There is a new pest in Florida, that poses a serious threat to lychee trees. This insect is the lychee erinose mite (LEM), which goes by the scientific name Aceria litchii. LEM is a native of Asia where it is considered a major pest of lychee (Litchi chinensis) trees. It is a world traveler and has made its way to Hawaii, Australia and Brazil and is considered a prioritized pest in the continental United States and other territories.
Originally, LEM was discovered in Florida in a lychee grove in Sarasota County in 1955. It resurfaced in 1995 in Miami-Dade County, on plants imported from China. In both of those cases, they were eradicated and never became established in the state.
Florida produces more lychee and longan in the United States than both Hawaii and California, with approximately 90% of the commercial production concentrated in Miami-Dade County. LEM has been discovered not only in Brevard County, but also Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, Collier, Hendry, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee and Pinellas counties.
Lee County has several nurseries that produce lychee material that is shipped to the main production area in Miami-Dade. The plants currently are under quarantine for both fruit and plant parts that could contain the pest. According to eu.floridatoday.com, Lee County’s lychee fruit is still harvested but is only be shipped outside of Florida.