New Citrus Pest in Hendry County

Tacy CalliesPests

Cerambycid larva extracted from branch
Hendry County
Lauren Diepenbrock

A new pest of Florida citrus has been found in the southwest region of the state. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) entomologist Lauren Diepenbrock told growers in Sebring on Sept. 25 about recent finds of a cerambycid, or long-horned beetle, in Hendry County groves.

Diepenbrock, who works at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, was speaking at a grower meeting hosted by Highlands County Extension director and citrus agent Laurie Hurner. Diepenbrock discussed the damage the pest causes in an interview following the meeting.  

“In areas where there is a lot of deadwood meeting with fresh wood branches,” the pest lays eggs in the decaying wood, Diepenbrock says. Larvae hatching out of the eggs tunnel to where the fresh wood is, she says. “It (the larvae) feeds right there at that junction (of deadwood and fresh wood) and it makes the branch unstable,” she adds. “The more the larvae feeds in there, the more unstable the branch gets. And these branches are often holding quite a bit of fruit.”

The pest is known to be in groves owned by one grower, but is likely to be in other nearby groves as well, Diepenbrock says.

According to Diepenbrock, treatment of the pest is challenging because the long-horned beetle feeds inside the wood. She and others are working on possible control measures. UF/IFAS researchers are also training Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry personnel so they can conduct surveys to determine the extent of the infestation.

Hendry County, where the new pest is known to exist, appears to be a relative hotbed of citrus pests and disease in Florida. It is one of only a few counties to have known citrus black spot disease infections and infestations of lebbeck mealybug. Lebbeck mealybug was found earlier this summer in Highlands County, but is now known to be in groves in five Florida counties, including Hendry.

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Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large