On August 11, 2021, I made a site visit to Oak Hammock Park in Port St. Lucie. City of Port St. Lucie parks management asked me to confirm the presence of air potato leaf beetles at the park. Air potato leaf beetles were released by UF research and extension faculty in coordination with agencies throughout Florida. It didn’t take me long to find them. These pictures were taken using my cellphone after a few minutes of walking on the trail. Additional photos are available in our project PHOTO GALLERY.
The air potato biological control extension program began in 2014 as an initiative by the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center and the UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County in collaboration with Extension offices and partner agencies throughout Florida. The focus of the project involved the introduction of a new biological control agent Lilioceris cheni (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) and to teach residents how to use the insect to manage the invasive air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera). Floridians struggled to control this invasive vine which can grow up to eight inches per day and smother native vegetation. This UF/IFAS research and extension program was paired with a mass rearing effort and distribution process that helped citizens throughout Florida. Researchers at USDA ARS are credited for discovering L. cheni as a viable biological control agent for air potato. Our 5-yr Air Potato Biological Control Extension Program concluded in Summer 2019. You can read more about that success story HERE.
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With offices in each of Florida’s 67 counties, UF/IFAS Extension works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.
UF/IFAS Extension programs are open to all persons without regard to race, color, sex, age, disability, religion, or national origin.