Monday, June 18, 2018
News Roundup

Air potato leaf beetles unleashed to fight invasive air potato vines (w/video)

TARPON SPRINGS — One of Florida's most persistent and problematic invasive plants will soon meet a small but formidable enemy.

The air potato leaf beetle — a bright red insect about the size of a pinky fingernail — has a big appetite for the air potato plant.

Air potato vines can completely cover natural areas, smothering other plants and native habitat.

"Air potato (Dioscores bulbifera), a statewide problem, is a twining vine that attains a length of 60 feet or more. Even in urbanized areas such as Tampa Bay, it is capable of choking out native vegetation and impacting entire plant and animal communities in the area," said Ken Gioeli, natural resources agent with the University of Florida Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Extension office in St. Lucie County and one of the event's organizers.

The air potato is not native to Florida, which makes it an invasive species. It gets its name from its potato-like tubers, which grow above ground. It was able to thrive in Florida because it didn't face the same natural enemies that would have kept it in check in its native habitat in Asia and Africa, according to an IFAS publication.

"Air potato vines were brought into Florida in the early 1900s and are now found in 60 out of 67 Florida counties and six other states," Gioeli said.

But air potato beetles, which make a small squeaking sound, can chew through air potatoes leaves, leaving them riddled with holes.

The public was recently invited to help release some of the beetles onto air potato vines growing in A. L. Anderson Park in Tarpon Springs. Tampa Bay residents Douglas and Staci Williams brought their daughter Paige, 11, to the park. Paige wants to be an entomologist someday.

"I love bugs and I love to help the environment," she said.

Biological control is a method of using an invasive species' natural enemies to control an invader. The air potato leaf beetle feeds exclusively on air potato, making it an ideal candidate for biological control, Gioeli said.

In 2012, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and IFAS began releasing air potato beetles throughout the state. By 2015, about 450,000 beetles were released at more than 2,000 locations, according to an IFAS publication. Between 2012 and 2015, the beetles reduced air potato density and tubers by 25 to 70 percent.

     
         
Comments
Florida authorities identify remains of man missing 3 years found under backyard concrete slab

Florida authorities identify remains of man missing 3 years found under backyard concrete slab

TAVARES ó Florida authorities say theyíve identified the man whose remains were found under a concrete slab in his wifeís backyard.Lake County sheriffís deputies announced Friday that the remains are those of Michael Shaver, who hadnít been seen in t...
Updated: 6 minutes ago
St. Petersburg teen, 16, and unborn child killed in Pasco crash

St. Petersburg teen, 16, and unborn child killed in Pasco crash

A St. Petersburg teen, 16, and her unborn child were killed Sunday night in a crash in Pasco County, according to a release from the Florida Highway Patrol. Emily Pearson was killed on Little Road at 9:11 p.m. She was a passenger in a 1997 Ford Rang...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
St. Petersburg teen, 16, and unborn child killed in Pasco crash

St. Petersburg teen, 16, and unborn child killed in Pasco crash

A St. Petersburg teen, 16, and her unborn child were killed Sunday night in a crash in Pasco County, according to a release from the Florida Highway Patrol. Emily Pearson was killed on Little Road at 9:11 p.m. She was a passenger in a 1997 Ford Range...
Updated: 20 minutes ago
Forecast: Hot and humid across Tampa Bay, with potentially wet weekend

Forecast: Hot and humid across Tampa Bay, with potentially wet weekend

Summer officially doesn’t start for another three days, but that won’t stop the searing temperatures and stifling humidity from making for a hot and sticky week across Tampa Bay. Temperatures will climb well into the 90s — and feel...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Clearwater and Tampa want to turn flushed water into drinking water. Is it safe?

Clearwater and Tampa want to turn flushed water into drinking water. Is it safe?

Twenty years ago some people called it "Twerp." Others, wrinkling their noses, called it "toilet-to-tap," or something more vulgar. In 1998, Tampa tried to boost its drinking water supply by supplementing it with treated wastewater, calling the prog...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A sports story that we all can love

A sports story that we all can love

When we think of sports — hard-nosed, competitive sports — what words immediately come to mind? Tenacity. Grit. Guts. Perseverance. Courage. Intensity. Determination. You get the idea. Sports are usually cutthroat, give no quarter, sho...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays journal: Adeiny Hechavarria returns and plays short, but now what?

Rays journal: Adeiny Hechavarria returns and plays short, but now what?

NEW YORK — The Adeiny Hechavarria situation is going to be interesting for the Rays. The veteran seemed destined to be traded or even released as he completed his recovery from a hamstring strain rather than play again for the Rays after last ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
The Daystarter: Are Democrats nervous about Nelsonís chances versus Scott?; neo-Nazi leaderís video from prison causes concern;

The Daystarter: Are Democrats nervous about Nelsonís chances versus Scott?; neo-Nazi leaderís video from prison causes concern; "toilet-to-tap" makes comeback; plus St. Pete Pride this weekend

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.ē Itíll be partly cloudy with scattered showers and thunderstorms during the afternoon, with highs in the upper 80s to lower 90s, according to the National Weather Serviceē Keep these l...
Updated: 2 hours ago
A St. Pete church opposes its own land deal. Will council go along?

A St. Pete church opposes its own land deal. Will council go along?

ST. PETERSBURG ó The Rev. Manuel Sykes wouldnít say last week whether he wanted City Council to reject a rezoning proposal that would let a developer build a drive-thru restaurant on his churchís land.He wouldnít mind, though, if a little divine inte...
Updated: 3 hours ago
At 61, he made his professional wrestling debut to help son cope with motherís death

At 61, he made his professional wrestling debut to help son cope with motherís death

A 16-foot wrestling ring and 150 rental chairs were set up on the basketball court of the Police Athletic League of St. Petersburg. Concessions were prepared in slow cookers.It was as far from the limelight as it was in distance from Madison Square G...
Updated: 3 hours ago