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SANDUSKY, MI -- A new and serious threat to Michigan's cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and other crucifers has been found in Sanilac County.

Officials do not know how the Swede midges were introduced to the five organic growing fields in Marlette, according to a statement from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. It was the first time the invasive pests were found in Michigan.

Officials have not identified which farm or farms were infested.

The Swede midge is is native to Europe and southwestern Asia. The pest was first found in North America in 2000 in Ontario, Canada. In 2004, it was found in Niagara County, New York.

The insect larvae feed on, disfigure and can destroy the growing tip of the plants.

A relatively weak flier, Swede midge most easily spreads to new areas in infested transplant material, according to the statement.

The Michigan State University Extension will be investigating the extent of the infestation in the state, developing monitoring and control recommendations and educating growers.

Zsofia Szendrei, a Michigan State University associate professor who specializes in vegetable entomology, said it is not yet clear how widespread the pest has become in the state.

The pest is usually first discovered at organic farms because they don't use pesticides.

"I think it's a developing problem. We know it can cause problems in large-scale, conventional (farms)," she said. "The next step for us is to figure out where all it is."

Swede midge will be a topic at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo in Grand Rapids on Dec. 8-10.

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