Bromeliad growers in South Florida say their crops are being falsely identified as a potential habitat for Zika-carrying mosquitoes.
According to an AP story, this past August, city officials in Miami Beach pulled all bromeliads from the 2.6-acre Miami Beach Botanical Garden, as well as from medians and parks. They also recommended all Miami Beach residents and businesses do the same, because mosquitoes can breed in water trapped by bromeliads’ cylindrical centers, formed by leaves growing out in spiral patterns. Residents elsewhere in South Florida also have followed suit.
According to the story, Florida’s bromeliad growers argue that bromeliads have been scapegoated and that instead of fueling Zika fears, the city could be adjusting landscaping practices to make bromeliads less hospitable to mosquitoes.
Bromeliads aren’t the only plants that trap water in their leaves, and growers say debris like lawn clippings that fall into gutters, flower pots, or other items that collect water are as much to blame for providing organic materials that mosquito larvae eat.
City officials say they’re targeting mosquitoes, not bromeliads, to stop the spread of a virus that can cause severe brain-related birth defects.
Growers worry bromeliads could face a similar fate as hundreds of thousands of orange, grapefruit, and key lime trees in Florida. State agriculture officials cut down even healthy trees between 2000 and 2006 to try eradicating citrus greening, a bacterial disease threatening Florida’s citrus industry.