In this undated photo released by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, a mealy bug is on a cassava stem, from an affected plantation in Nakhon Ratchasima province, northeastern Thailand.


Take a quarter million wasps and call me in the morning - the cassava cure in Thailand
By Elizabeth Weise

...But now those vital roots are being destroyed by the cassava mealybug, or phenacoccus manihoti. Originally from South America, where cassava originated, the bugs suck the sap from the plants and can cause up to 50% of a field to shrivel up and die.

That's where the females of the A. lopezi wasp come in. These natural-born mealybug killers home in on and inject their eggs into the bugs, while posing no threat to humans, animals, or other insects, the researchers say.

Entomologist Georg Goergen, with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, hand carried a colony of 500 of the parasitic wasps to Bangkok last year so Thai researchers could begin tests and start rearing the tiny, two millimeter insects.

Thai researchers ruled out using pesticides early on. It would have been "environmental vandalism," Tony Bellotti, an entomologist with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, said in a release. He thinks of the wasps are a kind of "eco-friendly SWAT team." They've long been used in sub-Saharan Africa to control the pests, saving millions from starvation....

SWAT team? I'd think they don't want them to be swatted?!

Maybe USAIR should carry wasps on the planes.