EVERYTHING GREEN: First class record
AT FIRST GLANCE, the figures might seem startling – even alarming; 18 new invasive species of pests since 2000. But let’s break it down – that is, mathematically speaking, less than two pests every year.
Now let’s compare those figures with numbers from somewhere like Florida, United States.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture’s top entomology expert, Ian Gibbs, “with all the might of the United States Department of Agriculture behind it”, that state is sometimes recording a new pest every month.
Barbados’ excellent record is due mainly to the vigilance of its entomology department and quick, effective biological controls once pests do sneak their way in.
Pests, Gibbs explained, can enter the island in any number of ways.
“They could come in, in people smuggling in stuff or they could come in, maybe, on containers, not necessarily in them,” he said.
All plant material is inspected by members of the Ministry of Agriculture’s plant quarantine division and pesticidal steps are taken to forestall new species from entering the island.
But it is difficult because even though the vigilance of the plant quarantine division is very good, some of these insects are very small.
“For example,” Gibbs said, “the chilli thrips, which is major pest to vegetable and cotton, is two to 2 1/2 millimetres long. Imagine the eggs of that are just a fraction of a millimetre and the eggs are laid inside the plant tissue.
“So some of these pests can be easily overlooked unless you are examining every single plant, every single piece of every single plant microscopically, which is impossible to do.”
Gibbs explained the problem with new invasive species was that they entered, unaccompanied by a natural enemy, allowing them to proliferate unimpeded.
And all of those that have entered uninvited are destructive to fruits, vegetables and ornamentals.
So when a new invasive species lands, said Gibbs, there were wo options – pesticides or finding the pest’s natural enemy and releasing it into the environment.
The latter, said Gibbs, was not only the Ministry of Agriculture’s first option, but was his as well.
“That is always my first option if there is a viable, effective, biological control available for the invasive species pests because in that situation it is environmentally friendly and sustainable.
So you don’t have the risk of pesticides and once you get the natural enemies established, they will regulate themselves according to the population of the pest,” he said.
He has urged vigilance by every householder.
If you see a fungus that looks strange, or a pest that is unfamiliar, don’t hesitate – call the Entomology Department.