Panhandle Outdoors

Beavers – Engineering Marvel or Farmer’s Frustration

Beavers – Engineering Marvel or Farmer’s Frustration

Beaver lodge, Calhoun County Florida. Photo by Judy Biss

Even though the “work” beavers do can sometimes cause frustration to land owners, they are truly amazing creatures.  A number of questions have come into the Extension Office lately about managing beavers, so it is a good time to discuss a little about the history and biology of these unique animals, as well as the management options available for land owners.

Beavers in the American Landscape

Hundreds of millions of beaver once occupied the North American continent until the 1900s, when the majority had been trapped out in the eastern United States for the fur trade (Baker, B.W., and E.P. Hill. 2003. Beaver (Castor canadensis)).  “Growing public concern over declines in beaver and other wildlife populations eventually led to regulations that controlled harvest through seasons and methods of take, initiating a continent-wide recovery of beaver populations.” (Baker, B.W., and E.P. Hill. 2003. Beaver (Castor canadensis)).  In its current range, the beaver “thrives throughout the Florida Panhandle and upper peninsula in streams, rivers, swamps or lakes that have an ample supply of trees.”  (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Aquatic Mammals, Beaver: Castor canadensis).


Beavers are the largest rodent in North America.  In Florida, they commonly weigh between 30 – 50 pounds.  Beavers are considered an aquatic mammal, having adaptations such as a streamlined shape, insulating fur, ears and nostrils that close while underwater, clear membranes that cover their eyes while underwater, large webbed feet, and a broad flat rudder-like tail that aid in swimming.  They can remain underwater for 15 minutes at a time!  Their tree-cutting, bark-peeling front teeth grow continuously, and as a result, are continuously sharpened as they grind against the lower teeth.  (Baker, B.W., and E.P. Hill. 2003. Beaver (Castor canadensis), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Aquatic Mammals, Beaver: Castor canadensis).

Habitat and Behaviors

Beavers typically mate for life and live in family groups consisting of the adult male and female, and one or two generations of young kits before they are old enough to disperse on their own.  They are primarily nocturnal, being active from dusk to dawn.  Beavers eat not only tree bark, leaves, stems, buds, and fruits, but  herbaceous plants as well.  Their diet is broad and can consist of aquatic plants, such as cattails and water lilies, shrubs, willow, grasses, acorns, tree sap, and sometimes even cultivated row crops.  (Baker, B.W., and E.P. Hill. 2003. Beaver (Castor canadensis)).

Top of beaver dam in Calhoun County FL. Water level difference is nearly 3 feet. Photo by Judy Biss

Dam and Lodge Construction

The sound of moving water triggers beavers to build, repair, or maintain their dams.  (Baker, B.W., and E.P. Hill. 2003. Beaver (Castor canadensis)).  The two main structures they build are the water-slowing dam and their living quarters or lodge.  The lodge is separate from the dam and is oftentimes located in the stream or pond bank.  “The ponds created by dams also provide beavers with deep water where they can find protection from predators — entrances to dens or lodges are usually underwater.  Some beavers in Florida do not build the massive stick lodges associated with northern colonies.  Instead, they are more likely to live in deep dens in stream banks…” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Aquatic Mammals, Beaver: Castor canadensis).

Pear tree felled by beaver in Calhoun County FL. Photo by Judy Biss


Beavers are called “nature’s engineers” for good reason.  Their tree cutting and building behaviors certainly alter surrounding landscapes.  Outside of any connection to human civilization, their activities tend to increase diversity and habitat options for both plants and animals.  Many scientists have examined the intricate biological and ecological effects beavers have on surrounding landscapes.  Their activities in our backyard, however, do not always result in positive outcomes.  Often, beavers are triggered to build dams in running water through road culverts causing significant impacts to road drainage, and surrounding flood management.  Their construction of dams along creeks can flood farm fields and woodlands.  Their feeding and tree cutting can kill desired trees in nearby timberland and orchards.

Management Options for Land Owners

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) publication, “Living with Beavers” provides excellent advice, along with a summary of the regulations regarding this native wildlife species.  As per this document, “The beaver is a native species with a year-round hunting and trapping season in Florida.”  Beaver hunting and trapping regulations can be found on the FWC Furbearer Hunting and Trapping website.  A beaver can be taken as a nuisance animal, if it causes or is about to cause property damage, presents a threat to public safety, or causes an annoyance in, under, or upon a building, per Florida Rule 68A-9.010.”  Other recommendations from this FWC publication are:

  • “Beaver dam removal provides immediate relief from flooding and can be the simplest and cheapest way of dealing with a beaver problem. However, beavers often quickly rebuild a dam as soon as it is damaged. “
  • “When removing a dam is infeasible or unsuccessful, installing a water level control structure through the dam can allow for the control of water flow without removing the dam. This technique also reduces the likelihood of the beaver continuously blocking water flow. For technical assistance, contact a wildlife assistance biologist at a regional FWC office near you.”
  • “If a beaver dam is blocking a culvert or similar structure, installing a barrier several feet away from the culvert can be the most effective solution. This prevents the beavers from accessing the culvert to dam it. Please contact a wildlife assistance biologist at a regional FWC office near you for technical assistance.”
  • “Protect valuable trees and vegetation from beaver damage by installing a fence around them or wrapping tree trunks loosely with 3-5 feet of hardware cloth or multiple wraps of chicken wire. This prevents the beavers from chewing on the trees and other plants.”
  • “Lethal control should be considered a last resort.”

FWC also points the reader to this publication from Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service, Department of Aquaculture, Fisheries and Wildlife, “The Clemson Beaver Pond Leveler.”  This publication provides diagrams and a list of materials needed to construct a device which is designed to “minimize the probability that current flow can be detected by beavers, therefore minimizing dam construction.”

All questions regarding beaver management should be directed to your local FWC Regional Office.  Land owners can also request a list of Nuisance Wildlife Trappers available in their area:

FWC Northwest Region Office
3911 Highway 2321
Panama City, FL 32409-1659
(850) 265-3676

 Links to the references used for this article:



Author: Judy Biss –

Judy Biss is the Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent in Calhoun County, Florida

Judy Biss

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Miniature Plants with Sizeable Character

Water meal, the world’s smallest flowering plant.  Photo by Vic Ramey, University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.

Some of the world’s smallest flowering plants grow in aquatic environments.  And a number of these tiny aquatic plants grow natively right here in Florida!  Aquatic plants of all kinds display an amazing array of adaptations for growing in water.  They can tolerate drought, flood, flowing water, stagnant water, cold spring runs, and warm brackish marshes.  They grow in sun and shade and nutrient rich to nutrient poor waters.  Some of their adaptations include the ways in which they grow such as being rooted in bottom sediments, submerged, emerged, leaves floating on the surface, or completely free floating with their roots dangling into the water below.

The tiniest of aquatic plants are in this group of free floating plants.  Let’s take a look at five of these tiny (less than ½ inch wide) plant species in Florida.  They are most noticeable in slow moving waters, ponds, or coves protected from wind where many thousands of them form floating mats almost like paint on the water surface. Even though individual plants are small, some of these plant species are used by wildlife and invertebrates for food and cover.  Oftentimes, especially in small ponds, these tiny floating plants can cover the entire water surface resulting in the need for management, especially if the ponds are used for irrigation or livestock watering.

In this article we will look at the native species, but as you are probably aware, there are also non-native representatives of these tiny plants established in our waters, but that is a story for another time…

The images and text below are from the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Species website, list of Plants Sorted by Common Name.

“Water meal, native to Florida, is a tiny, floating, rootless plant. At 1 to 1.5 mm long, it is the smallest flowering plant on earth. It is occasionally found growing in rivers, ponds, lakes, and sloughs of the peninsula and central panhandle of Florida (Wunderlin, 2003).”

Water meal has a grainy feel and can be used as one clue in identifying this plant.  Photo by Ann Murray, University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.

American Waterfern

“There are six species of Azolla in the world. American waterfern is the species commonly found in Florida. American waterfern is a small, free-floating fern, about one-half inch in size. It is most often found in still or sluggish waters. Young plants are, at first, a bright or grey-green. Azolla plants often turn red in color. American waterfern can quickly form large, floating mats.”

A large area of waterfern showing the reddish coloration. Photo by Vic Ramey, University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.

Close up of individual water fern plants.  Photo by Ann Murray, University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.

Giant Duckweed

“Giant duckweed is a native floating plant in Florida. Though very small, it is the largest of the duckweeds…..frequently found growing in rivers, ponds, lakes, and sloughs from the peninsula west to the central panhandle of Florida (Wunderlin, 2003)…  Giant duckweed has two to three rounded leaves, which are usually connected. Giant duckweeds usually have several roots (up to nine) hanging beneath each leaf. The underleaf surface of giant duckweed is dark red.”

Close up of individual duckweed plants showing roots hanging freely below the plant.  Photo by Vic Ramey, University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.

A typical scene of duckweed in a quiet cove or pond.  Photo by Ann Murray, University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.

Small Duckweed

“Small duckweeds are floating plants. They are commonly found in still or sluggish waters. They often form large floating mats…. Small duckweeds are tiny (1/16 to 1/8 inch) green plants with shoe-shaped leaves. Each plant has two to several leaves joined at the base. A single root hangs beneath.”

This is small duckweed, note the single root below each plant.  Photo by Vic Ramey, University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.


“Mud-midget, native to Florida, is another small duckweed, but this one has narrow, elongated fronds. The fronds are usually connected to form starlike colonies. The fronds are 5-10 mm long; the flowers are extremely small and difficult to see.  Mud-midget plants float just beneath the surface of the water and is frequently found growing in rivers, ponds, lakes, and sloughs from the peninsula west to the central panhandle of Florida (Wunderlin, 2003)….”

Mudmidget, Photo by Vic Ramey, University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.

If you have any questions about aquatic plant identification or management options, please contact your local UF/IFAS Extension County office.  And, for more information on Florida’s aquatic plants, please see the following resources used for this article:

UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Species

Plants Sorted by Common Name

USDA Forest Service – Duckweed

USDA Forest Service – Water Fern

Native Aquatic and Wetland Plant Fact Sheets 

Aquatic Plant Identification List with Pictures and Videos



Author: Judy Biss –

Judy Biss is the Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent in Calhoun County, Florida

Judy Biss

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Slow the flow: Why should we care about stormwater runoff?

Slow the flow: Why should we care about stormwater runoff?

Stormwater runoff is water from rainfall that flows along the land surface. This runoff usually finds its way into the nearest ditch or water body, such as a river, stream, lake or pond. Generally speaking, in natural undeveloped areas only 10% of rainfall is runoff. About 40% returns to the atmosphere though evapotranspiration, which is the water evaporated from land and plant surfaces plus water lost directly from plants to the atmosphere through their leaves. The remaining 50% of rainfall soaks into the ground, supporting vegetation, contributing to streamflow and replenishing groundwater resources. In Florida, where 90% of the population relies on groundwater for their drinking water, aquifer recharge from infiltrating rainwater is vital.

Stormwater runoff from a drainage pipe flowing into a creek.
Photo: Andrea Albertin

As landscapes become more developed, areas that use to absorb rainwater are replaced by impervious surfaces like rooftops, driveways, parking lots and roads. Additionally, we are levelling our land, removing natural depressions in the landscape that trap rainwater and give it time to seep back into the ground. As a result, a higher percentage of rainfall is becoming runoff and which flow at faster rates into storm drainages and nearby water bodies instead of soaking into the soil.


A major problem with stormwater runoff is that as it flows over surfaces, it picks up potential pollutants that end up in our waterways. These include trash, sediment, fertilizer and pesticides from lawns, bacteria from dog waste, metals from rooftops, and oil from parking lots and roads. Stormwater runoff is often the main cause of surface water pollution in urban areas.


Luckily, there are ways in which we can all help slow the flow and reduce stormwater runoff. These reductions can give rainfall more time to soak back into the ground and replenish our needed stores of groundwater.


What can you do to help “slow the flow” of stormwater?


The UF/IFAS Florida Friendly Landscaping Program provides the following recommendations that you, as a homeowner, can do to reduce stormwater runoff from your property:

  • Direct your downspouts and gutters to drain onto the lawn, plant beds, or containment areas, so that rain soaks into the soil instead of running off the yard.
  • Use mulch, bricks, flagstone, gravel, or other porous surfaces for walkways, patios, and drives.
  • Reduce soil erosion by planting groundcovers on exposed soil such as under trees or on steep slopes
  • Collect and store runoff from your roof in a rain barrel or cistern.
  • Create swales (low areas), rain gardens or terracing on your property to catch, hold, and filter stormwater.
  • Pick up after your pets.
  • Clean up oil spills and leaks on the driveway. Instead of using soap and water, spread cat litter over oil, sweep it up and then throw away in the trash.
  • Sweep grass clippings, fertilizer, and soil from driveways and streets back onto the lawn. Remove trash from street gutters before it washes into storm drains. The City of Tallahassee’s TAPP (Think About Personal Pollution) Campaign is another excellent resource for ways in which you can help reduce stormwater runoff (
  • For more information on stormwater management on your property and other Florida Friendly Landscaping principles, you can visit the Florida Friendly Landscaping website at:

TAPP also provides a manual for homeowners on how to build a raingarden, which can be found at Raingardens are small depressions (either naturally occurring or created) that are planted with native plants. They are designed to temporarily catch rainwater, giving it time to slowly soak back into the ground.

Grass covered drainage ditches slow the flow of stormwater runoff and allow more rainwater to soak back into the ground.
Photo: Andrea Albertin


Author: albertin –


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Aquaponics: A Growing Hobby

Aquaponics: A Growing Hobby

There has been an increasing demand by clientele for information and training on small-scale food production methods to meet the growing demand for locally produced food and for personal consumption. One of the University of Florida Extension’s high-priority initiatives is “increasing the sustainability, profitability, and competitiveness of agricultural and horticultural enterprises.” One food production method currently being investigated is aquaponics.

Koi are a popular fish species used in aquaponic systems.
Photo: Laura Tiu

Aquaponics is a technique for sustainable food production that utilizes the combination of aquaculture with hydroponics to grow fish and vegetables without soil. The process begins with fish producing waste, which is then pumped through a bio-filter to convert into fertilizer for the plants. Plants use nutrients from that water, and the freshly oxygenated water is returned to the fish tank. By recirculating the water from the fish tank to the grow bed, the need for water is greatly reduced compared to traditional irrigation. Additionally, producing crops aquaponically can reduce leaching, runoff, and water discharges to the environment by reusing nutrient effluent from aquaculture and hydroponic systems.

For new growers, being able to have access to training and to see a demonstration unit can eliminate many of the pitfalls typically encountered. A small aquaponics system, using local-sourced materials, is being constructed at the Walton County Extension office in DeFuniak Springs, FL.  This system will demonstrate the technology and capability of small-scale aquaponics. The system is expected to be operational in April 2017. Working together, the Sea Grant, Horticulture, and Agriculture agents will be able to share construction and operation information with interested clients.  Data will be collected from the system in order to give clientele real-world expectations of the operating costs and production potential from the system.  Information will be shared in face-to-face interactions, at workshops, via webinar and in published articles.  The goal is to see an increase in the number of aquaponics operations in the Panhandle of Florida contributing to an increase in availability of locally and sustainably produced food.

If you would like to see the system or learn more about aquaponics by subscribing to our Aquaponics list serve, please email Laura Tiu,

Greens tend to do very well in aquaponic systems.
Photo: Laura Tiu

A panhandle favorite, tomatoes can be grown using aquaponics.
Photo: Laura Tiu


Author: Laura Tiu –

Sea Grant Extension Agent – Okaloosa and Walton Counties

Laura Tiu

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NISAW 2017: The Kudzu Bug

Kudzu bugs on soybeans. Photo credit: Jennifer Bearden

A few years ago, Florida is extended a warm welcome to a new pest – The Kudzu Bug! The kudzu bug was first documented in the US in 2009 in Northeast Georgia.  It has quickly spread throughout the southeast.

At first, a pest that attacks kudzu sounds pretty good but this bug also attacks wisteria, figs, and other legumes like beans and peas. It is a serious pest to soybeans that are grown in our area.  They are similar to stink bugs and discharge an odor when disturbed.   Skin and eye irritation can occur from this odor emission.

Kudzu bugs are small (3.5-6mm long), and are rounded oblong in shape, and olive-green in color. They lay egg masses in two rows of 13 to 137 eggs per row.  The first generation of kudzu bugs seem to prefer to feed on kudzu but subsequent generations will feed on and lay eggs on other legumes.  When fall comes, the adults over-winter where they can find shelter.  They crawl under tree bark and into cracks in houses.

If kudzu bugs make their way into your home, you can vacuum them up and dispose of them. If they are in your landscape or garden, you can set up a trap using a bucket of soapy water and a piece of white poster board.  Kudzu bugs are attracted to lighter colors.  To make the trap, cut the poster board in half.  Attach the two halves by cutting a line up the middle of the two pieces and inserting them into each other.  They should be in the shape of a plus sign.  Place the board over the bucket of soapy water.  As the insects hit the board, they will fall into the soapy water and drown.

Insecticides can be used but timing and placement are very important. Right now, kudzu bugs are just becoming active making now a good time to spray kudzu host plants with an insecticide.  Insecticide with active ingredients ending in “-thrin”, such as pyrethrin, cyfluthrin, etc., are effective against kudzu bugs.  Always read and follow label directions and precautions when using any pesticide.  Controlling kudzu near your house will help decrease the number of bugs, but they are strong flyers and can migrate through neighborhoods that aren’t near kudzu.

Kudzu bug infected with Beauveria bassiana. Photo credit: Jennifer Bearden

There are some natural enemies of kudzu bugs! Generalist predators like green lacewings, lady beetles, damsel bugs and big eye bugs will attack kudzu bug nymphs.  There are also two parasitoids that attack them.  Both discovered in 2013, there is a tiny wasp that develops in the kudzu bug eggs and a fly that lays its eggs in the adult kudzu bug.  The Kudzu bug, like other exotic invasive insect, are opportunistic and we have yet to see how many different plants species may serve as a host for this pest. Beauveria bassiana has also been found to infect kudzu bugs and seem to be an effective natural enemy.

For more information on the kudzu bug, contact the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your county.


Author: Jennifer Bearden –

Agriculture Agent Okaloosa County

Jennifer Bearden

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NISAW 2017: Bamboo

Bamboo shoots can grow as tall as 70 feet. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

Standing in the midst of a stand of bamboo, it’s easy to feel dwarfed. Smooth and sturdy, the hollow, sectioned woody shoots of this fascinating plant can tower as tall as 70 feet. Unfortunately, bamboo is a real threat to natural ecosystems, moving quickly through wooded areas, wetlands, and neighborhoods, taking out native species as it goes.

We do have one native species referred to as bamboo or cane (Arundinaria gigantea), which is found in reasonable numbers in southeastern wetlands and the banks of rivers. There are over a thousand species of true bamboo, but chief among the invasive varieties that give us trouble is Golden Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea). Grown in its native Southeast Asia as a food source, building material, or for fishing rods, bamboo is also well known as the primary diet (99%) of the giant panda. In the United States, the plant was brought in as an ornamental—a fast growing vegetative screen that can also be used as flooring material or food. Clumping bamboos can be managed in a landscape, but the invasive, spreading bamboo will grow aggressively via roots and an extensive network of underground rhizomes that might extend more than 100 feet from their origin.

Whimsy art Panda in a bamboo forest at the Glendale Nature Preserve. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

As a perennial grass, bamboo grows straight up, quickly, and can withstand occasional cutting and mowing without impacts to its overall health. However, a repeated program of intensive mowing, as often as you’d mow a lawn and over several years, will be needed to keep the plant under control. Small patches can be dug up, and there has been some success with containing the rhizomes by installing an underground “wall” of wood, plastic, or metal 18” into the soil around a section of bamboo.

While there are currently no chemical methods of control specifically labeled for bamboo at this time, the herbicides imazapyr (trade name Arsenal and others) or glyphosate (Round-up, Rodeo) applied at high rates can control it. According to research on the topic, “bamboo should be mowed or chopped and allowed to regrow to a height of approximately 3 feet, or until the leaves expand. Glyphosate at a 5% solution or imazapyr as a 1% solution can then be applied directly to the leaves.” These treatments will often need to be repeated as many as four times before succeeding in complete control of bamboo.

Land managers should know that while imazapyr is typically a more effective herbicide for bamboo, it can kill surrounding beneficial trees and shrubs due to its persistence in the contiguous roots and soil. In contrast, glyphosate solutions will only kill the species to which it has been applied and is the best choice for most areas managed by homeowners.

Bamboo Control Publication


Author: Carrie Stevenson –

Coastal Sustainability Agent, Escambia County Extension

Carrie Stevenson

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NISAW 2017: Trying to Stay Ahead of Beach Vitex

Beach Vitex Blossom. Photo credit: Rick O’Connor

Research shows that the most effective time to deal with an invasive species, both in terms of controlling or eradicating the species and money spent to do so, is early on…. What we call Early Detection Rapid Response. Beach vitex is a good candidate for this.

The first record for vitex in the Florida panhandle was in 2012. A local citizen in Gulf Breeze (Santa Rosa County) reported it on her beach and believed it may have come from Santa Rosa Island… it did.  The barrier island location was logged on EDDmaps and the Gulf Breeze plants were removed.  A quick survey of Florida on EDDmaps found that the only other location was in Duval County – 3 records there.  So this was not a wide spread plant in our state and could be a rare case for eradication.  That was until I surveyed Pensacola Beach on a bicycle and found 22 properties with it.  Soon afterwards, it was found on the shores of Perdido Bay and concern set it that it might be more widespread than we thought.

Vitex beginning to take over bike path on Pensacola Beach. Photo credit: Rick O’Connor

We tried to educate the property owners about the issue based on what we learned in South Carolina, where there is a state task force to battle the plant, and suggested methods of removal. Many property owners began the process, which can take several treatments over several years, and, with the help of University of West Florida students, removed all of the vitex from public land on Santa Rosa Island.  We were feeling good that we might still be able to eradicate this plant from our county… and then I went for a hike in the Gulf Islands National Seashore… yep… found more… almost 10,000 m2 of the plant.  UWF and Sea Grant have worked hard over the past year to remove these plants, and have removed all but one section.  Recently I received an email letting me know that it was found in Franklin County.  They have since logged this on EDDmaps and have begun the removal process.  However, this begs the question… where else might this plant be in the panhandle?


Beach vitex (Vitex rotundifolia) is a salt tolerant plant that does well in dry sandy soils and full sun; it loves the beach.  We have found it in dune areas above the high tide line.  It was brought to the United States in the 1950’s for herbarium use.  By the 1980,’s the plant was used in landscaping and sold at nurseries.  It was first used in dune restoration in South Carolina after Hurricane Hugo, and that was when the trouble began.

Vitex growing at Gulf Islands National Seashore that has been removed. Photo credit: Rick O’Connor

The plant grows very aggressively during the warmer months. It out competes native dune plants and quickly takes over.  Growing 2-3 foot tall, this woody shrub has above ground rhizomes that can extend over 20 feet.  Secondary roots begin to grow from the nodes along these rhizomes and it quickly forms an entangled mat of vines that blocks sun for some of the native plants.  There has also been concern for nesting sea turtles.  The rhizomes can over take a nest while incubation is occurring and entrapping the hatchlings.  The plant has become such a problem in both North and South Carolina that a state task force has been developed to battle it.  Vitex can spread either vegetative or by seed, both can tolerate being in salt water and can be dispersed via tides and currents.  The plant has 1-2” ovate leaves and violet colored blossom, which can be seen in late spring and summer.  The leaves become a rusty gray color during winter.  The seeds, which are found in late summer and fall, are spherical and gray-purple in color.  Vitex produces many seeds, an estimated 22,000/m2, and – in addition to being carried by the tide – can be transported by birds as well.

Again, we are hoping that the plant has been discovered early enough to control, if not eradicate, it… HOWEVER, WE NEED YOUR HELP. If you think you may have seen this plant along your coasts, please contact your county Sea Grant Extension Agent for advice on how to manage it.


Author: Rick O’Connor –

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

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NISAW 2017: Cuban Treefrog—Invasive Invader in Florida

Guest Blogger – Dr. Steve A. Johnson, Associate Professor & Extension Specialist, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida

Cuban Treefrog. Photo credit: Steve Johnson

The National Invasive Species Council defines an invasive species as one that is introduced outside its native range where it causes harm (or is likely to) to the environment, economy, or human quality of life. The Cuban Treefrog in Florida qualifies as invasive under all three parts of this definition. Introduced from Cuba to Key West inadvertently in a shipment of cargo about 100 years ago, this frog is now established throughout Florida’s peninsula, and isolated records from numerous panhandle counties continue to accumulate. There are many records of Cuban Treefrogs from other states in the US, and even Canada. Most of these frogs originated in Florida and found their way to points beyond as hitchhikers on vehicles or as stowaways in shipments of ornamental plants. Fortunately, Cuban Treefrogs do not appear to have gained a permanent foothold—yet—outside of the Sunshine State.

Cuban Treefrog eating a Green Treefrog. Photo Credit: Nancy Bennett

Cuban Treefrogs are well documented predators of Florida’s native treefrogs and are likely responsible for declines in native treefrog numbers, especially in suburban neighborhoods. Fortunately, research has shown that when native frogs (e.g., Squirrel and Green Treefrogs) are still present that they respond favorably to the removal of their invasive cousins. Cuban Treefrogs are known to seek shelter in electrical utility equipment or even a home air-conditioning units, and as they climb around they may cause short circuits, leading to costly repairs. They also invade homes, ending up in a toilet at times, and have also sent young children to the emergency room. The frogs exude a noxious skin secretion when handled, which is extremely irritating to mucous membranes, especially one’s eyes. So be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling a Cuban Treefrog.

To mitigate the negative impacts Cuban Treefrogs are having on Florida’s native wildlife, as well as their effects on our quality of life, I recommend that these invaders be captured and humanely euthanized. For tips on how to capture, identify, and humanely euthanize these frogs visit and also read “The Cuban Treefrog in Florida. Report sightings of this species outside of the Florida peninsula to Dr. Steve A. Johnson, and within the peninsula report them on EDDmapS.




Author: admin –


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NISAW 2017: Fungal Pathogen Invaders

Special Guest Blogger – Lorraine Ketzler, Biological Science Technician with US Fish and Wildlife Service

There have been several fungal invaders entering and spreading within the US in recent years and I’d like to draw attention to four of them:

Eastern red bats being surveyed for White-nose Syndrome at Talladega National Forest, AL. Photo credit: Lorraine Ketzler

  • White-nose Syndrome (WNS) in bats (Pseudogymnoascus destructans)
  • Chytridiomycosis (Chytrids) in frogs (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis)
  • Chytridiomycosis (B-sal) in salamanders (Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans)
  • Laurel wilt disease (Raffaelea lauricola) in Lauracea family trees (redbay, sassafras, avocado and others), transferred by the invasive redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus).

These diseases have devastating effects on multiple species. Bats, frogs, and salamanders are important insect predators, and all species –including trees- cycle nutrients through ecosystems to provide carbon storage benefits as well as other services.  Bat populations in North America are declining precipitously as WNS marches westward across the continent.  Many frog populations across the globe have disappeared because of Chytrids, with several species recorded as extinct and some are being listed under the Endangered Species Act.  In addition to nutrient cycling, Lauracea trees benefit humans as food crops, aromatic ornamental trees, and medicinal plants.  However, Laurel wilt disease is found in nearly every county in Florida, and continues to spread throughout the southeast.

The state and the US must remain vigilant and monitor against the introduction of B-sal, a recently discovered and highly transmissible disease spread through pet trade salamanders. It has not yet been observed in the US, but has caused widespread declines in native salamanders of the Netherlands and UK.

Unprecedented numbers of new and emerging pathogenic fungi continue to be discovered. Fungi genomes are amazingly adaptable, overcoming plant and animal defenses, and becoming resistant to fungicides.  Increasing human traffic, trade, and disturbance introduce these pathogens to new habitats.  Trade ports are key introduction sites.  Always practice decontamination procedures when handling wildlife and native plants, even in areas without confirmed infections to prevent the spread of disease to new populations.

Help Stop the Spread of Non-native Species


Author: admin –


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NISAW 2017: Laurel Wilt

Tree infected with Laurel Wilt.  Photo credit:  Sheila Dunning

Many invasive plants and insects are introduced in packing materials, including 12 species of ambrosia beetles, which embed themselves in wood used as crates and pallets. While these tiny beetles don’t actually feed on wood, the adults and larvae feed on fungi that is inoculated into galleries within the sapwood by the females when they deposited their eggs. While the ambrosia fungus keeps the beetles alive, it kills the host tree. This is the projected fate of redbay trees (Persea borbonia) due to the Redbay Ambrosia Beetle.

First detected in the United States in a Georgia trap in 2002, Xyleborus glabratus, the Redbay Ambrosia Beetle, caused substantial mortality of redbay in northern Duval County, Florida in 2005. This ambrosia beetle introduces fungal spores, (Raffaelea lauricola) from specialized structures found at the base of their mandibles into the vascular system of plants when boring into host trees of the Lauraceae family. This insect and disease complex has collectively been named “Laurel Wilt.”  Infected redbays, assafrass and avocado trees wilt and die within a few weeks or months.

Ambrosia Beetle life stages

The Redbay Ambrosia Beetle is a shiny black, cylindrical insect about 2 mm in length. The males are flightless and the females can only fly short distances (1 – 1.5 miles). Therefore, host trees are often attacked many times and stands of redbays are damaged quickly. Small strings of compacted sawdust may protrude from the bark at the point of initial attack. However, wind and rain easily remove this sign leaving the only symptom to be the total browning of foliage in a section of the tree’s crown. Since the fungus blocks the xylem (water-carrying) tissue of the redbay, it appears to wilt while leaves remain attached. Once infected, the trees cannot be saved.

To avoid spreading the beetle and pathogen to new areas, the trees need to be cut down and wood or chips from the infested trees should not be transported off site. Where allowed, the materials should be burned on site. Protection of unaffected trees is possible with expensive pesticides if applied in a timely manner and using the correct techniques. Removal of all susceptible tree species is not recommended. The survivors may hold a genetic tolerance.


Author: Sheila Dunning –

Sheila Dunning

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