Air Potato Beetle Population Abounds

Air potato, Invasive pest plant

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Last year, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services released air potato beetles (Liloceris cheni), a biological control agent for the horrible invasive air potato vine (Dioscorea bulbifera), which threatens to overtake the mesic hammock at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area. Pictured above is Ken Gonyo’s hand last year with an air potato beetle. Unfortunately, the air potato beetles failed to thrive last year.

The story is different this year, and Ken sent this breeding beetles picture taken with his phone …
air potato beetles breeding
Bob Montanaro recently posted beautiful breeding beetle pictures on his wide-reaching blog.

From my phone come these pictures of beetle damage …
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The air potato beetles, even though abundant this year, need human help to even begin to control the air potato population! Air potato is amazingly prolific.

Much to my husband’s dismay, I bring a few air potato bulbils home each year to conduct an annual air potato ‘experiment’. This year the air potatoes were relegated to the laundry room with no water, little light, and plenty of dust. Of 7 bulbils, 6 germinated and, as always, grew wildly producing teeny-weeny leaves …
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Note the white portions of the vine that grew among hanging clothes with absolutely no light. Even the smallest of the bulbils sprouted and grew …
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And already reproduction has begun with small new bulbils at the leaf nodes …
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