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Ladybird saviours of the eucalyptus
by Gato Medici
Will the ladybirds be able to save the Californian eucalyptus? In a park in Los Angeles there is an experiment in progress which everyone hopes will be a success, since it could be the salvation of the eucalyptus ravaged by the infestation of an Australian fly.

But what exactly has happened in the eucalyptus woods of California? Effectively it’s very similar to what happened in Europe during the Second World War, unleashing an epidemic of cancer in cypress trees. In fact, in 1998 cargo ships coming in from Australia also brought in a species of fly very partial to eucalyptus leaves, which discovered a highly appetising habitat in the Californian forests densely populated with this particular plant.


But why are these trees at risk, and how is the fly harmful? In effect the danger comes from a parasite of the eucalyptus, a substance released by the insect which is particularly damaging. To feed itself, the fly pierces the leaves of the plant and sucks out the lymph, but it also leaves on the surface of the leaves which it has eaten a viscous substance which damages them, rapidly speeding up the defoliation process and eventually causing the death of the tree.

The choice of the scientists on this occasion is significant, a decision which shows us that something is beginning to change. In fact, rather than injecting a new type of insecticide into the trunks of the eucalyptus trees, they have decided to operate an ecologically compatible initiative, introducing an army of two million ladybirds into the “trial park”.

The botanists are in fact well aware that these attractive insects are a natural enemy of the kind of fly in question, which they consume voraciously. Is this decision perhaps the sign of a change in direction, indicating a new awareness of compatible ecological control? Everyone is watching with bated breath, hoping that the ladybirds will provide the solution to the problem of the Californian eucalyptus, because if the experiment is successful, it will be repeated in all the other eucalyptus parks infested by the Australian fly.

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