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Encore: 'Psyllid Slayer' of Immokalee Researches Carnivorous Bugs to Fight Citrus Greening

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Photo: University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
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A small, lopsided fruit from greening-infected citrus tree in Spring 2008.

Florida’s orange crop is less than a third what is was 20 years ago, and most farmers blame citrus greening for the decline. The greening of the iconic orange fruit is caused by bacteria spread by a tiny insect called a psyllid. The bacteria constricts the plant’s vascular system, cutting off its ability to get nutrients and leaving blotchy yellow leaves and green oranges. But now an Immokalee research group is hoping to use another insect to combat greening: lady bugs.

A University of Florida facility in Immokalee called the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center has been studying ways to fight the psyllid, and where pesticides have failed, they're now turning to the psyillid's natural predator, the lady bug, in efforts they say now holds promise.

Monday at 1 p.m., Dr. Phil Stansly explains how he's been importing natural predators of psyllids—bugs that eat tinier ones—and how between some hits and misses, interesting stories emerged. He'll also discuss some promising research he’s doing with groundcover that confuses psyllids and may help in the battle against citrus greening.

Matthew Smith is a reporter and producer of WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live.