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Contact: Erin Gillespie
Look Out for State’s Top 10 CREEPY Crawlers This Halloween
Tallahassee, FL – The building houses Florida’s most terrifying creatures. Some are collected and stored in drawers for visitors to browse, while others are being poked and prodded in the laboratory.
It’s not a home for mad scientists. It’s the State Collection of Arthropods at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Gainesville, home to more than 9 million insects, arachnids and other creepy crawlers. The museum is part of an effort to stop the spread of invasive or dangerous bugs in Florida in order to protect humans, agriculture, the environment and our food supply.
Fearsome creatures try to invade Florida every day, with the goal to rule their newfound habitat. Our department inspectors are the “Men in Black” who stop them in their tracks.
This Halloween, look out for these 10 icky creepy crawly invasive bugs you might come upon in Florida:
Photo courtesy University of Florida-IFAS
10. Love bugs: Although invasive, love bugs are generally harmless, except to your car’s paint. Love bugs congregate in swarms of hundreds and are a big nuisance for motorists. After love bugs die, the fatty tissue left behind will stain your clothing and also cause holes to form in the paint on a car if not removed quickly.
9. Oriental fruit fly: In August, the department identified one Oriental fruit fly during routine trapping in Broward County. Two months later amid increased early detection efforts, no other fruit fly has been found. The species is one of the most serious exotic fruit fly pests in the world and attacks more than 100 types of fruits, vegetables and nuts.
8. Florida whitefly: This invasive species continues to infest South Florida landscapes, in particular ficus trees. These insects typically feed on the underside of leaves with a needle-like mouth and can suck the juice out of plants until they die. The goo from this process drips down onto vehicles and sidewalks making it an major urban nightmare.
7. Redbay ambrosia beetle: Another non-native insect, this beetle spreads the fungus that causes laurel wilt, which is threatening the multi-million dollar avocado industry in Florida.
6. Mexican red-rump tarantula: This exotic arachnid will eat anything in its path including insects, spiders, other arthropods, snakes, lizards, frogs – to date, humans are not on the menu.
5. Brown recluse spider: This non-native arachnid has six eyes arranged in three pairs and will bite if they come in close contact with humans and feel threatened. Recluse bites can produce necrosis, with severe pain and swelling around the bite and then a deep wound around the dead tissue. The most dangerous is the Chilean recluse, which has been found on one occasion in Central Florida.
4. Africanized honey bee: All bees in Florida that are not kept by beekeepers are considered Africanized or a hybrid bee. Since the Africanized bees spread to the United States, they have taken over colonies and caused many injuries and some deaths. If you have a wild bee hive in your yard, it is imperative that you take precautions and never try removal without a certified beekeeper.
3. Conehead termite: This invasive termite, found only in Broward County, was already eradicated from the United States once. It attacks wood structures and can cause widespread damage to buildings and homes. They do not respond to typical termite treatment and they swarm each spring to invade further. The termites are about the size of a grain of rice and the soldier males have cone-shaped heads.
2. Giant African land snail: This snail (GALS for short) was first found in Florida in 2011 and an intensive eradication program is ongoing. More than 151,000 of the large and slimy snails have been collected and destroyed, but the snails were recently found for the first time in Broward County. These snails can grow to more than eight inches long, eat more than 500 different types of plants and stucco, and can carry rat lungworm that can cause meningitis. If you see a Giant African Land Snail, call our help line at 888-397-1517.
Love bug photo courtesy University of Florida-IFAS
1. Asian citrus psyllid: This tiny, but lethal, bug infects citrus trees throughout Florida with a disease known as citrus greening. Greening is now present in the majority of Florida’s groves and all citrus-producing counties. The department is partnering with the federal government and other states and countries to research the psyllid and disease in order to find a cure to save the iconic Florida citrus industry, which has a $9 billion economic impact and supports 75,000 jobs.
For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visitwww.FreshFromFlorida.com.