The California Department of Food and Agriculture has come up with a new weapon, a stingerless wasp about the size of a grain of rice, in the on-going battle against light brown apple moth — or LBAM — infestations.
The agency plans to augment the populations of the native Californian wasp in areas where LBAM infestations have been detected, according to a news release.
“These tiny wasps are harmless to people and pets, but they have a big appetite for the eggs of light brown apple moths,” California Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross said in the release. “These kinds of pest control measures are the result of CDFA’s continuing commitment to the principles of integrated pest management.”
Infestations in San Luis Obispo and Sacramento counties have been selected as the initial sites for the wasp project. Later this month, crews will place small cards with the wasp pupae in the infested neighborhoods, according to the release.
When the adult wasps emerge, they will seek LBAM egg masses and lay their own eggs inside the LBAM eggs. As the wasp larvae emerge, they will kill the developing moths, according to the release.
This marks the first time the wasps have been used in efforts to control or eradicate LBAM, but they have been effective against other invasive pests.
“We’ve been using them for many years to help protect California’s grapevines from the glassy-winged sharpshooter, for example,” Ross said in the release.
Native to Australia, the light brown apple moth was first discovered in California in 2007. The pest has the potential to do serious damage to many California fresh fruit crops. To date, California is the only state in the continental U.S. known to have LBAM infestations.