Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Can Parasitic Wasps Help Save America's Citrus?

Hillary Rosner


In a lemon grove in Riverside, California, a half dozen beige mesh tents rise above the fruit trees. Within each tent a solitary lemon tree bustles with invaders from another continent: small insects called Asian citrus psyllids. They're potential carriers of a plague that could decimate California's citrus groves. But scientists here are deliberately breeding them—in order to breed an antidote.

"Warning," read signs posted on the tents in English and Spanish. "Wasps inside."

Tamarixia radiata is a flea-size parasitic wasp from Pakistan that attacks Asian citrus psyllids. Hundreds of thousands of the tiny wasps have already been released in California. Last month the U.S. Department of Agriculture promised the state $1.5 million to ramp up the program to around a million wasps a year.

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