Wasps released to control mealybug

The Department of Agriculture released its first batch of parasitic wasps last week in its ongoing fight against Grand Cayman’s newest pest, the Pink Hibiscus Mealybug.

Dr. Amy Roda, the lead entomologist with the USDA’s biological control program for PHM in Florida and Latin America, was on island to help monitor the release of the wasps and to share her technical expertise about this innovative biocontrol strategy.

The Department of Agriculture said the wasps are anticipated to have an immediate and noticeable effect.

The release of the 5,000 tiny insects comes at a timely juncture, with the recent announcement of a third area of infestation, this time in Bodden Town.

The Department of Agriculture reassured the public that mosquito control operations will proceed normally, while taking steps to ensure they have minimal impact on the PHM eradication program.

‘The DoA is providing the Mosquito Research and Control Unit with updates as to areas where biocontrol insects have been released, allowing MRCU to plan their control operations in a way that minimizes the exposure of biocontrol insects to MRCU’s pesticide,’ said Leader of Government Business and Minister of Agriculture Kurt Tibbetts.

He said that up to now, due to their size, activity period and protective shell, the lady bird beetle predators have not been significantly affected by the ultra-low volume pesticide application techniques MRCU employs, but the tiny wasps will be more susceptible.

Mr. Tibbetts reassured the public that the wasps do not pose any threat to any local plants, wildlife or to the human population, as their primary prey is the PHM. Their numbers will dwindle once their main food source begins to disappear.