According to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), pests damage 30-35% of crops in the country annually. Now, however, entomologists have raised the hopes of fruit growers troubled by the woolly whitefly, as two types of ladybird beetles are among the three indigenous bugs found to be the biological weapons against this enemy of the Indian fruit farmers that originated in the Caribbean.
The whitefly (Aleurothrixus floccosus) is invasive and polyphagous, meaning a creature that feeds on various kinds of food. ICAR’s National Bureau of Agricultural Insect Resources in Bengaluru had in 2019 reported the spread of the pest from the Caribbean island through transportation of infested seedlings.
That year, the pest was recorded from guava plantations in Kozhikode district of Kerala, Ramanagara, Mandya and Bengaluru Rural districts of Karnataka and Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu.
In what could provide relief to fruit farmers, a team of entomologists from the Centre for Plant Protection Studies at the Coimbatore-based Tamil Nadu Agricultural University zeroed in on three indigenous bugs that can control the pest by devouring them.
The research by K. Elango, S. Jeyarajan Nelson, S. Sridharan and A. Aravind was published in the latest edition of Bionotes, a journal for research on life forms. The entomologists found some indigenous bugs feeding on this whitefly in a guava orchard near Coimbatore. The bugs were collected and studied in the laboratory.