Worms replace heat in Zamboanga farm pestilence
ZAMBOANGA CITY—The rain came but with it, a pestilence as deadly as the heat that had wilted the city’s crops—army worms.
While farmers and residents here had been praying for the rain to come to ease the effects of what had been described as a mild dry spell, they had not expected their prayer to be answered along with a curse.
For days now, the worms, ranging in color from brown to green and in size from one to one-and-a-half inches, have been eating up crops in at least three villages here.
Belo Araneta, a backyard farmer in the village of Bolong, said his crops are now dying because of the worm infestation.
“My corn and eggplants are now without leaves and are dying,” said Araneta, who maintains a 400-square meter backyard farm.
“I started planting during the first rain in May but now these are dying because the worms have eaten up the leaves,” he said.
Rainy season pest
Diosdado Palacat, city agriculturist, said at least 29 hectares of farms in the villages of Bolong, Patalon and Calabasa had so far been infested by army worms.
Palacat said the rain brought the worm.
“Mother moths lay eggs during the dry season and these will hatch when the rains come. In our place, the rains started in mid-May,” Palacat said.
But even with the infestation, Palacat said the situation is not alarming because the worms eat only young leaves.
“It devours the leaves and plants have chances of recovery,” he said.
To appease affected farmers, he said the city agriculture office has adopted a “blanket method using massive pesticide spraying to kill the army worms.”
“We do it at night time because army worms are nocturnal creatures. They feed during the night and hide under the soft ground during the day,” Palacat said.
This was not the first time that army worms invaded farmlands in the city.
In February 2014, the livelihood of flower and vegetable farmers in the village of La Paz also took a hit when army worms devoured their plants.
La Paz, an upland village some 19 kilometers from the city center, dubbed as “Little Baguio,” is the main source of flowers and vegetables here.
The city agriculture office also used chemicals to control the pests.
Aside from the use of chemicals, environmentalists said there are other methods that can be used against army worms.
These include the use of natural predators, like birds.
Wasps can also be used because they use newly laid eggs of worms as hosts for their offspring.
In Sulop, Davao del Sur, the municipal agriculture office said 164 ha of farmland had been infested by army worms.
Cristina Mondejar, municipal agriculturist, said at least three villages have reported infestation as of Thursday.
She said they have sought help from the provincial agriculture office as the worms also threatened the town’s sugar cane and mango production. Julie S. Alipala with a report by Orlando Dinoy, Inquirer Mindanao
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