We have a serious whitefly issue developing in Florida.

We are having major issues managing 2 whitefly biotypes (B and Q). Both biotypes are referred to as Bemisia tabaci. The Q biotype has now been detected in landscapes.

Bemisia tabaci (Gennadius) feeds on more than 900 host plants and vectors over 111 plant virus species and is considered to be a major invasive species worldwide.

This is the VERY FIRST TIME it has been found in a landscape or outside a greenhouse or nursery since it was found on an ornamental plant in a greenhouse many years ago (2004-2005). This is extremely troubling considering the issues we have with many of the tools we use to manage whiteflies.



Please be on the lookout for this very invasive pest. Be sure to check your new plant material prior to purchasing to help stop the spread of this new pest! Look for it in the landscape too!

Report any whitefly populations that seem to be excessively high and difficult to control to your local UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas office at 727-582-2100.

Sample submission specifics:

Infested leaves and dead insect specimens should be brought to local Extension offices for initial identification. Wrap in a dry paper towel and place in a sealable plastic bag and then in an envelope. Freezing the specimen overnight before transport is highly recommended. Only dead insects should be transported.

The collection information should be included with the sample. Date, location, what type of vegetation is affected, number of suspected whiteflies, and any information about whether a pesticide has been used on the plant, is helpful information to managing the pest.

For steps on how to submit a sample to FDACS DPI, visit  http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Plant-Industry/Business-Services/Submit-a-Sample-for-Identification.

Please visit the main website about this new Q-biotype whitefly pest at http://mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/lso/bemisia/bemisia.htm

photo by Jason Smith UF/IFAS

Have you seen these symptoms in ornamental plants, especially oaks, after treating nearby turf with metsulferon-methyl (MSM)?

Over the past few years, there have been numerous inquiries regarding damage to ornamental plants growing near turfgrass areas that have been treated with metsulfuron-methyl-containing herbicides. Symptoms most often seen are stem die-back, brown “fried” or “scorched” foliage, delayed leaf appearance, and patches of necrosis (dead tissues) in the phloem (plant’s vascular tissues). Injury symptoms are typically reported two to four weeks following applications made during hot and dry weather (although not exclusively).

For more information see the complete UF/IFAS publication here: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fr400

It’s Florida Arbor Day!

That’s right, the third Friday of January every year marks Florida Arbor Day. Florida celebrates Arbor Day in January because that is the best time of year to plant a tree in Florida. National Arbor Day is celebrated in April when most of the other areas throughout the United States are just beginning to thaw out from the cold and snowy winter.

trees cropped

Trees that will be up for adoption at the Adopt-A-Tree program were made possible through grant funding from the Florida Forest Service.

Florida Arbor Day has been celebrated since 1886 and we are sticking to that tradition! On Saturday, January 23, 2016 from 8:30-11:30am a team of UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County staff will host an “Adopt-A-Tree” program just for you! Learn everything you need to know about how to choose, plant, establish and maintain a new tree. Topics covered will include: “What Trees Provide for Us”, “Fun Tree Facts”, “Putting a Tree in the Right Place”, “Initial Planting and Tree Care” and “After-Care and Maintenance”. There will be both hands-on and lecture segments for this program.  Class subjects are taught by UF/IFAS Extension Agents. There will be a variety of adoptable trees to choose from that are specially selected to fit in the different types of habitats found in Pinellas County.


We look forward to seeing you there!

Also, if you are on social media, please help us spread the word about this opportunity. You can always find out what is going on by visiting our website at www.pinellascountyextension.org or liking us on facebook, twitter, instagram or subscribing to our blogs!

Fun Fact: Did you know that our State Tree is the Sabal Palm (Sabal palmetto). Sometimes referred to as a Cabbage Palm, this tree was designated as our state tree back in 1953! Funny thing is the Sabal Palm is not a true tree, but is actually more closely related to grasses. Other trees that were in the running for the state tree include the: royal palm, slash pine and longleaf pine.

An Equal Opportunity Institution.

Your Florida Garden in “Winter”

Theresa Badurek, UF/IFAS Extension, Pinellas County

Christmas Trees

Florida sand pine (Pinus clausa) Christmas trees, Photo: UF/IFAS

It’s almost winter, even though we have had balmy weather lately. While some Central Florida winter days are warm, others can bring cold winds, frosts, and even freezes. These conditions present several challenges for the home gardener, but there are things you can do now to prepare your garden (and yourself) for the winter weather.

Lawn and landscape plants are dormant this time of the year and need only minimal irrigation. Watering every 10-14 days should be sufficient for most of the landscape in winter, but watch for signs of drought stress. Set your irrigation timer on manual and water only when needed! Always follow local watering restrictions.

January is the best time to prune non-spring flowering shrubs and trees for structure. Good tree structure is critical to avoid future damage- to your plants as well as your property and family. Click here for more information on pruning trees and shrubs. 

Frozen roses.

Photo: UF/IFAS

A garden task for the winter (might be) cold protection. Frosts and freezes are most likely in January and February. Landscapes have microclimates, which are areas that are cooler or warmer, or wetter or drier than the rest of the landscape. Understanding your microclimates will help you chose the best place to plant. Avoid planting cold-sensitive plants in low areas where cold settles and arrange plantings, fences, or other barriers to protect these sensitive plants from cold winds. Healthy plants in the right location will survive all conditions better, so be sure you are watering, fertilizing, and caring for plants appropriately. For more information read about cold protection of ornamental plants by clicking here.

In the event of a frost/freeze you may need to cover sensitive plants. Remember that covering plants will protect more from frost than extreme cold. Covers should go all the way to the ground without touching the plant itself to reduce cold injury by trapping heat. Cloth sheets, quilts, plastic, or commercial frost cloths all make good covers. These covers should be removed on sunny days to avoid heating up the air underneath too much.

After the freeze is over you will need to watch for signs of cold damage on your plants, which may show up shortly after or many months later. Dead leaves that have turned brown can be removed, but wait until new growth appears to do any severe pruning.


Cabbage, Photo: UF/IFAS

There are lots of edibles to plant in winter! In December you can plant celery, cauliflower, lettuce, cabbage, carrot, parsley, thyme, sage, dill, fennel, and cilantro. In January you can plant beet, cabbage, turnip, lettuce, potato, broccoli in the vegetable garden. In February you can start to plant warm season crops such as bean, pepper, cucumber, tomato, and squash. For more information about edibles: Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide and Herbs in the Florida Garden.

Happy holidays and healthy gardening!

Hummingbirds Arriving

hummingbird ifas
The hummingbird fall migration has begun and when I saw my first hummingbird of the season it was feeding on one of its favorite plants – firebush.

The ruby-throated hummingbird is the most common hummingbird in Florida and can also be a year-round resident in South Florida, but most will spend the winter in Mexico and South America. The black-chinned and rufous hummingbirds can be seen occasionally in Florida during the winter.

Hummingbirds are the smallest of birds, yet for their small size they have one of the largest appetites in the bird world. Hummingbirds feed every 10 to 15 minutes from dawn until dusk, eating more than half their weight in food and 8 times their weight in water. Because of this high need for food, hummingbirds can only survive in areas where nectar and insects are abundant. They use nectar to fuel their insect catching activities. Young hummingbirds are fed a mixture of nectar and insects.

For the health of birds it is very important to avoid the use of insecticides and NEVER spray blooming plants. Systemic insecticides can also poison the birds. The toxins gets into the nectar they drink and also kill the insects they eat. Spiders are especially important to hummingbirds as they use the web to form their nests.

People usually think about hummingbird feeders as the way to get hummingbirds to visit, but there are many problems with feeders. The sugar solution may appeal to their sweet tooth, but it provides little nourishment compared to flower nectar. Sugar substitutes and honey should NEVER be used because it can be fatal to the birds. Sugar solutions must be kept fresh because bacteria grow rapidly in Florida’s heat and humidity, contaminating the solution and killing the birds. Keep feeders out of the sun because the bacteria will grow very fast. Feeder solutions must be changed every 3 to 5 days depending on weather conditions and they must be cleaned each time with hot water and white vinegar only. Do NOT use soap or bleach. Placing feeders near windows is also dangerous for the birds as they travel at speeds up to 30 miles per hour and can crash into windows and die. Feeders are a lot of work and can kill the birds if not properly prepared, monitored, cleaned and hung.

If you want to see hummingbirds in your yard it is best, and easier, to plant flowers. It is important to plant a variety of species and to arrange them in several groupings. Nesting hummingbirds are aggressive and territorial around their food source, so providing more than one grouping allows more birds to feed without conflict. The best flower colors are red, orange and pink. Tubular flowers that are either large and solitary, or in loose drooping clusters are best. At a minimum be sure to provide flowers during their two migration periods – spring and fall.
Following is a list of plants for hummingbirds (Native=N).
Small Trees/ Large Shrubs: Bottlebrush, Powderpuff, Buttonbush (N), Peregrina, Yellow Elder, Sweet Viburnum, Necklace Pod (N), Golden Dewdrop, Coral Bean (N), Firebush (N), Pinxter Azalea (N), Azalea (N=some), Chaste Tree.
Small Shrubs: Firecracker Plant.
Vines: Climbing Aster (N), Cross Vine (N), Trumpet Creeper (N), Carolina Jessamine (N), Maypop (N), Confederate Jasmine, Coral Honeysuckle (N).
Perennials: Milkweed (N=some), Purple Coneflower (N), Daylily, Shrimp Plant, Jacobinia, Lion’s Ear, Firespike, Pentas, Salvia.
Annuals: Dotted Horsemint (N), Wishbone Flower, Zinnia.

When selecting plants for your landscape always consider the site’s soil pH, moisture and drainage, amount of sun and shade, and space needed for the mature size of the plant. Coastal areas may also need to have salt tolerant plants. Matching plant needs to the site conditions is important for the longevity and health of the plants.

With a little time and effort you can have a beautiful and lively landscape filled with flowers, insects, spiders and birds. It is thrilling to watch the hummingbird’s fast wings beating a mile a minute as it zooms backward or upside down, feeding from flowers or off to find refuge, perhaps, in a tiny nest. Be sure to keep cats indoors as they prey heavily on birds.

For more information about hummingbirds Google “Hummingbirds of Florida IFAS.”

Cornell University: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruby-throated_Hummingbird/id?gclid=CL2juobvisgCFQ8uaQodeBICKA

For more information or help selecting plants, visit your local University of Florida/IFAS Extension at 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo. The Lawn and Garden Help Desk is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. To speak with a horticulturist, call 727-582-2110 on Monday, Tuesday or Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon or 1 to 4 p.m.

You can also order a free copy of “The Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM Guide to Plant Selection and Landscape Design” at http://Watermatters.org

Please visit our website at www.pinellascountyextension.org.

Groundwater Depletion Staggering

For the full article see: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=86263&src=eoa-iotd Florida’ water basin, along with many others in the world, is being rapidly depleted. Much more fresh water is being consumed than is being replaced. New information gained from NASA satellites shows large groundwater basins are being rapidly depleted by human consumption even though we have…

Theresa Badurek, UF/IFAS Extension, Pinellas County

Photo: UF/IFAS

Photo: UF/IFAS

There are a lot of resources out there to help you control, destroy, or otherwise eliminate bugs from your garden… but why? Did you know that less than 1% of all of the insects on the earth are pests? The other 99% are either beneficial or otherwise harmless. So why do bugs have so many haters? Maybe it’s because they look so different or maybe it’s because the bad bugs get all of the attention. Whatever the reasons, we need to change our perspective on insects. We need to let natural systems prevail in our own individual gardens and landscapes, instead of trying to control everything. When you embrace this philosophy, all of your garden endeavors will improve. Let’s start by turning our attention to all of the good work that insects do in the environment:

  • Pollination: If you enjoy eating, then you need pollinators. Many of the common pollinators of much of our food crops are insects. Why would we destroy such important players in our food production system? (And ones that work for free!)

Pollinators such as bees, birds and bats affect 35 percent of the world’s crop production, increasing the output of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide. (Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Oct. 25, 2006.)

  • Protection: If you observed the insects in your garden long enough you would see a war being waged every day. There are bad bugs- and they are most certainly trying to eat some parts of your precious plants. But remember, there are far more good bugs… if you don’t kill them, that is. Many of the “good” bugs are voracious predators of the “bad” bugs. If you let them do their job you will not need to control the bad bugs. More free time for you + fewer pesticides in the environment= happy gardening. FYI: Even organic and natural pesticides kill bugs- good and bad. Pesticide use should always be your very last resort- even after considering removal and better plant selection in some cases. A few new plants better suited to your site cost far less than a constant regimen of chemicals.
  • Decomposition: Let’s break it down: growing trees and other plants produce a lot of biomass (leaves, wood, fruit, etc.)- and it’s all got to go somewhere eventually. Without the help of bugs in the decomposition process, the planet would have been smothered in plant debris long, long ago. All those creepy-crawlies you see under a rotting log are like millions of tiny sanitation workers keeping your garden clean. Thank them.
  • Wildlife Attraction: Aside from the fact that insects are wildlife too, if you love birds, then you need to learn to appreciate bugs. Most birds will eat some insects, and many rely on an insect-based diet. Bird populations are declining in many areas due to increased use of pesticides. We’re killing their food supply (bugs) – most of which would have helped us too, if we let them.
  • Beautification: It’s safe to assume that everyone will agree that butterflies are beautiful. But there are so many insects with attractive, often stunning, features. Consider these beauties:
Convergent Lady Beetles, Photo: UF/IFAS

Convergent Lady Beetles, Photo: UF/IFAS

Fiddlewood Leafroller, Photo: UF/IFAS

Fiddlewood Leafroller, Photo: UF/IFAS

Iridescent Green Sweat Bee, Photo: Wiki Commons

Iridescent Green Sweat Bee, Photo: Wiki Commons

red-banded leafhopper wiki commons_Kaldari_02

Red-Banded Leafhopper, Photo: Wiki Commons







The one thing you should do right away to have a beautiful and sustainable garden is learn to observe your landscape. Know which bugs are good and which are bad- and watch how they interact. Now is the perfect time to learn more- it’s Bug Week at the University of Florida. You can follow on social media like Facebook or Twitter by entering #ufbugs or just check in on their website at: http://bugs.ufl.edu/. For insect ID any time of the year visit “Featured Creatures” at http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/.

Rain Gardens and You!

Rain Gardens and You!

Rain gardens are an important part of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ concept, and can play a major role in reducing the amount of pollutants that are generated by our urban landscapes.

So what is a rain garden and why should I have one?

A rain garden is a slightly depressed area, filled with appropriate plants, that collects and filters rain water before it recharges groundwater resources. Based on studies in other states, rain gardens have the ability to filter approximately 40% of metal pollutants from roof shingles, and approximately 15% of nitrogen from fertilizers, pet waste, and organic matter that would otherwise end up in our surface waters.

That sounds great, but what about mosquitoes?

Rain gardens are designed to hold water for no more than 48 hours. This prevents mosquitoes from using the garden as a breeding ground.

Are they pretty?


Rain gardens can be full of colorful plants that will add beauty to your yard. Photo: Theresa Watkins

Yes! Rain gardens can be a beautiful amenity in the landscape, filled with colorful plants that will attract a variety of wildlife and beneficial pollinators and insects.

How do I learn more?

The best resource for our area is “Rain Gardens: A Manual for Central Florida Residents” which was published by UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County. The manual can be found online here.


UF/IFAS Extension Gardening Solutions: Rain Gardens


Rain Gardens: A Manual for Central Florida Residents



Invasive Species Are Everywhere


Cuban tree frog

Is there a serious threat to Florida’s landscape living in your yard? Would you know a Brazilian peppertree, a carrotwood or a Cuban tree frog if you saw one? If not, read on.

Invasive species are defined as non-native or exotic organisms which cause environmental or economic harm, or negatively affect human health in an environment where they were not historically found. An invasive species can be a plant, animal, or other type of organism. Because invasive species’ natural predators and parasites usually are not present in the new environment, their populations can grow unchecked, causing major impacts.

Damage caused by invasive species can take different forms and in extreme cases can lead to the extinction of native species, harm the environment, destroy crops, or ruin recreational sites. Other impacts can include decreased land value and decreased tourism.   Invasive weeds can produce skin irritation, trigger allergies and poison pets and livestock. They can clog waterways, kill native trees, and shade out crops, ornamentals and prized native flora. Invasive species are found in every imaginable habitat, including oceans, lakes, streams, wetlands, croplands, rangelands, natural areas, parks, forests, urban environments, yards and gardens (from National Invasive Species Awareness Week website).


Brazilian peppertree

Any introduced species may become a terrible problem over time. Brazilian peppertree, for example, was an ornamental plant sold in many nurseries in the 1960s. Today it is one of our worst invasives, causing extensive and costly damage to our environment.

Some of the most abundant, widespread, and harmful invasive species in Florida include citrus canker, citrus greening, Brazilian pepper, melaleuca, hydrilla, Chinese tallow tree, cane toad, Cogongrass, Japanese climbing fern, chinaberry and water hyacinth. Everyone knows about the Burmese pythons that have been spreading across the Everglades since 1996.

A few invasive species can have enormous economic and environmental impact. For example, the state spent more than $300 million to control citrus canker. Agricultural losses due to invasive plants, animals, and diseases, are estimated at $179 million annually in Florida.

You may even have some of these invasive plants or animals in your own yard. Lantana camara, Mexican petunia, sword fern, wedelia, camphor tree, asparagus fern, begonia, and calico vine are all invasive, yet many are still sold by nurseries. Most invasive species are introduced and spread by human activities. Ships, wood products, ornamental plants, and pet trade often carry uninvited and potential invasives into the U.S. It is our responsibility to know invasive species and not give them a home. For a list of invasive plants you can google the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, or visit www.fleppc.org. It will be an eye-opening experience.

We can help stop the spread of invasives by becoming aware of the problem, learning how to identify them, not inadvertently planting them and quickly removing them if they do show up. Better yet, if you stick with native plants you won’t have to worry about them becoming invasive. Also, always be sure to clean hiking boots, waders, boats and trailers, off-road vehicles and other gear to stop invasive species from hitching a ride to a new location. Never transport firewood, or release exotic animals or plants into the environment.

You can also help by sharing this information with your family, friends and neighbors. Volunteer to help remove invasives from natural areas, public lands or even your neighbors’ property (with permission). This might be an excellent project for Girl Scout or Boy Scout troops. Remember that each one of us can make a difference in our community and environment by knowing invasive species and acting properly to prevent their spread.

To learn more, visit http://www.nisaw.org/ or google National Invasive Species Awareness Week.

UF/IFAS Extension – An Equal Opportunity Institution.


Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, University of Florida (http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/)

Living Green Website, University of Florida (http://livinggreen.ifas.ufl.edu/landscaping/invasive_exotic_plants.html)

Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (http://myfwc.com/)

Palm Class with CEUs – New Date

What’s Wrong with that Palm Learn it ALL

Don’t have a palm that looks like this one!  Learn how to have healthy, beautiful palms.  Learn about some of the diseases that kill palms.  This class is open to everyone.  You can also earn 2 FDACS CEUs in one of these categories:  Private applicator, ornamental and turf, limited landscape maintenance, limited lawn and ornamental, and commercial lawn and ornamental.

Date:  Friday, March 27 2015

Time:  2 PM to 3:40 PM

Where:  UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County, 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo, FL

Cost:  $40 for general public, free for Pinellas County employees

To see the agenda and register go to this link:  http://www.eventbrite.com/e/palm-care-maintenance-and-diseases-friday-march-27-2015-tickets-15893844918