The following is an update for this coming year’s air potato beetle release program.

The beetles will be available to Florida and other Gulf Coast State residents during spring and summer 2020, but there have been some changes to how they will be distributed.

The air potato beetle (APB) program has long been a collaborative effort among the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry (FDACS DPI), University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), and the United States Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service (USDA ARS). However, UF/IFAS and USDA ARS are no longer mass-rearing APB, and the responsibility of providing beetles to areas once served by these laboratories now falls to FDACS-DPI. This has placed a strain on FDACS-DPI’s APB program. It has always been challenging to supply sufficient numbers of beetles to the large number of requesters we have, and by assuming the supply responsibility of over a dozen counties (and with 2000 individuals currently on the waiting list), it will not be possible to meet demand.
Therefore, in order to promote beetle establishment throughout the state and increase the likelihood beetles will return from overwintering sites, we are implementing the following strategy for future shipments:

1. On a county by county basis, we will consider the number of requests received and the distribution of the requesters, allowing us to determine how many shipments an area of each county will receive. Not all individual requesters will receive beetles, but beetles will be sent to and released in all requested areas. This is meant to maximize beetle efficiency by ensuring we do not over-saturate one area while neglecting others. With this being said, we are asking that requestors still send in APB requests, so we can be as effective as possible.

2. The number of beetles shipped per request will be determined based on the size of the property to which they are being shipped, with a minimum of 50 beetles being sent to any individual. In times of low beetle production exceptions may be made for small properties, which may only receive 35.

3. All fulfilled beetle requests will be shipped directly to extension offices; we ask that requesters pick up their beetles from the extension offices (please note that in some circumstances different accommodations may be made).

We greatly appreciate your continued participation with the Air Potato Patrol Citizen Science program!

We will begin sending our members survey questions soon, which are designed to give researchers and the folks with FDACS DPI the information they need to better understand the beetle’s biology and habits. We hope that this will lead to even more effective Integrated Pest Management recommendations on how to better control air potato vines.

We are asking that requestors still send in Air Potato Leaf Beetle requests, to determine how many shipments of beetles an area of each county will receive. To request beetles, fill out this form:

https://www.fdacs.gov/Divisions-Offices/Plant-Industry/Bureaus-and-Services/Bureau-Of-Methods-Development-Biological-Control/Biological-Control/Air-Potato-Vine-Biological-Control/Air-Potato-Beetle-Request-Form

If you have any questions or need any assistance, please feel free to contact the Air Potato Patrol at:

airpotatopatrol@gmail.com

Thanks for your help in making this a successful program.