Pink Hibiscus Mealy Bug Discovered In Other Areas of Portland

The Ministry of Agriculture has reported that the Pink Hibiscus Mealy Bug has been discovered in more communities in Portland.
Assistant Plant Health and Food Safety Officer at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority’s (RADA) Technology Training and Technical Information Division, Francine Webb, told JIS News that the infestation, though confined to the parish, has spread to other areas.
“The initial infested sites were generally in the Commodore region of Portland however, recently, we have found it in a number of areas including Snow Hill, Anchovy, Prospect, Land Settlement, Cambridge and Seaman’s Valley,” she disclosed.
According to Ms. Webb, the pest may have been transported to the other communities during Hurricane Dean in August. “We definitely theorize that it (Hurricane Dean) has contributed to the spread of the pest. With a number of trees that were blown down and the heavy wind that we got, this has definitely contributed to the spread,” she stated.
She told JIS News that the Ministry has released some 25,000 parasitoid wasps, which are natural predators of the pest and indications are that they will control the bugs. To ascertain the effectiveness of this measure, in the affected areas, the progress of the wasps will be monitored by RADA, she informed.
In the meantime, Ms. Webb said that the Authority will continue to conduct a number of community meetings to sensitize residents about the presence of the bug in the parish and to emphasize the need for persons to constantly call the RADA office to report any suspicion of infestation.
“We still want people to be alert as to what is happening and to also inform us of new infested sites,” she pointed out.
A mealy bug infestation can cause deformation of the fruits and leaves of an infected plant, which will ultimately lead to its death. To combat any possible infection of plants or the spread of the mealy bug, a cut and bag approach is being utilized by RADA.
Explaining the processing, Ms. Webb outlined that heavily infested plant parts are cut off and bagged. “The plant parts will then be allowed to bake in the sun for at least three days. The heat will kill the bug and then we dispose of it,” she informed.
While this method is a sure way of dealing with the pests, householders and farmers, who discover the bug on their property, are being advised to call their local RADA extension officers.
“The team will assess whether or not the affected area will have a parasitoid release or whether it will be suitable for the cut and bag approach,” she explained.
In July, it was disclosed that the Pink Hibiscus Mealy bug was present in the island. The bug has the capacity to wreak havoc on the agricultural sector by destroying crops and plants such as hibiscus, allamanda, acalypha, papaya, sweet sop, ixora, citrus and poinsettia among others. Due to the presence of the bug in the parish of Portland, a general ban has been placed on the movement of plant and plant parts from the infested areas.
To report incidences of infestation, persons are being asked to call the Plant Quarantine Division, RADA or the Pink Mealy Bug Hotline which is 1-888-991-5100.

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