A Tea Bugger!
The Heliopeltis Theivora is an extremely common-place little bug. So why write an article on this little guy? Because this insect can play a part in perhaps one of the biggest tea losses that have not been seen in many years; if ever!
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, this brightly colored bug feeds upon the sap of the plant. This bug can spotted the world over, and has even been known to be seen north of the Arctic Circle! Its current nicknames other than the scientific name are: mosquito bug, leaf bug, and tea blight bug. The last name seems apropos as this little bugger finds itself this year in the tropical regions of India.
Major news services across the world and those interested in tea have reported that the mosquito bug is currently wiping out major crops of tea in the Assam black tea gardens. Assam India has eight hundred tea plantations. At least two hundred of these tea plantations have reported that the bug is ravaging their crop.
The main production period for the finest of Assam teas runs from the months of May through July. The heavy rains that have occurred this year have attributed to providing the absolute perfect conditions in which the tea bug prospers. Now with the reports of the damages at this point, Assam could possibly miss their export target date/times.
Tea that is produced during this season is much sought after. This is the season of the second flush for Assam. The second flush always produces the strongest and the richest aromatic teas. Some of the upper region districts have not yet realized the second flush as of this writing.
So what are the numbers and how will these affect tea drinkers? First off, this is the season that most of the money for the production of the Assam’s regions and district is now. It is very critical now. The industry feels that as much as ten to fifteen per cent of the total productions this year will be lost. This is considered quite a blow to the Indian Tea Industry! Assam India is responsible for making on the average of 1.5 Billion dollars, this is a little bit more than half of the production of all of India’s Tea Industry.
What can be done? Currently, these little soft-bodied bugs that are only 10 mm in size have a voracious appetite, and can now only be controlled with chemical application s of pesticides. The United States and European countries frown on the practice of this usage. In fact, Britain and several other European nations have just asked for strict guidelines to be applied to the gardens of Assam.
Indian exports have slowly been dropping and the cause of that was not the little tea bug, but other growing countries. Two countries have emerged as forerunners and pose no real competition in product quality, but because these countries are offering cheaper and inferior products, this has driven up prices in the world’s global market for premium Assam Teas. Also to note, that the stocks have also taken a downward serge.
The little tea blight bug has been unfortunately making a mark in history by possibly ruining the whole tea growing season for Assam India. Hopefully this bug’s like for the Black tea will cease. At this time it is an unknown if it will affect the products you may currently be drinking from Assam India. You may want to grab an extra purchase at your tea merchandiser next time you are there!