Officials have now concluded that the mealybugs found throughout various horticulture units last month were not the rare passion-vine mealybug that they were thought to be.
“It is very, very difficult to identify these bugs and the system that they were using didn’t work,” professor Bob Rice said.
Rice is a disease and pest management professor on campus and was heading the investigation throughout the greenhouses.
Inspectors discovered that the pest was a common citrus mealybug through DNA analysis and Rice said the two pests are “very similar, but not quarantinable.”
Since the passion-vine mealybug had never been reported within United States borders previously, officials knew little about it, making it difficult to identify. Officials immediately quarantined several greenhouses throughout Cal Poly, including the Cal Poly Plant Shop, to take samples from plants in search of the mealybug.
Trying to protect the agriculture from imported bugs was the main goal, Rice said. Most samples were sent back to Cal Poly last Friday with negative reports; however there still remain a few samples to be analyzed, though chances are slim that they contain the passion-vine mealybug.
“I think everybody has learned a lot through this whole process,” Rice said.
Environmental horticulture senior Patrick Grady had his senior project in one of the greenhouses that was closed off for almost a month and returned to find it in poor condition.
“They (inspectors) pretty much tore through everything and a lot of my sculptures have been knocked over,” Grady said.
Although this has set back Grady’s senior project by a quarter, he is relieved that the mealybug invasion is almost over.
“Hopefully things can get back to normal for my senior project now,” Grady said.