Today’s Editorial June 26: Help stop the Mealybug

There’s a pest on Grand Cayman that has the potential to wipe out our crops and ornamental plants.

Once again the alarm has been sounded about the Pink Hibiscus Mealybug.

In the past we’ve been warned about the pest before it reached our shores.

This time it’s been found somewhere in George Town.

Now it’s up to all of us to be vigilant to help stop the spread of this potentially deadly pest.

The name sounds innocent enough. And if all it did was kill hibiscus plants our concern wouldn’t be as high.

But the Pink Hibiscus Mealybug is a threat to more than just the lovely hibiscus.

At risk are all citrus crops, avocado, guava, mango, soursop, sugarcane, beans, peanuts, peas, cucumbers, pepper, pumpkin, okra, coconut, sea grape tomato, palm, oleander and many ornamental plants. There are 250 to 300 known plants that the Pink Hibiscus Mealybug can attack and eventually kill.

Already 25 different species have been attacked on Grand Cayman.

The Department of Agriculture staff has no idea how the pest made its way to Grand Cayman, but they are worried.

The Pink Hibiscus Mealybug is a hitchhiker and can be transported with ease.

It catches rides on plants, clothing and gardening equipment.

And like most foreigners who visit our shores, the Pink Hibiscus Mealybug loves it in Grand Cayman.

There are no natural predators of the pest on Grand Cayman because it is not a naturally occurring phenomenon.

While the pest can be treated with pesticide, it isn’t recommended.

Pesticides can do more damage than good to the environment and if used on Grand Cayman can seep into the sea causing harm to our ocean life.

Instead, the Department of Agriculture staff plans to treat the infestation with nature.

Parasitic wasps that prey on the Pink Hibiscus Mealybug will imported to Grand Cayman. The reproduce quickly and have rapid effect.

We’re assured by the Department that the imported wasps won’t be a threat to our natural environment.

In the meantime, the Department of Agriculture needs everyone’s help to eradicate the Pink Hibiscus Mealybug.

We are being asked to pay particular attention to plants on our own properties as well as those in public places. Look for white, cotton-like masses on the plants.

If you find any, don’t cut the plant or try to get rid of it yourself because you could become a carrier and help spread the pest.

Instead, call the Department of Agriculture at 947-3090.

The Department is working diligently to save our island and the sister islands from this pest, but they can’t do it alone.

They need the full cooperation of us all. Do what you can to help.

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