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Parasitic wasp saves papaya farmers 7K weekly bill

The introduction of a parasitic wasp that feeds on papaya mealybugs is helping rid farmers of the most damaging insect pest for papaya.

Research by the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) found that more than half of Kenya has been invaded by papaya mealybug and its impact has led some papaya farmers to abandon farming the fruit altogether. Crop losses were found to be between 53-100 per cent and economic losses amounted to Sh366,645 per hectare annually.

Others still have turned to expensive synthetic pesticide options which have proved ineffective. “I used to spend Sh7,000 every week on pesticides for the mealybugs on my papaya, this only slightly suppressed but did not get rid of the pest. This parasite by comparison costs us nothing,” said a papaya farmer at the Perkerra Irrigation Scheme in Baringo County.

The farmers add that they had tried everything; pesticides, and tobacco, and nothing had worked before.

“From my acre of land, I used to harvest three tons. This has gone down to just 700 kilograms,” another farmer at the scheme adds.

Once it is released on a farm, the wasp travels to neighbouring farms and consumes the mealybugs within it as well. The wasp (Acerophagus papayae) lays eggs in the mealybug which consumes it once they hatch into larvae.

The papaya mealybug was first detected in Kenya in Mombasa in 2016. It consumes both the leaves and fruits and is difficult to get rid of through pesticide application because it forms a waxy coating on the plant that is hard for pesticides to penetrate. 

In most of the CABI research sites at the coast where the parasite was released, papaya mealybugs were almost completely eradicated.

Read more:

CABI launches papaya mealybug farmer education program

Tharaka Nithi poultry farmer abandons antibiotics for papaya & moringa mix

Agency Steps Up Fight Against Papaya Mealybug with Natural Enemy in Kenya

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