By Assemblymember Marie Waldron
The spotted lantern fly, a Chinese pest first detected in Pennsylvania is headed to California. It attacks many crops, including wine grapes and avocados.
To combat this major threat to our economy, the California Department of Food and Agriculture granted the Center for Invasive Species Research at UC Riverside, directed by Mark Hoddle, $544,000 to test how a parasitic wasp, also from China, might be used to control the fly. The wasp lays its eggs inside the lantern fly’s eggs and wasp larvae then eats and kills the host. According to Hoddle, testing on the wasp will take about three years to eliminate any possibility that the wasp might harm the wrong targets. “We hope to be ready to release these wasps immediately when the spotted lantern fly shows up, giving us a really strong head start on the invasion,” Hoddle said. According to Rachael Scott Johnson, Riverside County Farm Bureau Executive Director,
“We have a lot of experience dealing with invasive pests, and fortunately the partnership with the UC system provides us with the expertise to try and stay on top of potential new pest infestations.”
This is fortunate since San Diego and Riverside Counties are both major producers of grapes and avocados. Temecula Valley vineyards cover over 2,400 acres, and San Diego County vintners harvested 1,210 acres in 2017. As for avocados, Riverside County’s crop was valued at just under $40 million in 2017, while San Diego County, the nation’s largest avocado producer, generated a crop worth over $122 million.
UC Riverside’s proactive efforts to support agriculture are remarkable. Their foresight will help ensure that California remains the breadbasket of America.
Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, represents the 75th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes the communities of Bonsall, Escondido, Fallbrook, Hidden Meadows, Pala, Palomar Mountain, Pauma Valley, Rainbow, San Marcos, Temecula, Valley Center and Vista.