Agriculture inspectors have spotted the presence of a tree-killing disease close to south Florida’s avocado production region.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has discovered laurel wilt disease, a fungus that destroys red bay and avocado trees, on three swamp bay trees in south Miami-Dade County. The finding is about 7 miles north of the state’s commercial avocado production region near Homestead, Fla., and Florida City.

Alan Flinn, administrator of the Florida Avocado Administrative Committee, Homestead, said the finding wasn’t too far south of where trappers last spring spotted the bug in a subdivision in the central-west side of Miami-Dade County.

“No one is panicking,” Flinn said. “It’s not near the growing area yet and (the finding) is just an informational thing.”

Denise Feiber, public information director with the Tallahassee-based agency, said inspectors plan to begin aerial surveys to determine how far the disease has spread. She said a the department met with an industry working group on Feb. 25 to address concerns on what the agency is doing to increase trapping and prevent the advance of the disease, which is spread by the redbay ambrosia beetle.

“Research projects have been going on and are being funded, and requests for more funding by the industry to the federal government continues to take place because this research is so important,” Feiber said. “The only bright spot right now is the disease seems to favor the swamp bay or bay trees. If there weren’t anything else available, it would go for the avocado trees. There is concern and the industry is gathering the troops to try to do everything possible to stop it from getting into the production area.”

Feiber said the agency felt last year’s identifying of the redbay ambrosia beetle in the county was a sign than the disease it spreads was not far behind.

The majority of Florida avocados are grown in groves south of Kendall Drive, in the southern half of Miami-Dade County just south of Miami.

Avocado pest found near south Florida production area