California citrus growers have imported a tiny wasp from Pakistan to help control a pest that helps spread a citrus-killing disease.
Los Angeles Times Assistant Business Editor Nancy Rivera Brooks chats with reporter Ricardo Lopez about his story on efforts to beat back the Asian citrus psyllid, the agent that helps spread the disease huanglongbing, or citrus greening.
UC Riverside researchers are releasing thousands of Tamarixia radiata, a parasitic wasp and natural predator of the psyllid.
Here's an excerpt from the Sunday story:
"The wasp, which flew coach in a carry-on bag from Pakistan's Punjab region, is a parasite half the size of a chocolate sprinkle. But it kills psyllids like a horror movie monster, drinking their blood like a vampire. The female wasp can lay an egg in the psyllid's belly. When it hatches, it devours its host.
"The wasp 'is going to be our No. 1 weapon to control Asian citrus psyllid,' said Mark Hoddle, an invasive species expert at UC Riverside, who, over several trips, brought legions of wasps to California.
" 'We have no other choice except to use this natural enemy or do nothing. And the 'do nothing' option is unacceptable.' "
The goal of the wasp-release program is to prevent the spread of the Asian citrus psyllid into the commercial citrus-growing areas in the Central Valley. For now, the psyllid is largely concentrated in urban areas in Southern California. Nine counties, including a part of Tulare County, are under quarantine.