Exotic beetle released to battle air potato vines in Casselberry

Published On: Aug 15 2013 06:37:16 PM EDT
Casselberry, Fla. -

The Air Potato plant may have finally met its match.

The City of Casselberry is hoping a tiny red beetle that resembles a ladybug will help eradicate one of Central Florida's most invasive plants.

Air Potato vines have spread unchecked throughout Central Florida. They are capable of growing eight inches a day, completely smothering native vegetation.

The vines can be identified by their heart shaped leaves and light brown bulbs that hang from their limbs. One vine can produce hundreds of these bulbs, each capable of producing another plant.

State biologists released 1,600 red and black beetles that are known scientifically as Lilioceris cheni. The bugs from subtropical Asia live to devour this particular plant in their native region.

Scientists have been studying the bugs in other parts of the state and feel now is the time to unleash them on the vines. Casselberry is the first location in Central Florida to host a beetle population.

Less than 24 hours after their release, their presence can be noted as tiny holes appear on leaves near the spot where they were released.

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