200 million wasps to fight coconut pest

200 million wasps to fight coconut pest

A total of 211 million parasitoid wasps will be released nationwide to fight an insect pest that has destroyed large areas of coconut plantations throughout the country, the Agricultural Extension Department announced.

Department director-general Panpimon Chunyanuwat said the black-headed caterpillar, known scientifically as Opisina arenosella Walker, is a persistent pest in Thailand, damaging coconut crops and creating problems for farmers.

The department plans to breed and release the parasitoid wasp known as bracon hebetor, following tests by Kasetsart University in controlled areas. 

A total of 60 community pest control units have been set up in 15 provinces to produce the wasps.

About 8.8 million of the minute parasitic wasps will be released in coconut plantation areas each week from Oct 6, 2013 to April 9, 2014. Within the 24-week period, a total of 211.2 million wasps will be released into the environment.

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Prachuap Khiri Khan province, a major coconut plantation area in Thailand, has been hardest hit by the black-headed caterpillar.

The department's survey for April 2013 concluded that a total of 88,877 rai of coconut plantations are infested by the caterpillar, and around 93% of this total is in Prachuap Khiri Khan.

Besides  black-headed caterpillar, hispine beetle is another major pest to coconut with the survey indicated that a total of 102,697 rai of the plantations are infested by the beetle. The most affected area for this pest is mainly in the South. The department has also instructed farmers to use bio-pest control to manage their plantation.

The Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry earlier estimated drought and pests have devastated more than 400,000 rai of coconut plantings nationwide, reducing productive plantation areas by 3.36% to 1.44 million rai in 2012 with an output of 1.3 million tonnes, down by 6% from 2011.

The damage to coconut farms has forced Thai food processors to import Indonesian or Vietnamese coconuts.

Coconut is not the only crop that the government has targeted for natural pest control. Farmers in mid-2012 began using Anagyrus lopezi wasps from Benin in Africa to control pink cassava mealybugs.

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