San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica's Agriculture and Livestock Ministry uses army of insects to fight pest

Costa Rica’s Agriculture and Livestock Ministry (MAG) invested ₡100 million ($200,000) to buy insects that act as biological agents against a pest named Thrips palmi, also known as melon thrips.

The bugs are currently affecting squash, melon, cucumber, watermelon, potatoes, tomatoes and other crops in several areas of the country, although MAG said the situation is “under control.”

To fight the pest, MAG’s State Phytosanitary Service (SFE) acquired 52,000 specimens of two different species of biological controllers: a mite named Amblyseius swirkii and a bedbug known as Oriusinsidiosus.

Some 40 percent of the insects were already released in the country’s southwestern region, and the remaining 60 percent in the northwestern region.

Elizabeth Ramírez, regional operations director for SFE, said that in order to get optimal results with these biological controllers MAG staff also are conducting lectures and awareness campaigns for local producers.

Melon thrips feed by sucking the cell content from leaves, stems, flowers and the surface of fruits, thereby causing silvery scars and leaf chlorosis. Plant growth can be deformed and heavily scarred. A severe infestation can even kill the entire plant.

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