The enemy and devourer of the air potato vine is coming to north Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and partners are sponsoring an Air Potato Challenge to distribute air potato leaf beetles to people trying to get rid of invasive air potato vines on their property. Air potato leaf beetles will be handed out to people at two free upcoming events:

Friday, May 18, Leon County – The event will be from 9 a.m. to noon at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Center for Viticulture and Small Fruit Research, 6505 Mahan Drive, Tallahassee.

Wednesday, June 6, Bay County – The event will be from 9 a.m. to noon at the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Office, 2728 E. 14th St., Panama City, followed by an afternoon talk and workshop.

“Air potato leaf beetles are being used in Florida as a safe natural bio-control that helps us combat the invasive air potato vine. This nonnative vine can grow up to 8 inches a day and up to 70 feet in length, crowding out or killing native vegetation,” said Matt Phillips, who leads the FWC’s invasive plants section. “Air potato leaf beetles are small, colorful and harmless to us and other plants, but they have aggressive appetites when it comes to eating air potato vines.”

People who attend Air Potato Challenge events should bring a sample of air potato vine from their yard or land, so its identification can be verified by biologists. If they do have the vine, people will receive a container of ten to 100 air potato leaf beetles to take home and release on their property.

The events are informal, and people are invited to come and

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