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Befriend the Beetle!

Sending sinuous tendrils forth, the air potato vine (Dioscorea bulblifera) can grow as much as 8 inches each day during our summer growing season. This invasive vine, considered one of the most aggressive invasive plants in Florida, can be found in natural areas, disturbed areas and in residential neighborhoods.

Management

Luckily for those battling this vine, there are many options available for management.

  • Hand pulling vines and tubers
  • Cutting vines
  • Applying herbicide
  • Using biological controls

While no method alone will eradicate the vine, an Integrated Pest Management approach can provide some relief.

Meet the Beetle

The use of biological controls for invasive plant management is an innovative and exciting way to use existing relationships in nature for a leg-up. The Air Potato Beetle (Lilioceris cheni) is a charismatic beetle from the native range of the air potato vine, upon which it feeds exclusively. This beetle has been released in Florida since 2012 to much success.

From FDACS: Air Potato Beetle Quick Facts

  • Adults and larvae of the air potato beetle feed on the foliage of only Dioscorea bulbifera.
  • Adults are black and red, about 3/8 of an inch long. Larvae start out yellowish or reddish and eventually turn grayish to reddish.
  • The life cycle from egg to adult is around 30 days; adults can live for 5 months or longer.
  • Females lay an average of 1,800 eggs but can lay up to 4,300.
  • Eggs are laid in groups on the underside of leaves.
  • Mature larvae move to the soil, where they pupate.

Upcoming Event:

In order to provide the public an opportunity to learn more about air potato vine management, the UF/IFAS Extension Manatee County, FDACS (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services) and the Suncoast CISMA (Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area) will be hosting an event!

Join us at the UF/IFAS Extension Manatee County office in Palmetto, FL on August 17th where you will:

  • Learn to identify the vine and common look-alikes
  • Meet the beetle
  • Pledge to make a plan
    • Experts will assist you in creating your own Integrated Pest Management Plan for air potato vine management.
*Registration is required for one of five time slots between 10 am and 3 pm on Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/befriend-the-beetle-air-potato-vine-biological-control-workshop-tickets-164032352181

Contact Alyssa Vinson: alyvinson@ufl.edu for more information