Friday, June 23, 2017

Extension program to release wasps to combat Citrus Greening Disease in Franklin County

The Franklin County Extension office is working on a plan to release a small wasp in the area to help combat the spread of Citrus Greening Disease in the county.

The bacterial disease slowly weakens and kills all types of citrus trees and causes fruit to become lopsided and taste bitter, making it unusable.

There is no known cure for the disease, which has devastated citrus crops in parts of Florida as well as Mexico and Brazil.

But there is a way to kill off the bug that spreads the disease.

Citrus Greening Disease is spread by an insect called the Asian citrus psyllids, which has now been found on some citrus trees in Franklin County.

A successful method of controlling the psyllids is to release a tiny non-stinging wasp which is a natural enemy of the psyllids.

The parasitic wasp lays its eggs inside the larvae of the psyllids.

When the eggs hatch, new wasps emerge and kill the host as they exit.

The wasp has proved successful in controlling the spread of citrus greening in other areas and does not affect any other species than the Asian citrus psyllids.

County extension director Erik Lovestrand is working with faculty from the University of Florida to implement the program.

They will release the tiny wasps in areas where the psyllids have already been found which includes Carrabelle, Eastpoint and Apalachicola.