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Jan 13, 2003

BAHA fights mealy bug with wasps

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When most of us see a cockroach or annoying mosquito, we spray first and ask questions later. But not all bad bugs can or should be beaten by chemicals. And when that happens, scientists turn to remedies, which are not only more effective, but are also kinder to the environment. Marion Ali reports from Belmopan.

Marion Ali, Reporting

Although those in the agricultural field have been fighting mealy bug infestation for a several years, they have been operating from out of rented premises. Today their dream of having their own insectory became reality with the opening of a new facility.

Coordinating the Mealy Bug programme, Hernan Zetina, says the lab will be used for more than just training and testing.

Hernan Zetina, Coordinator, Mealy Bug Programme

“This lab will be used to produce the parasitoid. We have do is we have a culture here in the lab and we put these cultures on pumpkins and eventually we use the wasp to parasitize the mealy bugs, and we constantly get a new supply of wasps.”

“And the pumpkins we’re using are a special pumpkins. They’re Japanese pumpkins, they’ve very corrugated, which provides a very good host for the mealy bug.”

Zetina says the biological approach is a highly successful one to control the mealy bug population.

Hernan Zetina

“Results that we’ve gotten back from the field has shown that we’ve had as high as ninety-eight percent control. This versus chemical control… Because of the nature of the pest, which has a large exoskeleton, so it’s almost impractical to treat it with chemicals. Also, in order not to pollute the environment we’ve decided now to use biological control. This biological control is very specific for the mealy bug, so since it doesn’t contaminate the environment it’s a win-win situation. “

Marion Ali

“You said that you control the mealy bugs by producing wasps. Does that in any way endanger other species of insects that maybe the wasp is a threat to?”

Hernan Zetina

“Not at all. The wasp is a specific parasite for the mealy bugs, so it only feeds on the mealy bug.”

Zetina says BAHA technicians currently conduct monthly surveillance for a presence of the dreaded pest then the wasps are released in the immediate area. Anyone who suspects the presence of mealy bugs can call the nearest BAHA office in your district or the offices of the Ministry of Agriculture. Marion Ali for News 5.

The new building was constructed at a cost of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars through funding by BAHA, OIRSA, and Government. It is located on the compound of the Belize Agricultural Health Authority and OIRSA near the Belmopan show grounds.


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