Monday, July 16, 2012

Practical ways to control fruit fly, bean weevil and chicken louse

Dr Abe V Rotor

1. Rice hull ash protects mungbeans from bean weevil.
Burnt rice hull (ipa) contains silica crystals that are microscopic glass shards capable of penetrating into the conjunctiva of the bean weevil, Callosobruchus maculatus.  Once lodged, the crystal causes more damage as the insect moves and struggles, resulting in infection and desiccation, and ultimately death.

This is the finding of Ethel NiƱa Catahan in her masteral thesis in biology at the University of Santo Tomas. Catahan tested two types of rice hull ash,  One is partly carbonized (black ash) and the other oven-burned (white ash).  Both were applied independently in very small amount as either mixed with the beans or as protectant placed at the mouth of the container. In both preparations and methods, mungbeans – and other beans and cereals, for that matter – can be stored for as long as six months without being destroyed by this Coleopterous insect. 

The bean weevil is a cosmopolitan insect whose grub lives inside the bean, eating the whole content and leaving only the seed cover at the end of its life cycle.  When it is about to emerge the female lays eggs for the next generation. Whole stocks of beans may be rendered unfit not only for human consumption, but for animal feeds as well.  It is because the insect leaves a characteristic odor that comes from the insect’s droppings and due to fungal growth that accompanies infestation

2. Bagging is effective way to control fruit flies.  
Mango fruit flies (Dacus dorsalis) and ampalaya fruit flies (Dacus cucurbitae) are a scourge on the farm, and these insects are cosmopolitan – they attack oranges, apples, jackfruit, cucumber, upo (Lagenaria leucantha), patola (Luffa acutangula, L. cylindrical), watermelon, melon, and a host of other crops in the tropic and temperate regions.

Fruit flies are different from the popular “fruit flies” – the Drosophila flies hovering around over ripe fruits and vinegar fermentation.  Nonetheless they both belong to Order Diptera.  The female fruit fly lays eggs with a sharp ovipositor into the fruits usually at their early and juvenile stages.  Soon the eggs will hatch into maggots that tunnel and ruin the developing fruits.  So massive can infestation become, that whole farms and orchards are deprived of harvest during the fruiting the season – and even in the next.

To save the crops, farmers use the most powerful chemical pesticides - the chlorinated hydrocarbons and phosphatic compounds, many of them are classified systemic.  It means that the chemical is absorbed by the plant and is carried into its system, rendering its sap in all parts – root, stem, leaves and fruits - poisonous to any insect, biting and sucking - and particularly those ensconced in the plant itself. It is like introducing drugs into our blood which distributes them to all parts of our body.  The big difference though is that systemic poisons in plants stay for a long time, protecting the fruits even after it is mature and ready to harvest.  Thus the residue of the poison is passed on to humans and animals that eat them. 

Continuous use of strong poison particularly on tough insects like the fruit flies, favors mutation, that is the development of resistant strains.  To overcome this, stronger dosage and more potent brands are resorted to, and the battle rages on. To date, fruits flies, and many insect pests for that matter, have acquired resistance to many commercial pesticides. And it is our health and that of the environment that are at risk, while the pesticide industry is a happy lot. 

This is where folk wisdom comes in. Traditional farmers use old newspapers and notebooks to wrap developing fruits before they are attacked by fruit flies. Plastic is discouraged because it is hot under the sun and trapped moisture favors fungal and bacterial infection. All you need is to lower the trellis, or avail of a ladder for fruit trees, and patiently wrap the fruits individually.  Premium mango fruits are produced this way – they are not only free from fruit flies; they are unblemished and bright yellow.  Ampalaya fruits are straight and full and less bitter, their color pale green which is preferred by many housewives. Patola are likewise protected by wrapping.  So with upo. Watermelon is difficult to wrap so that farmers resort to covering the growing fruit with rice hay (dayami), often digging a hole under the fruit to keep it cool under the summer sun. Combat fruits flies as your mango tree blooms and your cucurbits flower simply with old newspaper and a stapler at hand, and you will save lives and help the environment her Nature restore its balance.    
3. Incense rids chicken of lice.  It also calms them down. 
I learned this practice from my father when I was a farmhand. We raised native chickens on the range.  In the evening, we would occasionally smoke the fouls in their roasts under the house. “That would rid them of lice (gayamo’ Ilk),” my father assured me. “And pick a cull for tomorrow’s dinner,” he would add. 

I would sprinkle powdered incense into live charcoal and you could see the column of smoke rising and filling the roasting area.  You could hear the fowls cockle feebly, slowly loosen their feathers and pry their wings as if to allow the cloud of smoke to bathe them. Soon they are lulled to sleep or go into a kind of trance; you could pick them up without any sign of resistance. Without this calming power of incense, the slightest move you make on a roasting chicken would send it squawking in the night.

This fumigation technique was reportedly used in Europe during the Middle Ages to ward off the carrier of bubonic plague (black death), the flea Psynopsella cheopis that resides in mice and people’s dwellings. Incense candle are still used in temples and churches today.

But does incense also have the same calming effect on humans? Imagine the faithful in deep prayer as the priest trains the ciborium (incense vessel) on them. My theory is that incense smoke, or any smoke for that matter, slows down breathing, and some people find breathing difficult. Smoke also carries carbon dioxide and burning itself consumes oxygen in the immediate surroundings for which prolonged exposure is inadvisable.   

Try incense fumigation in areas where vermin is prevalent like storage room and rest room, and try it too, in poultry house just what I did many years ago.    

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