Monday, December 18, 2017

Wasps to the rescue

Wasps to the rescue - Lifestyle CabareteAs unlikely as it may seem considering the bad rap wasps usually get, scientists have discovered a Dominican wasp specie, that could potentially save local plantations of pigeon peas, also called “guandúles” in Spanish, from the havoc the Asian fly wreaks upon the crop. Although the wasp has been around for a while, scientists have not researched this particular type of wasp before and the results so far have been more than spectacular.


Pigeon peas and the Asian fly
People have been growing pigeon peas in the Dominican Republic, as well as other tropical American countries, since the Spanish settled in the region in the 15th century and are an important source of nutrition. In addition to its usefulness as food for humans, the plant fixates nitrogen and in this way contributes to the fertilization of the soil. The empty seedpods are an important food source for livestock and the remaining plant parts can be used as firewood. Last but not least, the plant is also said to have some medicinal value as well.

Asian Fly - wasps to the rescue   Asian Fly - wasps to the rescue

According to statistics published by the Ministry of Agriculture, about 25,000 hectares of pigeon peas are grown commercially across the country. As the plant is very tolerant to heat and drought, the crop is often also planted with export in mind. Unfortunately, the Asian fly, also called the Melanagromyza obtuse, usually destroys between 25% and 36% of the crop, with reported numbers in Rancho Los Vargas, Puerto Platareaching 76% in 2012.

Pediobius cajanus wasp - wasps to the rescue

Despite the regular use of insecticides, another Dominican study published in 2010 showed that the Asian fly still managed to corrupt as much as 27% of the local pigeon pea crops.

The wasp
According to new research, scientists have discovered a metallic blue and green tinged wasp dubbed Pediobius cajanus, which is a sub specie of a type of wasp that is known to help eradicate pests. Its cousin Pediobius foveolatus for example is successfully used to control populations of the Mexican bean beetle.

Initial results of the study show that the newly discovered wasp is a very effective natural enemy of the Asian fly, killing on average 25% of the Asian fly larvae in investigated areas. In comparison, other previously known natural enemies of the pest are accountable for only 2% of the kills.

The wasp is said to be largely distributed across the country and is most likely also found in Haiti as well as neighboring islands that have the same tropical climate. Based on their initial conclusions, the scientists who drew up the report are now putting forward a proposal to use this new species as a natural biocontrol agent.

Click here for more Lifestyle Cabarete articles about the environment, with tips and inside tricks on how to be as good as we can be to help reduce our impact on the environment and help nature stay healthy.

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