(UPDATED COVERAGE, March 9) Florida agriculture inspectors have discovered the carrier of an avocado tree-killing disease close to south Florida’s Miami-Dade County commercial growing region.

UPDATED:  Avocado pest spotted in Miami-Dade County

Redbay ambrosia beetle

Trappers spotted the redbay ambrosia beetle —  which spreads the laurel wilt fungus — in an insect trap in the Emerald Lakes subdivision in the central-west side of Miami-Dade County.

Before the discovery, inspectors had only found the tiny exotic beetle north of the Miami-West Palm Beach, Fla., metropolitan area in Martin County, which is south of Fort Pierce, Fla.

Authorities caution that the bug hasn’t threatened the state’s commercial avocado production, which remains “healthy,” according to a March 9 news release from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“While one redbay ambrosia beetle has been confirmed in a trap … no redbay ambrosia beetles have been found in south Miami-Dade County and, at this time, there is no evidence of a wilt-like disease spreading in the avocado region of the state,” according to the release.

The state has heightened trappings in the area of the find and is working south to protect the avocado production area in the Florida City-Homestead, Fla., region on the county’s south end. 

A team of state and federal agricultural inspectors in the Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey program are surveying, detecting and monitoring agricultural plant pests, according to the release.

Scientists warn the beetle could wipe out half the state’s $13 million avocado crop, which is planted on 6,773 acres.

Craig Wheeling, president of Brooks Tropicals Inc., Homestead, Fla., said the industry is confident researchers will find a solution to keep the disease away from commercial groves.

“The government survey teams have done a great job in finding the beetle considering they had to cover tens of thousands of acres in the tri-county area,” he said.  “The University of Florida along with the state and federal governments have been working hard to find a viable solution.  With all their hard work, they’ve come up with some promising ways to attack the beetle.  We’re hoping for a quick cure.”

First discovered in Savannah, Ga., in 2002, it quickly spread to Jacksonville, Fla., in 2005 and then to Okeechobee and Indian River counties in south-central Florida.

The redbay tree hosts the beetle that is as small as President Abraham Lincoln’s nose on a copper penny.