May 17, 2023
UF researchers battle pest that harms green beans, peas and legumes

Scientists at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) are working to identify and control a pest that harms green beans, peas and legumes grown in the state.

Bean flower thrips, known by the scientific name of Megalurothrips usitatus, attack such legumes as beans and peas. It damages foliage, flowers and pods of legumes. In some cases, it can wipe out an entire field of crops.

UF entomologist Hugh Smith. Smith and UF/IFAS scientists are working to identify and control a pest that harms green beans, peas and legumes grown in Florida. Photo: Provided

In the past three years, it became established in Florida, Mexico, Central America and part of the Caribbean. In Florida, the thrips are residing in the south Florida counties of Hendry, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. It damages leaves, flowers and bean pods.

“Snap beans are an important part of Florida’s agricultural economy, and south Florida is the primary producer of snap beans for the United States during winter months,” Hugh Smith, a UF/IFAS entomologist, said in the release.

Bean flower thrips have seriously impacted Florida’s snap bean industry in the Homestead area. It currently threatens bean production in much of Central America, where beans are a food staple. The thrips also damages important export crops including snow peas and French beans.

Within the U.S., the species is limited to south Florida, where it was first confirmed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in 2020. This species of thrips was documented in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Cuba during the past two years.

UF University of Florida IFAS logoIn March, Smith led a training in Guatemala on identification and management of the thrips in collaboration with the Instituto de Ciencias y Tecnología Agrícolas. The training was attended by agronomists and bean breeders from across Central America and Colombia with a common interest in combating this new pest. Smith is also working with a graduate student in Guatemala to try to find strategies for farmers in Central America, Mexico and southeast Florida to control this thrips more effectively, according to the release.

The researchers’ work could help growers save money on insecticides, which are thus far the only method known to control the thrips. Smith has demonstrated that some insecticides are effective. He’s investigating other approaches – including insects that prey on this thrips species — but so far, the only guidelines are insecticides.

This Spanish news segment highlights the recent research project in Guatemala led by Smith. Smith traveled to Central America to present research on the new pest affecting bean production. For ENGLISH – click the Closed Caption icon in the lower right corner of the video and then click the Settings icon to choose the language you prefer for your captions.

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