India: how to handle out of control bug epidemic without poison

The branches of the Araliya trees that line the pathways of the BMICH
gardens in Colombo are strangely bare. The few remaining leaves are
twisted and discoloured with disease. These trees are almost as old as
the property itself, and have beautified it with their distinctive
white flowers for over 25 years. However, now it is uncertain whether
these trees will survive, having fallen prey to a pest that is rapidly
spreading in different parts of the country – particularly Colombo and
its suburbs.

The Department of Agriculture believes the pest to be
papaya mealybug – a species of the mealybug insect, which is a common
pest in Sri Lanka, and specimens have been sent overseas for further
testing and confirmation. Mealybugs feed on plant sap, normally in
roots or other crevices. They attach themselves to the plant and
secrete a powdery wax layer used for protection while they suck the
plant. However, whereas the mealybug is usually controlled by natural
means such as the rainy season, or by commonly used pesticides, this
particular species seems to be multiplying and spreading at an
alarming rate. Udeni Mangalika, District Agricultural Instructor,
Paddy and Plant Protection, Department of Agriculture, pointing out
that there may also be a lack of natural predators in the country,
thus aiding its proliferation.”It is important that this problem be
tackled on an individual basis – people need to watch out for warning
signs and take appropriate measures immediately. Spraying water at
high pressure from a hose, spraying soap water, sprinkling ash, or
kohomba leaf juice, are all effective cultural practices that work if
practised regularly,” she says. Although it has now been brought under
control to a great extent in other districts such as Gampaha, it is
still spreading in the Colombo district since the urban population
seems to be less aware of the issue and of preventive measures.
http://sundaytimes.lk/081214/Plus/sundaytimesplus_19.html

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