Mealybug found at Ag Department

The plant nursery at the Department of Agriculture has been placed under quarantine and plant sales suspended until further notice.

Laboratory confirmation was made on 3 May that Pink Hibiscus Mealybug was found on one hibiscus plant at its Lower Valley nursery.

In keeping with a policy of zero tolerance for PHM in nurseries, the department has implemented strict procedures to secure the site and eradicate PHM from within the area.

Acting on its preliminary identification of the pest, the Department immediately implemented its protocols for dealing with infestations in nurseries, commencing with the pruning, double bagging and removal of the infested material to the landfill for destruction, states a press release.

Following the removal of the infested plant material the Department’s spray team entered the nursery and applied a chemical treatment on all the plants designed to target any other mealybugs present. This chemical treatment will be repeated in 10 days after which the nursery will undergo another full inspection.

If no PHM is found at that time, normal pest control and maintenance programs are resumed, periodic monitoring continues and the nursery remains quarantined for a further 30 days. A thorough inspection is carried out at the end of this 30 day period and once it’s determined the nursery is still PHM free it will be released from quarantine.

‘Nurseries are zero-tolerance areas, which must be kept free of the pest. It is only in these controlled environments where chemical treatments are effective and recommended to eliminate the pest. In a backyard, landscape or field settings the recommended and most effective strategy is biological control, where a parasitoid wasp is used to reduce the PHM population to a level where it has no significant impact on the plants,’ said Department of Agriculture spokesman Brian Crichlow.

‘Given the many ways that PHM can spread, occasional outbreaks in nurseries are not unexpected and we’re adhering to the protocols that were adopted to cover such an incident following PHM’s arrival on the island in June 2006.’

As with any nursery, the government’s nursery will be monitored and inspected by the Department’s Agriculture Health Inspection Services to ensure rigorous adherence to the protocols, and determine that the pest is eradicated before the nursery’s quarantine is removed.

In general the Department reports that the National PHM control strategy continues to be functioning effectively with many of the original infested sites now fully recovered.

The Department, however, continues to encourage the public to remain vigilant, follow the recommended practices, and report any new sightings to the Department’s PHM Hotline at !-800-534-BUGS (2847), as periodic flare-ups are still being experienced as the pest moves into new areas before the wasp population increases to control it.

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