Nav: Home

Natural Pest Control Shows Economic Promise For Citrus Industry

September 09, 1996

NATURAL PEST CONTROL SHOWS ECONOMIC PROMISE FOR CITRUS INDUSTRYNATURAL PEST CONTROL SHOWS ECONOMIC PROMISE FOR CITRUS INDUSTRY Sept. 9, 1996 -- An obscure wasp species found by a University of Wyoming researcher in Costa Rica shows promise for controlling a damaging citrus crop pest and ultimately may translate to lower prices for some orange juices marketed in the United States.

The wasp was the focus of research conducted by Nina Zitani, a UW entomology graduate student from Moorestown, N.J. She spent the last two summers in Costa Rica's Guanacaste Conservation Area (GCA), where she investigated the basic biology of certain parasitic wasps that attack caterpillars. The new wasp species had not previously been described in scientific literature, says her adviser Scott Shaw, a professor of entomology in the UW Department of Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences who also has conducted research in the GCA.

"Our improved knowledge of this tropical forest insect may ultimately impact American breakfast tables and pocketbooks," Shaw says.

Zitani says it is important to understand how parasitic insects can be used for natural insect control. She says she collected samples from the forest and reared a certain type of wasp found in swallowtail butterflies. That type of butterfly is a pest to citrus tree leaves, Zitani says. Shaw says the feeding can lead to defoliation and less fruit production, often resulting in expenses for chemical pesticides.

"The wasps often eat caterpillars that are pests of crops, so it is important to identify the wasp species," Zitani says, adding that she was able to identify the type of wasp that parasitizes the butterfly.

Zitani says the research is vital to understanding natural insect control. Her primary task was to search the forest for various types of leaf-feeding caterpillars, then to raise the insects in captivity to see what wasps emerged. Female wasps lay their eggs inside caterpillars, which usually die before turning into moths or butterflies.

"The fact that the wasp attacks swallowtail caterpillars is of interest. It is the first record of a wasp in this group attacking this butterfly family group anywhere in the Americas," Shaw says. "That it attacks a citrus-feeder suggests its economic potential."

Some local research in Costa Rica indicates that the cost of orange production can be reduced by using natural biological controls rather than synthetic chemical pesticides, he says.

Zitani and Shaw are preparing a journal article describing and naming the new wasp -- outlining its biology -- that they expect to publish early next year in the "Journal of Hymenoptera Research."

Shaw and other scientists are conducting a biological inventory in the GCA to learn and catalog all forms of life occupying the area. The GCA, similar to a United States national park, is left as much as possible in its natural state, free from pesticide use. Shaw says Zitani's research is considered a contribution to that project.

GCA is a 427-mile tropical forest preserve in northwestern Costa Rica. Its diverse ecology includes beaches and marine habitat along the Pacific coast, inland through various stages of regenerating tropical dry forests and across three volcanic mountain peaks covered by tropical wet forests. Zitani conducted most of her research in tropical rain forests.

Her research is supported by several agencies, including the UW Department of PSIS, College of Agriculture Research Office, the UW Graduate School, the National Biodiversity Institute (INBio) in Costa Rica and GCA. She has applied for a Sigma Xi research grant to continue her studies.

-MDO-



University of Wyoming


Related Wasp Articles:

Parasitic wasp discovery offers chemical-free pest control for growers
A species of parasitic wasp discovered by chance could provide growers with a chemical-free way of controlling a major pest.
Wasp nests used to date ancient Kimberley rock art
Mud wasp nests collected from Kimberley sites with the permission of traditional owners help scientists establish ancient art rock unique to the area is 12,000 years old not 17,000 years old
New parasitoid wasp species discovered in the Amazon -- can manipulate host's behavior
A research group from the Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku studies the diversity of parasitoid insects around the world.
Planet WASP-12b is on a death spiral, say Princeton scientists
A Princeton-led team of astrophysicists has shown that exoplanet WASP-12b, located 600 light-years away, is spiraling in toward certain destruction in about 3 million years.
Unlikely wasp enemy of a serious alien pest in North America named Idris elba
Idris is a worldwide genus of microscopic, parasitic wasps. A new species of Idris from Mexico (Guanajuato) and the United States (California, New Mexico) proved to be an unlikely enemy of the invasive bagrada bug, a major pest of various crops, including cruciferous vegetables.
Scientists discover new species of wasp-mimicking praying mantis
Cleveland Museum of Natural History Director of Research and Collections Dr.
Researchers determine ideal areas and timing for biological control of invasive stink bug
Biological control of the brown marmorated stink bug, an invasive pest that devastates gardens and crops, would be more effective in natural areas bordering crops or at times when certain insecticides aren't being applied.
Non-native pest-controlling wasp identified in Canada prior to formal approval
Thought to be Canada's most promising potential defense against the brown marmorated stink bug (a globally spreading pest of various fruits and vegetables), the samurai wasp has been considered for future release in the country in recent years.
Superhero science: Ant-Man and the Wasp
For most of Mikel-Stites' life, he had been nit-picking at the 'science' in science-fiction movies.
MIT engineers repurpose wasp venom as an antibiotic drug
MIT engineers have repurposed wasp venom as an antibiotic drug that's nontoxic to human cells.
More Wasp News and Wasp Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.