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Citrus farmers enlist army of wasps to help save crops

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An Asian Citrus Psyllid adult on a lemon leaf. (Center for Invasive Species Research, UC Riverside)

California farmers are employing a new-fangled approach to combating an epidemic destroying citrus crops around the U.S.

The Los Angeles Times reports growers have imported a wasp native to the Punjab region of Pakistan to attack the insect spreading huanglongbing, or citrus greening, which renders fruit bitter and lumpy – before killing the tree itself.

"We have no other choice. . ."

- Mark Hoddle

The wasp, known by the scientific nom de guerre Tamarixia radiate, "is going to be our No. 1 weapon to control [the] Asian citrus pysllid," Mark Hoddle, an invasive species expert at UC Riverside, told The Times.

"We have no other choice except to use this natural enemy or do nothing. And the 'do nothing' option is unacceptable."

So far, officials have reportedly quarantined citrus trees in nine states, including Florida, Texas and California, prohibiting interstate movement of the trees as well as nursery stocks of citrus tree seedlings.

The Asian citrus pysllid has reportedly wrought havoc in 32 Florida counties, and nine in California. Most Florida citrus, according to The Times, is used to make juice, while California citrus is typically sold as fruit.

But now -- at least in California --- the wasp will soon have its turn. “California has been preparing for this day," Mark Hoddle reportedly said. "It'll be hard to fault the citrus industry. I think they've done everything possible."

Click for the story from The Los Angeles Times.