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UF entomologists release thrips to curb invasive Brazilian peppertree

The thrips feed on new growth on the trees and stunt its growth, making later removal easier for officials.
University of Florida entomology doctoral student Kristen Bowers, Ft. Pierce, releases thrips on a Brazilian peppertree in the Pasco Palms Preserve of New Port Richey, Friday, Jan. 24. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Times]
University of Florida entomology doctoral student Kristen Bowers, Ft. Pierce, releases thrips on a Brazilian peppertree in the Pasco Palms Preserve of New Port Richey, Friday, Jan. 24. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

Invasive Brazilian peppertree occupy about 700,000 acres in Florida. They grow up to 30 feet tall and take over space where native plants would otherwise grow. These peppertrees are encroaching on nearly all terrestrial ecosystems in central and south Florida. The tree is native to Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, and is among the most abundant invasive species in the Florida Everglades, according to research cited in a document published by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension. The trees deprive animals such as white-tailed deer, the Florida panther and migratory birds of food and shelter. The thrips feed on new growth on the trees and stunt its growth, making later removal easier for officials. The small bug thrives on Brazilian peppertree growth. The thrips have been released at MacDill Air Force Base.

University of Florida Entomology doctoral student Kristen Bowers, Ft. Pierce, releases thrips on a Brazilian peppertree on Jan. 24. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
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