Wasps to the rescue

Local farmers, media and scientists gathered to witness the release of bug-killing parasitic wasps in a cassava plantation in Khon Kaen in 2010. Now agricultural officials want to use the same approach to protect coconut trees in the South. Photo by Rod Lefroy

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Local farmers, media and scientists gather to witness the release of the tiny mealybug-killing parasitic wasp Anagyrus Lopezi, at a ceremony organised and hosted by the Thai Department of Agriculture in the country's northeastern Khon Kaen province (17 July 2010). Photo by Rod Lefroy, CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture

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Wasps to the rescue

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is greeted by Khai Lek, an offspring of the well-known macaque Khai Nui, before attending a mobile cabinet meeting on Surat Thani’s Koh Samui. In the South, macaques are trained to help humans pick coconuts. THITI WANNAMONTHA

When mealybugs began doing serious damage to the cassava crop in northeastern Thailand several years ago, government agricultural officials turned to a small West African wasp for help.

The female wasps have the remarkable ability to find mealybugs and inject their eggs into them. The wasp larvae then act as parasites, feeding off their hosts and, with the help of their hungry mothers, kill them.

Now agricultural officials want to try the same approach with pests infesting coconut trees of Koh Samui, site of the latest mobile cabinet meeting. During her stay on the island, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra showed support for the new strategy by presiding over a ceremony to officially open the project yesterday morning.

She released balloons emblazoned with pictures of parasitic wasps, known locally as taen bian, to mark the start of the project, which is expected to decrease the number of coconut pests on the island by half when it is combined with other pest control methods, according to Department of Agriculture chief Damrong Chirasuthat.

Agriculture officials have so far raised a number of taen bian, aiming to use them to control two major coconut bugs – non hua dam (black-headed coconut caterpillars) and malaeng dam nam (an insect pest known as rice hispa).

A tiny parasitic wasp. REUTERS

The department chose Samui island to pilot the taen bian project, which begins next month and runs until September next year.

Ms Yingluck's mobile cabinet meeting in Surat Thani was used to feature the project. Samui is among Thailand's major coconut harvesting areas, which cover about 1.35 million rai nationwide.

Coconut yields have been falling due to a burgeoning number of pests, said Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Nattawut Saikuar.

Adapted from a story by Manop Thip-Osod in today’s Bangkok Post.

local – in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about  ท้องถิ่น
media – newspapers, television, radio, etc. สื่อ
gather – to come together in a group รวมกลุ่ม, รวมตัวกัน, จับกลุ่มกัน, ชุมนุม
witness – to see something happen – มองเห็น, เป็นพยาน
release – allowing someone/something to go free การปล่อย
mealybug – an insect that in large numbers can eat and do damage to crops
parasite (adjective form: parasitic)– a plant or animal that lives in or on another type of animal and feeds on it ปรสิต, พยาธิ, พืชหรือสัตว์ที่อาศัยสิ่งมีชีวิตอื่น
wasp – a black and yellow flying insect that can sting you  ตัวต่อ
host – to provide the space and other things necessary for a special event ทำหน้าที่เป็นเจ้าภาพ
agriculture – the science or practice of farming เกษตรกรรม, การเกษตร
rescue – saving a person or animal from a dangerous or unpleasant situation การช่วยชีวิต
cassava – tapioca; a tropical plant with roots that can be cooked and eaten or made into flour มันสำปะหลัง
crop – a plant grown for food, usually on a farm  พืชผล
remarkable – unusual or special and therefore surprising and worth mentioning ไม่ธรรมดา
ability – a level of skill ความสามารถม
inject – to force something into something ฉีด
larva (plural larvae) – an insect at the stage when it has just come out of an egg and looks like a short fat worm ตัวอ่อน,หนอนตัวอ่อน
host – an animal or a plant on which another animal or plant lives and feeds สัตว์หรือพืชที่เป็นที่อาศัยของปรสิต
approach – a way of doing or dealing with something; a particular way of doing something or thinking about something การจัดการกับปัญหา วิธีการทำให้ถึงจุดหมาย  
pests – insects or small animals which are harmful and annoying สัตว์ที่ทำลาย, สัตว์ที่รบกวน
infest – to exist in large numbers in a particular place, often causing damage or disease เข้าไปอยู่เต็ม, รังควาญ,รบกวน
site – a place where something is located  สถานที่
mobile – able to move or be moved around ซึ่งเคลื่อนที่
cabinet – the group of government ministers who make and approve government policy คณะรัฐมนตรี
strategy – a plan or method for achieving something, especially over a long period of time ยุทธวิธี, แผนการ  
preside – to be in charge of an official meeting, ceremony or other event เป็นประธาน ในพิธี ในที่ประชุม
offspring – the baby or babies of an animal; someone’s child or children ลูกสัตว์,ทายาท,บุตร,ผู้สืบเชื้อสาย, ลูกสัตว์
emblazoned – printed, drawn or decorated in a very noticeable way  พิมพ์
decrease – to become less ลดลง, น้อยลง
combined – mixed or put together รวมกัน
raise – to breed particular (farm) animals; to grow particular crops เลี้ยง, เพาะปลูก
aim – to have as your purpose or goal   มีเป้าหมาย  มีจุดมุ่งหมาย      
pilot project – a plan, product or system that is used to test how good something is before introducing it โครงการ นำร่อง
feature – to include someone or something as an important part มีบทบาทสำคัญใน
harvest – the activity of collecting a crop การเก็บเกี่ยวผลผลิต
nationwide – throughout a whole country  ทั่วทั้งประเทศ
yield – an amount of something produced ผลผลิต
burgeon – to begin to grow or develop rapidly ออกหน่อ, กระจาย, ขยายไปอย่างเร็ว
cooperative – a business or farm owned and run by the people involved, with the profits shared by them สมาคมสหกรณ์

Related search: parasitic wasps, cococut trees, Thailand, mealybugs

About the author

Writer: Terry Fredrickson
Position: Education Marketing and Support Manager