SCIENTISTS BATTLE PLANT PEST IN TAHITI

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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Aug. 28) - Two U.S. experts are
due in Tahiti next week to test ways of fighting the "cicadelle", or
what the French call the "pissing fly." The visit, organized by the
French Polynesia Agriculture Ministry and the University of Berkeley in
California, is scheduled Sept. 2-9, according to a commniqué from the French
Polynesia Council of Ministers.

The two experts will try and determine the impact this
particular fly has had on Tahiti’s flora and decide a biological way of
combating the pests.

The testing will involve use of micro-wasps, parasitoids that
complete larval development within the body of another insect, eventually
killing it.

"The University of Berkeley has used this method in
California and it is efficient enough for us to try using it here,"
Emmanuel Nauta, a technical adviser with the Agricultural Ministry, told
Tahitipresse.

The same biological approach to pest control has been used since
early this year in the battle to eliminate the fruit fly in French Polynesia.

The cicadelles, which feed on tree sap, slow down the growth of
trees and plants in the areas they invade. Their proliferation can be fought by
introducing the micro-wasp larva into the cicadelles’ own larva, resulting in
the parasitoids feeding off the cicadelles.

"But be careful, the biological battle doesn’t have the
objective of totally eliminating the pissing cicadelles," Nauta said.
"It’s only aimed at keeping the population level of these insects below
the harmful threshold, while maintaining a small proportion so that the
parasitoids (micro-wasps) do not disappear."

The cicadelle has been present on Tahiti and her sister island
of Moorea in the Windward Islands since 1999 and more recently on Raiatea in the
Leeward Islands. But these flies were not considered as harmful insects until
2002.

September 3, 2003

Tahitipresse: www.tahiti.com 

 

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