Laurel wilt has destroyed thousands of avocado trees in most counties across the state. While the deadly disease has not yet made it to several Panhandle counties, experts say it’s only a matter of time.
Laurel wilt is caused by a fungus carried by ambrosia beetles, a nonnative insect to Florida. So far, six counties have not yet reported the deadly disease: Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa as well as Gulf, Franklin, and Wakulla.
“It’s not a matter of if, it’s just a matter of when they’ll report that they have laurel wilt, and that’s because these native trees throughout the state different species in the laurel family and are susceptible to the pathogen these beetles are carrying,” said Jonathan Crane, a tropical food crop specialist with the University of Florida.
While he says there’s not much that can be done to prevent further spread of laurel wilt, Crane says if you suspect the disease, contact the state Agriculture department’s Division of Plant Industry.
“And, they may come out and take a sample,” he added. “But, the main thing is you don’t want to remove the affected tree from the property because if you move it, then you’re just spreading the beetles and the disease to a new area.”
For proper tree removal, Crane says avocado tree owners should use local disposal teams or contract a licensed company. Rapid wilting and insect boring are signs of laurel wilt.
For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.