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Tiny wasp marks whitefly victims.

The silverleaf whitefly, Bernisia argentifolii, causes far more damage than its size suggests it could. The minuscule, 16th-inch fly feeds on many plants, costing growers millions each year. And its emerging resistance to insecticides is necessitating a search for alternatives for controlling the pest. One possibility is a parasitic wasp, Eretmocerus mundus. Its heat tolerance, host-specificity, and fecundity make it an appealing bio-control candidate.

Now researchers have found that E. mundus produces specialized lipids. The female uses these lipids to mark the backs of whitefly nymphs it has chosen for egg deposition. This cue warns away other wasps, thereby avoiding a duplication of reproductive effort. The deposited egg hatches into a wasp larva that then enters and consumes the fly nymph. This discovery may help improve efficiency of mass-producing E. mundus as a bio-control. James S. Buckner, USDA-ARS Red River Valley Agricultural Research Center; Fargo, North Dakota; phone (701) 239-1280, e-mail bucknerj@fargo.ars.usda.gov. Walker A. Jones, USDA-ARS Beneficial Insects Research Unit, Weslaco, Texas; phone (956) 969-4851, e-mail wjones@weslaco.ars.usda.gov.
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Title Annotation:Science Update
Author:Buckner, James S.; Jones, Walker A.
Publication:Agricultural Research
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2004
Words:175
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