A tiny Chinese parasite is being bred by the millions in the hope it will decimate an infestation of the American White Moth that is eating a swath through forests and crops across China.
The moth, native to North America, was first detected in Northeast China's Liaoning Province in 1979. It can denude a tree, and consume vegetables and crops in days, experts said.
Entomologists use the cocoons of silkworms to breed the parasitic insect and then hang the infested silkworm cocoons in areas that are infested with the American White Moth.
The parasites, known as "chouionia cunea Yang," attach themselves to the caterpillar of the American White moth and then destroy the moth's pupa by feeding on it.
The American White Moth boasts a strong reproduction ability. A female moth can lay some 2,000 eggs in one go, and can breed 30 million to 200 million descendants a year, according to biologists.
The invading alien moth is threatening forests and crops in 116 counties of six provinces and municipalities in China including Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and Liaoning, according to the State Forestry Administration(SFA).
A total of 300,000 hectares of plants have been attacked in Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and Liaoning. In Beijing, over 50,000 trees have fallen victim to the moth, while the municipal monitoring authority say the moths are still spreading in the city.
About 130,000 silkworm cocoons infested with the parasite have been put in the 260-hectare forest in the Yellow River Delta, an area that has seen spreading white moths since 2001, said Li Chunqing, an engineer with the Forestry Bureau of Dongying in Shandong Province.
The parasites, which are almost full-fledged in the cocoons after about 20 days of breeding, will fly out of the cocoons in two days and hunt the caterpillars of the moths, Li said.
In early March, the General Office of the State Council, China's cabinet, issued a notice requiring the governments of the American White Moth-hunted areas to take immediate measures to curb the spread of the pest.
The SFA announced in late March that Beijing and its three neighbors, Tianjin, Hebei and Liaoning, would jointly carry out a battle to wipe out the American White Moth.
The tiny parasites will play an important role in the campaign, apart from the use of pesticide, insecticidal lamps and sexual attractants, according to the SFA.
Beijing will begin to release a total of one billion such parasites at the end of June, said an official surnamed Yan with the Beijing Forestry Protection Station on Thursday.
Forestry engineer Li said an increase in the population of the parasitic insect, won't produce negative effects on people, local environment and other beneficial insects.