The facility for the rearing of the Anagyrus wasp, which is a natural enemy of the pink hibiscus mealy bug (PHMB), was officially opened yesterday (July 22) at the Veterinary Services Division in Kingston, as the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries steps up efforts to rid the island of the pest.
The facility, which was refurbished at a cost of some $3 million, is expected to produce 3,000 wasps weekly and with increased efficiency, may produce up to 5,000 adult wasps per week for release into parishes affected by the PHMB.
It will enable Jamaica to consistently produce its own supply of the parasite to reduce the threat of the spread of the mealy bug within the agricultural sector.
Speaking at the official opening ceremony, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, stated that the establishment of the facility would ensure that the food security thrust within the island is maintained and protected.
“This added facility is very important…and it is going to enable us to provide a response that is effective to addressing the pink mealy bug threat,” he said. “This particular threat is a real one and is potentially devastating, but what is quite clear, is that we understand the threat and we are responding,” he pointed out.
He noted however that addressing the threat must be a collaborative effort and called on all sectors and agencies to be proactive in the process.
The Agriculture Minister stressed that while the insect poses a threat to the agriculture sector, it also poses a threat to other sectors, especially the export trade, informing that Bermuda had already imposed a ban on the importation of yams from the island.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton (right) and Senior Plant Protection Officer, Bodles Research Station, in St. Catherine, Michelle Sherwood, inspect pumpkins infected with the Pink Hibiscus Mealybug, during a tour of the rearing facility for the Anagyrus wasp at the Veterinary Services Division of the Ministry, in Kingston, today (July 22). The Anagyrus wasp is the insect used in controlling the spread of the Pink Hibiscus Mealybug.
“The movement of this particular pest is not just a function of its own efforts but is also a function of our own activities, moving plants (and) host material from one parish to the next and from one place to the next,” he pointed out, adding that public education was most critical in the process.
Minister Tufton commended all the stakeholders for their contribution to the development of the facility, urging persons to report any suspected case to the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) parish offices so that a site visit could be made and the pest status determined.
Adult mealy bugs are small and pink in body colour and are covered with a waxy secretion. As they feed, the hibiscus mealy bug injects into the plant, toxic saliva, which results in malformed leaf and shoot growth, causing stunting and occasional death.
The Anagyrus wasp, which is a parasite, kills mealy bugs by piercing their bodies and feeding on their body fluids.
The PHMB is a serious threat to agriculture as it affects more than 300 kinds of plants and vegetables including tree crops such as papaya, citrus, mango; forest trees such as the blue mahoe; ornamentals such as hibiscus, aralia, and bougainvillea; field crops like sorrel; and weeds such as broom weed and jimson weed.
Parishes, which have been affected by the PHMB are: Portland, St. Catherine, Kingston and St. Andrew, and St. Thomas.
For additional queries on the PHMB and methods to be used in containing the spread of the insect, persons can contact their local RADA office or call the toll free number 1-888-429-5723.