Planthopper puzzle under threat

Local | Georgina Noyce 28 Sep 2021

Despite the world being over-run by so-called "experts" in just about everything, we persistently get it wrong in maintaining a balance that would make life sustainable - for everything.

Humans are the only entities on the planet that constantly change the rules, consistently flout the rules and, sadly, do so at the expense of others, without seeming to accept that Mother Nature constantly works on "balance for all," not just the most aggressive few.

Nature designed the elephant to be strong and long-lived, but also designed the elephant with a slow reproductive rate and specific diet. So left alone, elephants will fit sustainably into the niche nature designed for it.

Nature also designed planthoppers, an insect named in this way because some species can jump up to 60cm from plant to plant or tree to tree. A serious infestation of these bugs can be detrimental to the life of the plant it inhabits, but if its natural predators (birds, ants, other predatory insects) are left alone, then they won't do any more damage than anything else eating to live.

Most planthoppers have a lifespan of only up to a few months, and while they can produce a few hundred eggs, those that survive natural predators live out their natural cycle without doing much damage to their host plant. Remove their predators, and you get an infestation.

Longan and lychee trees in the wild have their nature-mandated share of planthoppers, but once humans start cultivating these delicious fruits, suddenly the planthoppers become a pest and human gardeners frantically work to eradicate them.

The problem is that we still don't know for sure why nature wanted planthoppers specifically for longan and lychee trees in the first place. So if we eradicate planthoppers on "our" trees, what future damage are we doing to longans and lychees down the road?

And what will be the knock-on effect if the planthopper is removed from the supply chain?

The world, or more specifically nature, is an interlocking puzzle. If the toddler in the family (humans) removes and destroys a piece of that puzzle, then the puzzle will not be finished. The more pieces of the puzzle that are lost, the less likely the puzzle will survive.

Georgina Noyce is an equestrian judge, and has a menagerie of adopted four-legged waifs and strays.

gnoyce2009@gmail.com



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