Butterflies threaten Ja citrus

A new species of butterfly found in Jamaica is seriously threatening the citrus industry that is still recovering from the tristeza virus, according to Roger Clarke, Minister of Agriculture.

The butterflies primarily attack citrus plants younger than two years old.

Speaking Tuesday on Perkins Online on Power 106 radio, Mr. Clarke said stakeholders of the agriculture sector have had initial meetings to determine a suitable response programme.

But according to the Agriculture Minister, his ministry was significantly challenged in its efforts to control the new butterfly pest, as spraying which is the most effective method of eradication would threaten the thriving bee sector.

Mr. Clarke said the small yellow butterflies have already been discovered in Australia and Puerto Rico, and most recently in the Dominican Republic.

But while Mr. Clarke has expressed concerns about the introduction of the pest in Jamaica, Peter McConnell, chairman of Jamaica Citrus Protection Agency, said he was not “overly alarmed” as they were controlling the pest in the nurseries and young fields.

Mr. McConnell who is also the CEO of Tradewinds Citrus Ltd., a major grower and one of two large processors of orange juice, said that they were hand-picking the caterpillars and destroying them. He noted that if the pest becomes widespread, spraying would be conducted in the affected areas.

Dr. Eric Garraway, butterfly specialist and lecturer in the department of life sciences at the University of the West Indies, Mona, explained that the Papiliodemoleus species of butterfly is known for island-hopping, and could possibly have migrated from Santo Domingo.

He also said it could have come in on citrus materials.

But despite Mr. McConnell’s optimism that the pest could be controlled, Dr. Garraway said it was difficult to predict what the impact would be when a new pest is introduced in a country.

However, he noted that it has been managed in other parts of the world and could possibly be contained in Jamaica.