapwood of host trees, restricting the flow of water, causing the leaves to wilt and the trees to die. The fungus is carried into trees by the non-native redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus), which was first detected in the U.S. near Savannah, Georgia in 2002 and subsequently found in Duval County, Florida in 2005. Laurel wilt has caused high levels of mortality in redbay trees in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, and has affected several other hosts including sassafras and avocado.
Florida Agriculture Statistics reports the avocado industry represents a farm gate production value of $13 million with over 6,773 production acres located in Miami-Dade County with some acreage in Collier County.
Survey and trapping efforts have intensified around the new find, and continue south to the avocado production area. The Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) program, a combined effort by state and federal agricultural agencies to conduct surveillance, detection and monitoring of exotic plant pests of agricultural and natural plant resources, is conducting these efforts.
The public can help prevent the spread of the redbay ambrosia beetle and laurel wilt disease by following these simple suggestions:
* Become familiar with the signs of laurel wilt disease and redbay ambrosia beetle (http://www.doacs.state.fl.us/pi/enpp/pathology/laurel_wilt_disease.html), and be on the lookout for evidence of the pest/disease on your trees.
* Use local firewood only – Do not transport firewood from other states because destructive pests and diseases, such as redbay ambrosia beetle and laurel wilt, can hitchhike into Florida on infested firewood. (View firewood video at http://www.doacs.state.fl.us/pi/videos.html)
* Do not transport host trees (redbay, swamp bay, avocado, sassafras, pondspice, pondberry and others in the Lauraceae family) unless purchased from a registered nursery.
* If your Lauraceae-family tree dies, use one of UF/IFAS’s recommended methods of disposal.
While one redbay ambrosia beetle has been confirmed in a trap in central-west Miami-Dade County, no redbay ambrosia beetles have been found in south Miami-Dade County and, at this time, there is no evidence of a wilt-like disease spreading in the avocado region of the state. Therefore, Florida avocado production remains healthy.
People who suspect their trees may be infected with laurel wilt, or think they have found a redbay ambrosia beetle, are urged to contact the DPI helpline at 888-397-1517. People who would like to submit a plant or insect sample, visit http://www.doacs.state.fl.us/pi/enpp/pathology/laurel_wilt_disease.html for sample submission instructions.