Homeowners help fight citrus greening with wasps

Published: Aug. 23, 2017 at 6:51 PM EDT
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A tiny insect is harming Florida's billion dollar citrus industry and the state is asking homeowners to help.

"It's the enemy of our enemy so it's our friend," said Bill Notestein, a plant nursery owner in Gainesville. He has several citrus trees on his property.

Notstein's helping spread the word of Tamarixia Radiata, a wasp that attacks Asian citrus psyllids. Psyllids are an insect that eats citrus tree leaves and can carry a bacteria that spreads citrus greening disease.

"Biological control of pest creatures is a very intelligent strategy. It's actually more economical, more cost-effective, less collateral damage," Notestein said.

The Florida Department of Agriculture started handing out free vials of the wasps earlier this month. Homeowners can free the bugs into their yards to help control the psyllids.

"They will only attack that one insect. They will only lay their eggs in that one insect and they can only survive if that one insect is present," said Amy Howe, an Assistant Bureau Chief Methods in Biological Control.

Homeowners in Alachua County can get the vial of Tamarixia by calling the Division of Plant Industry helpline at 1-888-397-1517. County extension offices will be delivering the vials to other counties.

Homeowners have to come back to get new wasps every three weeks and the department will then keep track of their property to see if the disease increases or decreases.

"The strategy of this whole project is to establish pioneer populations of the predatory wasp throughout the state of Florida so once it gets established, it can be a more logical and beneficial control mechanism," Notestein said.