Once upon a time Australian native whiteflies were managed by native parasitoids, the main one being the tiny wasp, Eretmocerus mundus which was responsible for 93.7% of total parasitism. But then the biotype B of Bemisia tabaci (silverleaf whitefly – SLW) arrived in Australia. Biotype B whitefly populations increased dramatically and Er. Mundus was unable to suppress their populations. Biotype B became a significant pest of horticulture, grain and cotton. After considerable testing, a parasitoid from overseas, Er. hayati, was introduced into Australia by CSIRO as a biological control agent. It spread well and in many regions is providing effective control of SLW. Er. hayati is now responsible for 85% of parasitism while Er. mundus only contributes 1.2%. Er. hayati is a close relative of Er. mundus. So why is the foreigner, Er. hayati, so much better than the native, Er. mundus? Answers to this question should hopefully provide a better understanding of why it is sometimes necessary to introduce a foreign agent, and what to look for in a good one.
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