Local and state officials release parasitic wasps in Bakersfield to fight Asian Citrus Psyllid

Posted at 1:12 PM, Aug 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-23 21:32:09-04

State and local agriculture officials gathered in northwest Bakersfield Tuesday morning to make the first release of parasitic wasps in Kern County. 

The parasitic wasp, Tamarixia Radiata, is a form of biological control. The Tamarixia is a natural predator one of the Asian Citrus Psyllid. The Asian Citrus Psyllid is a major threat to citrus trees because the ACP can transfer Huanglongbing, an incurable plant disease that kills citrus trees. 

"Once a trees is infected, there's no effective control and there's no cure for the disease. So apart form taking out the tree there's no real recourse for dealing with the disease," said Darin Heard, an agricultural biologist in Kern County. 

 Tamarixia are smaller than a gnat and are not harmful to person or thing other than ACP.

"They're very, very small, they don't have stingers that can get through our skins and they only kill the pest insect, they don't kill any other insects," said David Morgan, Ph. D, a biological control program manager for the California Department of Food and Agriculture. 

Officials are hopeful that introducing Tamarixia in the Bakersfield area will help to reduce the population of the ACP locally. 

"The bio-control agents, they're a really good tool in our tool box for combating ACP and everywhere we've seen this disease take hold, anywhere in the world, we know that if we can help control the Asian Citrus Psyilld, we can help control the spread of the disease," said Victoria Hornbaker, a citrus program manager for the California Department of Food and Agriculture. 

Officials released 200 Tamarixia at a residential location in northwest Bakersfield Tuesday morning and were scheduled to release between 200 and 600 per location at 23 locations in Bakersfield on Tuesday. 

"They'll actually go into the citrus plant and what will happen is -- depending on the time of day they'll start searching immediately or they'll just hunker down. They'll find somewhere to hide where it's cooler," said Morgan.

Morgan said if the Tamarixia doesn't find any ACP it will die, although the Tamarixia already have a short lifespan. Adults survive typically one to two weeks. 

"It's not going to take the place of any other work that we're doing, it's just adding to it. It's just keeping the pressure on and keeping the Psyllid, if it's introduced, from being established or surviving," said Heard. 

Officials are asking residents with citrus trees at their residences to cooperate with local and state officials to help fight ACP. 

If residents suspect the Asian citrus psyllid or HLB is in their tree, they can call the CDFA pest hotline: 800-491-1899.
Residents can also visit the website, which has more information.