USDA

Published: Aug 08, 2013 10:55 AM EDT

LITHIA, Fla. (AP) - Scientists hope a beetle will help them stop an invasive plant from smothering Florida's native habitats.
    
The air potato is a leafy green vine menacing hardwood hammocks, pine flatwoods and wetlands in every Florida county. State entomologist Eric Rohrig says tiny, red air potato beetles from Asia have been deployed to eat the vines and suppress their growth.
    
Rohrig tells The Tampa Tribune (http://bit.ly/176AASW ) that in areas where the beetles were introduced last year, air potato vines aren't growing as tall. The beetles only eat air potato vine. Scientists believe the insects will die out if their food supply runs out.
    
The beetles were first released in Hillsborough County and then statewide. The effort is funded through a partnership between federal and state agriculture departments.
    
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Information from: The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune, http://www.tampatrib.com

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