Wasp v mealybug: Thailand declares biological war

HONG KONG, (Reuters) – Thailand will deploy a  250,000-strong army of wasps in the northeast of the country  from today in a bid to get rid of bugs that have been  nibbling away at its cassava crops.

Originally from South America, the mealybug feeds only on  cassava and in 2009 destroyed 20 percent of Thailand’s cassava.  The pest has also chomped its way into Cambodia, Myanmar and  Vietnam.

Rod Lefroy, an agricultural scientist with the  International Center for Tropical Agriculture, said Thailand  has raised a special army of wasps which are known to be  particularly effective in wiping out the mealybug.

Researchers have tested the wasp on insects native to  Thailand to see if it upsets the natural ecology, and so far,  the insect appears to feed only on the mealybug, Lefroy says.

About 5 million growers across Southeast Asia supply  cassava to domestic and foreign processing industries, which  convert the root crop to animal feed and biofuels. Starch is  also extracted for use in a wide variety of food and other  products.

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