Monday, June 13, 2011

Beetle threatens production

Excerpts from a 5/30/11 article in The Packer by Doug Ohlemeier

Florida's avocado industry remains on alert for a tree-killing disease that's moving closer to south Florida production areas.

"The beetle is right here at our doorstep," said Bill Brindle, vice president of sales management for Brooks Tropicals, LLC. "But to the best of my knowledge, there has not been an avocado tree found in Miami-Dade County yet that has been affected by it, so that's positive."

Researchers are collecting, identifying and cataloging parasite insects found in the trees and have many research projects underway to study ways to limit the spread of the beetle and the disease, said Denise Feiber, the state agricultural agency's public information director.

Trapping has been intensive since 2/10 when the agency increased its surveillance in the Miami-Dade County area after the first redbay ambrosia beetle was trapped in a residential area, 12 miles north of the commercial production area, Feiber said.

"You can see how it's (the insect) moving to the south," she said. "What we are finding is it appears the avocado tree is not the preferred host of the beetle. It prefers the swamp bay trees. That's good news."

Entomologists are studying the beetles' life cycles, and pathologists are probing how the beetle fares during wood chipping of red bay trees, Feiber said. It appears the beetles don't survive the chipping process, she said.