There’s a new research garden at Heathcote!
Ladybug at Heathcote
Insect predators like the lady beetle don’t just eat pest insects; they eat a lot of nectar and pollen, too. The nutrients from pollen and nectar help them when prey insects are scarce, for reproduction, and while moving between habitats.
Joe Patt, an entomologist from the USDA Agricultural Research Service is conducting a study at Heathcote to determine if certain plants, like wild poinsettia, can be used to attract and nourish the natural enemies (like ladybugs) of the Asian citrus psyllid (pronounced ‘sil-id’). The psyllid is a tiny insect that transmits the bacterium (HLB) that causes citrus greening disease. HLB is fatal and killing citrus trees across Florida and Texas.
If you have citrus trees and are curious to see if psyllid are present, Grafton-Cardwell says tree owners can take a magnifying glass outside and look at new growth for small yellow eggs, sesame-seed sized yellow bugs, white curly tubules or aphid-like adults that perch with their hind legs up in the air.
The economic damage HLB has caused in Florida alone is alarming. According to University of Florida research, the disease cost the State more than $4.5 billion in lost citrus production. It led to more than 8,200 lost jobs in the 2006/07 – 2010/11 production seasons.
USDA research garden at Heathcote
A number of USDA-ARS scientists among the three research units at the U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory in Fort Pierce, Florida, are conducting research in search of solutions to the huanglongbing problem. Let’s hope this research produces some encouraging results.