Beneficial insects could be a citrus grower’s best friend. In a time when producers are applying insecticides to control the Asian citrus psyllid, the vector of citrus greening disease, it’s important to preserve the psyllids’ natural enemies, like lady beetles and lacewings.
Jawwad Qureshi, University of Florida entomologist, implores growers to scout their groves periodically to see what insects are present.
“If they know what’s there, then they can strategize their spraying. If they go out there and see a lot of lady beetles or a lot of lacewings, then they can think, maybe I should wait a little, or if I have to spray, maybe I should look into the Citrus Production Guide and see which pesticides are relatively less toxic so I can use one of those rather than using something that’s really harsh,” Qureshi says.
Qureshi is not suggesting growers stop spraying. But they need to evaluate the situation and see what insects are present. They need to conserve and preserve those resources.
“Let’s say you have a good population of lady beetles and you go and knock them down. That means you’ve killed many of those adults that were going to produce the eggs and babies that were going to be useful, not only for you, but for the neighbors and other crops as well,” he adds.
Beneficial insects were a lot more visible prior to the discovery of citrus greening disease than they are today. Qureshi said research studies found that beneficial insects knocked down 80% to 90% of the Asian citrus psyllid population.
“Several years ago, before this greening disease was found in Florida, we relied heavily on biologicals in the citrus system. There were a lot of lady beetles, lacewings and other beneficial predators that were feeding on the psyllid,” Qureshi says. He notes that sprays used for greening have significantly impacted the populations of beneficial insects.
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