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The Papaya Mealybug which was detected in the Caribbean in 1993, has been found in Jamaica. The pest was detected in September of last year and confirmed in October in several residential communities in St. Andrew. These areas are:- Mannings Hill Road, Hughenden, and Constant Spring. It is not yet clear how the pest got into the country.

To date, the pest has been detected on 7 host plants including:-

–          Fruit trees (West Indian Cherry; papaya);

–          Ornamentals (Hibiscus, Frangipani);

–          Legumes (gungo peas)

–          Root crops (cassava) and

–          Forest tree (Teak).

We are well aware of the critical nature of this new outbreak in Kingston and the scope to spread, and as such has been enforcing an integrated pest management to contain the pest. Among the measures being enforced are – pruning and field sanitation, releasing predator and parasitoids (tiny wasps) and the importation of natural enemies from certified rearing facilities. The natural enemies are no threat to humans as it feeds only on the Mealybug and have successfully reduced its population. Once released, the wasp is monitored to determine impact and dispersion.

The Papaya Mealybug originated in Mexico, where it developed alongside natural enemies and was first identified in 1992. It is a particularly devastating pest because it is polyphagous (feeds on many things) resulting in the curling and twisting of leaves, flowers may become distorted and fail to open, as well as fruit blemish and sooty mould. The insect’s host range includes more than 60 species of plants: cassava, papaya, beans, eggplant, melons, hibiscus, plumeria, pepper, sweet potato, tomato, citrus, mango and sour sop.

In the meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is asking the public to help prevent the spread of this terrible pest throughout Jamaica. The public is being asked to contact the Plant Quarantine Unit or their RADA parish office or call the Papaya Mealybug Hotline at 1-888-991-5100 to report any suspected case of its infestation.