May 18, 2018 Air Potato Challenge: Leaf Beetles Available for the Public

Writer: Ken Gioeli

The public is invited to release an insect approved by a federal agency against one of Florida’s most invasive vines–the air potato.

The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences St Lucie County Cooperative Extension and the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center are teaming up with the UF/IFAS Extension Leon County and Florida A&M for the Air Potato Challenge. The event will be held on Friday, May 18, 2018, 9 a.m. until noon.

Florida residents and public land managers are invited to come out to the FAMU Center for Viticulture and Small Fruit Research to learn more about invasive air potato and its natural enemy, the air potato leaf beetle. University officials will distribute supplies of the air potato beetles for use on attendees’ properties. Preregistration is required.

Air potato is one of Florida’s most problematic invasive plants. The air potato leaf beetle is a small but formidable enemy of this invasive plant. The insect is bright red, about the size of a pinky fingernail, and has a big appetite for the invasive air potato plant whose vines can completely consume natural areas, smothering other plants and native habitat.

Researchers have shown that air potato leaf beetles are host-specific to air potato and will not feed on other plants. The beetles chew through air potatoes leaves, leaving them riddled with holes.

During this event, residents and public land managers struggling with invasive air potato can come to the FAMU Center for Viticulture and Small Fruit Research to learn about this invasive pest plant and receive a supply of air potato leaf beetles for use on their properties. There is no charge for this program. The insects will only be available for pick up during this event.

Residents are encouraged to bring a cutting of air potato for confirmation.

What: Air Potato Challenge
Where: FAMU Center for Viticulture and Small Fruit Research
Address: 6361 Mahan Drive, Tallahassee, FL
Date: May 18, 2018
Time: 9 a.m. – noon
Costs: Free of charge
Registration: http://bcrcl.ifas.ufl.edu/airpotatobiologicalcontrol.shtml
Information: Call Ken Gioeli at 772-462-1660 or ktgioeli@ufl.edu

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