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Reporter Tracks Invasive Screwworm From Keys to Mainland

Photo: USFWS/Florida Keys Wildlife Refuges Photography Club

For the first time in 30 years, the invasive New World Screwworm has been reported in the Florida Keys. The bug and its flesh-eating larvae have been reported on the mainland.

Since September, 15 cases of the screwworm have been documented in endangered Key Deer, pigs, raccoons, cats, and dogs. In early January, the first case of the fly—and the flesh-eating larvae it produces when its eggs are hatched inside an animal—was reported in Homestead. That brings the screwworm onto the Florida mainland and just miles from Miami.

Infestations can cost $20 million a year to the livestock industry, a dollar figure that doesn't include the impact on pets and the endangered Key Deer. 

More than 40 million sterile flies have been released as part of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspect Service's response to the outbreak. Other methods to combat the spread of the screwworm include an animal health check point and surveillance. 

Tuesday at 1 p.m. on Gulf Coast Live, WLRN reporter Nancy Klingenerlays out the reporting she's done tracking the screwworm infestation since it first re-appeared in the Keys.

Also joining the program will be USDA veterinarian Rob Dickins, calling in from Homestead with the latest on the sterile fly release and the containment efforts for the New World Screwworm.

Copyright 2020 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

Matthew Smith is a reporter and producer of WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live.