Invasive Brazilian Peppertree Has New Nemesis In Florida: Tiny Insect
Florida scientists launched an experiment Thursday morning using a small bug they believe will be a game-changer in controlling Brazilian peppertrees across the state.
The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences released Brazillian peppertree thrips onto Adams Ranch in Fort Pierce. The Ranch has been overtaken by the invasive plants.
In recent decades, Mike Adams said the trees have been an expensive problem on his 40,000 acre property.
"We spend about a quarter of a million dollars on controlling our Brazilian peppers every year so this will help decrease some of our cost,” he said. “Also we'll use a lot less chemicals for the environment."
Adams said he hopes these thrips will help create more grasslands for his cattle.
Speaking at the ranch, Kelly Curruthers with UF-IFAS said researchers traveled to Brazil to find the bug and have been working for more than 10 years to release them in Florida.
"If this insect will establish and will eat the Brazilian peppertree we can really reduce the amount of herbicides that we use especially in those natural areas where you're worried about herbicides getting into the water or effecting the landscapes," Curruthers said.
She said the USDA finally recommended thrips for release after ensuring they will only eat Brazilian peppertrees.
"So this is a very exciting time for the people of Florida,” said Eric Rohrig with the state Department of Agriculture who attended the release.
“Most people are impacted by Brazilian pepper whether they realize it or not, so this is just another wonderful opportunity for us to collaborate-- the University of Florida, United States Department of Agriculture, and Florida Department of Agriculture."