The USDA has found a way to stop the spread of an insect that has destroyed millions of citrus trees in the United States.
The Asian Citrus Psyllid threatens Yuma and the Imperial County citrus industry. The psyllid carries a bacteria that causes citrus trees to yield inedible fruit and eventually kills the tree. Paul Brierley with the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture says the ADOA is using another insect to fight off the psyllid. “It’s a parasitic wasp that is tiny, about the size of a grain of sand,” says Brierley.
The wasp named Tamarixia Radiata, is a predator to the Asian Citrus Psyllid and its sole purpose is to eradicate the psyllid. Brierley says “all they do is seek out these Asian Citrus Psyllids and basically lay eggs inside them and when they hatch – that kills the psyllid.”
Research is still being conducted on the wasp to see how successful it is in stopping the psyllid. Brierley says the wasp is currently being released in nine locations in Yuma County with potentially more in the future, “They are releasing about 1,600 every week and hoping that takes hold where they will be self sustaining. And again they only target this one Asian Citrus Psyllid we want to get rid of. So as long as those are around we want to keep the wasps around.”
The wasps are being released near residential areas but residents should not be afraid of the wasps because they will not harm them or their pets.
“Their only purpose in life is to find that Asian Citrus Psyllid, lay an egg in it and they’re done so it’s a beautiful thing. It’s all natural so we are hoping it will work,” says Brierley.
If the testing continues to be successful, next year the wasps will be released at 25 other locations in Yuma.
“It’s a 36 million dollar industry here in Arizona so it’s worth protecting.”