Growers who attended a recent meeting in Sebring about the lebbeck mealybug left with good feelings about the official response to the pest, said Laurie Hurner, Highlands County Extension director and citrus agent.
“Growers were very pleased with the information that was presented and how quickly we were able to get it out to the industry,” Hurner said. She reported that 116 people attended the meeting. “At least half were growers,” she said.
The lebbeck mealybug was found June 14 by a Highlands County grower. According to Hurner, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry (DPI) officials said the bug may also be in DeSoto and Hardee counties, but had not yet been confirmed in citrus outside of Highlands County. Hurner said although the pest was first found in Florida citrus in June, it has been in Florida for 10 years.
DPI is encouraging growers to let it know if they see signs of lebbeck mealybug in their groves, Hurner said. She added that growers who think they have spotted the pest can request that DPI conduct a survey to determine if it is in their groves.
At the Sebring meeting, a packet of lebbeck mealybug information prepared by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) was distributed to growers. Speakers from DPI and UF/IFAS made presentations about the new pest, Hurner said.
“They (growers) were of course concerned if there would be any restrictions” imposed as a result of the mealybug finds, Hurner said. She said no quarantines or fruit movement restrictions have been imposed yet, and that there would likely be a quarantine only if the pest is found in nurseries. There have been no finds in nurseries following a recent round of thorough inspections, she added.
UF/IFAS entomologist Lauren Diepenbrock initiated research into the mealybug as soon as it was detected in Highlands County. “I would like to commend Lauren and the folks at DPI for their quick response and true concern for the industry,” Hurner said.
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