The California citrus industry learned that the latest weapon in the fight against citrus greening would be an insect that will attack the psyllid that spreads the disease.
Specifically, state and federal officials are working on programs to breed Tamarixia radiata
, a tiny parasitic wasp native to Pakistan.
In its home territory the wasp, which is smaller than a gnat, is the natural predator of the Asian citrus psyllid.
Brian Taylor, field program director for the Visalia-based Citrus Research Board, said Tamarixia
lay eggs beneath newly hatched psyllids--or "nymphs"--and once the wasps hatch, the nymphs become their food.
"It literally eats its way out" of the nymph's carcass, said Taylor, an entomologist by trade.
The reason why the citrus industry wants to use the little non-stinging wasps is because University of California, Riverside, researchers have found that they only lay their eggs under Asian citrus psyllid nymphs, and no other psyllids or insect species native to California, Taylor said.
Researchers want to breed the Tamarixia
at a rate of about 4 million a year, initially in parts of Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange counties, to help kill off some of the psyllids that have colonized there in recent years.