Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Roger Clarke, on )(July 10) confirmed the presence of the pink hibiscus mealy bug in the island, and outlined a programme to contain the pest including the importation of the Parasitoid Wasp or Anagyrus Kamali, the natural predator of the bug.
He said that one year’s supply of the wasps will be imported, with the first batch expected to be in the island by the end of July and will be released on a monthly basis.
Picture showing the Pink Hibiscus Mealy Bug adult females and egg sac with eggs as seen under the compound microscope
Minister Clarke, who was addressing a press conference held at his Hope Gardens offices in Kingston, informed that the “Plant Protection Unit has been working with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) to source the natural enemy for rearing and releasing into the infested areas of Commodore and Manchioneal in Portland.”
He said the Ministry has already obtained permits for the importation of the wasps from the USDA/APHIS and a bio control team will be visiting Portland this week to assess the conditions for their release.
Additionally, he informed that the Ministry will be setting up facilities for the mass rearing of the natural enemies.
The Ministry, he said, has the technical expertise to deal with the pink mealy bug, noting that representatives from the Ministry were involved in regional efforts to control the pest and had developed a containment plan in 1996, while a taskforce has been re-established to monitor the situation.
“All technical officers have been trained in mealy bug detection and have also been exposed to the rearing of the parasitoid wasp,” he added.
According to the Agriculture Minister, “if the pest is left unchecked, it can become a potential threat to the island’s agricultural sector,” as it is said to affect some 300 varieties of plants and crops including ornamentals, fruits and vegetables and a variety of trees such as the Blue Mahoe, Guango and Teak.
In the meantime, Minister Clarke informed that scientists will be conducting further survey of Portland and will also be inspecting nurseries in adjoining parishes on a regular basis, to ascertain if the pest has spread beyond the affected communities.
He advised that the movement of plants and planting materials from the affected areas is not recommended at this time and failure to adhere to this recommendation will result in the issuance of a stop order on movement by the Plant Quarantine Division.
He pointed out that with the new discovery, phytosanitary measures will be put in place to satisfy the requirements of trading partners under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement.
Additionally, it will now be a requirement that all phytosanitary certificates issued by the Plant Quarantine Unit must state that all shipments have been checked and found to be free of the pest, even though shipments may still be subject to inspection by the importing country.
Farmers, he said, can assist in the eradication measure by reporting any suspicious finds to the nearest Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) office, the Plant Quarantine Division or call the Pink Mealy Bug Hotline which is 1-888-991-5100.