ODA: Tiny natural enemies likely to take out those little white - KPTV - FOX 12

ODA: Tiny natural enemies likely to take out those little white bugs

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Ash whitefly in Beaverton Ash whitefly in Beaverton
Ash whitefly in Beaverton Ash whitefly in Beaverton
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Ash whitefly, those little white bugs bouncing all over the Portland metro area, may be maddening, but experts say help has arrived.

Two tiny natural enemies have now followed the ash whitefly to Oregon.

According to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the microscopic wasp and lady beetle will not provide a fast fix to the issue of the irritating ash-like bug, but it's a start.

“We are very fortunate, this is wonderful news,” said ODA entomologist Jim LaBonte. “It means these natural enemies of the ash whitefly are already starting to do their job. Our prediction is that we see fewer whiteflies next year.”

Ash whitefly was first confirmed in Oregon through ODA surveys last year. Clouds of them have been reported in cities all over the region in recent months.

If a predator to the ash whitefly isn't present, their population can explode, according to entomologists.

However, the presence of predators has worked in the past. The first North American reporting of ash whitefly, also known as Siphoninus phillyreae, was in California in 1988.

The bugs were brought under control in the state by importing and releasing natural enemies. Within two years, according to ODA, the whitefly became hard to even find, with populations in some areas reduced by a factor of 10,000.

While the predators do their job, people are urged to not spray pesticides. Experts say they will come back in short order anyway and, more importantly, their natural enemies are even more vulnerable to pesticides than the intended target.

While experts say nature will take its course, the Department of Agriculture does plan to raise and release the parasitoid wasps in highly infested ash whitefly areas next spring.

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