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News

Predator flies to destroy piti makuna

By Risidra Mendis

A species of flies known as parasitoids is to be brought down from Puerto Rico to control the spread of the piti makuna.

The Sunday Leader learns that 50,000 parasitoids are to be brought into the country by April to control the spread of the piti makuna which is known to attack plants and trees that exude milk. 

The programme to bring in the parasitoids will be funded by the United States Agriculture Department (USAD) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. 

The piti makuna also known as the mealy bug by Horticultural Crops, Research and Development Institute (HCRDI) officials, is believed to have entered the country in mid 2007 and has so far destroyed many vegetable and fruit cultivations mainly in Colombo and Gampaha areas. 

Head, Division of Entomology (HCRDI) Indra Wahundeniya said this was the first time the mealy bug has affected papaya and many other varieties of vegetables and fruit plants in the country.

"We believe this bug was illegally brought in to the country with plant materials. The mealy bug  has no natural enemies to control its numbers. This is the main reason for the mealy bug to increase in numbers within a short period and reach epidemic levels," Wahundeniya said.

She added that in such cases cultural and chemical control methods introduced by the Agriculture Department were only temporary and it was necessary to introduce a natural enemy to control the spread of the pest. "It has been recorded that over 25 countries around the world including Mexico and South America have faced the same problems with these pests.

"The parasitoid was the best option, as these insects are known to lay eggs on the mealy bugs. The parasitoids have a four stage life cycle namely the eggs, the larvae, the pupa and the adult insect. Once the parasitoid completes its life cycle the mealy bug will reduce in numbers," Wahundeniya explained.

Wahundeniya went on to say that some of the 50,000 parasitoids brought down will be kept in the laboratories to multiply and the others released to badly affected areas in the country.

"We are still not sure if 50,000 parasitoids will be enough to control the spread of the mealy bug as the situation is very serious in some areas. At present we are awaiting instructions from USAD as to whether we can immediately release the insects to the environment or wait for a few days until the parasitoids get used to the Sri Lankan climate," Wahundeniya said.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

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