Good news for California citrus growers

Toward the end of 2011, Mark Hoddle, an entomologist at the University of California, Riverside, first released into a citrus grove on campus a batch of Pakistani wasps that are natural enemies of the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), the vector of a bacterium that causes Huanglongbing (HLB), a lethal citrus disease.

Now on Tuesday, Dec. 16, Hoddle, the director of UCR’s Center for Invasive Species Research, is poised to release in the same grove the wasp Diaphorencyrtus aligarhensis, a second species of ACP natural enemy, also from the Punjab region of Pakistan. Shortly after 9 a.m., Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox will release the first set of the new wasps from a vial into the grove. Media representatives may arrive as early as 8:30 a.m.

The new wasp attacks the second and third developmental stages of immature ACP (called nymphs) whereas Tamarixia attacks the larger nymphs in the fourth and fifth stages of development. ACP nymphs have five developmental stages, or instars, after they hatch from the egg.

Successful biocontrol of citrus pests in California sometimes requires more than one species of natural enemy because citrus is grown in a variety of different habitats – hot desert areas like Coachella, cooler coastal zones like Ventura, and intermediate areas like Riverside/Redlands and northern San Diego County.

Around 300 male and female wasps will be released on Dec. 16. Hoddle and his team will open vials of the wasps to allow them to fly into the citrus orchard to start hunting for ACP nymphs.


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