Pets to pests

In my childhood years, we considered planthoppers as pets. My brothers would catch, feed and train them for hopping races with other kids. Little did I know that these seemingly harmless insects can become crop destroying pests. Large swarms of brown planthoppers (BPH) have surged in recent years, devastating rice fields across East and Southeast Asia. Since 2005, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been losing an average of 1 million tons of paddy rice annually because of these outbreaks. In early 2012, the PRC’s southwestern province, alone, lost about 10 million tons of rice. Similarly, the rice bowls of Thailand and Vietnam have suffered huge losses from these tiny winged predators. At the peak of the food price crisis in 2008, Viet Nam lost 1 million tons of rice, resulting in a government freeze on rice exports which contributed to a surge in rice prices. In Thailand, for 10 consecutive growing seasons from 2008 to 2012, persistent BPH outbreaks... —