Q: Please let me know if you are providing Lilioceris cheni (air potato) beetles to the public for potato vine control. If not, is the county offering potato vine management services?
Answer: We’ve received several calls and emails recently regarding air potato leaf beetles in response to a recent local television news item. Most residents who contact us are under the impression they can pick up air potato leaf beetles from our office at the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County. That information is not correct.
For now, the beetles are only being released on public lands and research sites (such as county and state parks), where the beetle populations can be monitored. We are not aware of the county offering air potato vine management services.
Nicole Pinson from our office talked with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) to see if there has been a change in the beetle release sites or beetle availability. They advised her that at some point the beetles may become available to homeowners, but not at this time.
Additional information on this invasive plant can be found in the University of Florida (UF) publication “Air Potato Leaf Beetle (Suggested Common Name), Lilioceris cheni Gressitt and Kimoto (Insecta: Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Criocerinae),” by Ted D. Center and William A. Overholt, at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/IN/IN97200.pdf. This article states that the air potato beetle negatively impacts air potato plant growth and reproduction.
Another UF publication, “Natural Area Weeds: Air Potato (Dioscorea bulbifera),” by K.A. Langeland and M.J. Meisenburg, can be viewed at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag112, and contains information on control recommendations.
Lynn Barber is the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods agent at Hillsborough Extension. Reach her at BarberL@hillsboroughcounty.org.