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Parasitic wasp enlisted in fight against ACP

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Could biological control of the Asian Citrus Psyllid be a breakthrough the citrus industry is looking for?

Here is yet another example of why American agriculture and the science behind it intrigue me.

The battle against the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) and the fatal disease it vectors in citrus fruit has California citrus growers and government officials rightly concerned. Enter a tiny wasp from the other side of the globe.

An article published online by San Diego County News Center points to a parasitic wasp that is being enlisted in the fight against the ACP in hopes of preventing Huanglongbing (HLB) from wreaking havoc on California’s citrus industry.

The tiny wasp comes from Pakistan and, according to the news article, shows promise in the fight against the ACP. Populations of the wasp have already been released in San Diego County.

Here’s how it works. The millimeter-long wasp, called Tamarixia radia, lays eggs on the ACP nymphs. As the wasp hatches it bores through the ACP nymph, consuming its host prior to escaping.

According to one official quoted in the article, an established wasp population in San Diego County, where this is being studied, could make a serious dent in the psyllid population there. The catch is that ant control is also important because ants are particularly hostile to the wasp and protective of ACP nymphs. I never did like ants!

If this does work it would only make sense that future wasp releases would continue throughout Southern California, where the psyllid has spread.

Such biological controls for invasive pests hold great promise because they do not require unpopular chemical treatment programs. Given the close, positive relationship agriculture has with various universities growers can rightly be optimistic.

While nothing yet can halt or reverse the effects of HLB in citrus trees, taking an aggressive approach against the vector of the disease is an obvious approach to consider.

Meanwhile, citrus growers and urban residents with citrus trees need to work together to do everything possible to stop the spread of the ACP and prevent HLB from killing citrus trees. County agriculture commissioners and the California Department of Food and Agriculture have useful information for growers and homeowners alike.

Discuss this Blog Entry 2

Anonymous (not verified)
on Aug 22, 2013

I wonder why ants are protective of ACP nymphs? How did this evolve to be so?

Dan Young (not verified)
on Oct 29, 2013

Ants have this kind of relationship with several species of bugs in both the Hemiptera and Homoptera orders. It's a common site to see ants coexisting on Peonies with aphids in order to feed on the honeydew the aphids produce. I understand that the ACP is a Hemipterus species. Maybe the ants have a similar benefit from a similar relationship. Or maybe they just can't tell the difference.

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