Pomelo Bowling Goes Viral

Educational Goals:

Learn science through the histories of deadly citrus viruses, from “greening” disease,” which threatens to wipe out Southern California’s orchards as it has done in Florida, to “cottony cushion,” which can be cured by a helpful little ladybug.

How to Play:

  • Collect ten empty one-liter soda bottles.
  • Relabel them one through ten.
  • If you are creating this game with students, be sure to use the poster to tell them about the citrus disease represented by each number.
  • Refill the empty bottles with sand or liquid.
  • Assemble the bottles in a triangular shape, with space between them and “1” at the point in front. This works on grass or concrete.
  • Print out several PDF posters.
  • Purchase the biggest grapefruit or actual pomelos you can find.
  • Play, and see who wins the most crops!!

Playing the Game:

Select a bowling pomelo (Citrus Maxima) right for you Aim – to knock out pestilence Score big – when you see how history and biology play out

An Asian psyllid perched on a citrus leaf. 

1. WIN THE GAME if you knock down ASIAN PSYLLID, the pest behind the deadly Huanglongbing (HLB) or “greening” disease. First reported in Asia in the late 1800s, the disease—spread by an insect the size of a grain of rice—devastated citrus in Asia, Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and Brazil. It’s nearly killed Florida’s industry and threatens ours. There is no cure.

2. Get a SPARE if you ake a hit on HLG. Then race home to check your trees for telltale signs of disease: twisty or blotchy yellow and green leaves; waxy deposits; sooty mold; small, lopsided fruit that stays partially green. Call this hotline if you think you’ve got it: 800-491-1899.

3. Hit TRISTEZA VIRUS and watch vast citrus acreage diminish in the 1940s and 1950s. Some say Tristeza, which caused the quick decline of over 3 million trees in a few decades, is why citrus growers gave up their land for tract developments and other industries in the post-WWII period.

Sweet orange scab

Photos courtesy of the USDA

4. Aim your pomelo straight for the SCABBY LESIONS of the Sweet Orange. This fungal disease preys on our vanity: unsightly lesions don’t affect taste but might make you think twice before buying.

5. Gently topple the ulcerous CITRUS CANKER. The diseased leaves are a sign of distress. We get it. We know
how a canker sore feels.

6. and 7. KNOCK DOWN both COTTONY CUSHION SCALE (#6) and its predator: a voracious little ladybug, aka VEDALIA BEETLE (#7). The duo has been together since 1888, when the tiny Australian immigrant rescued California’s citrus industry from near oblivion by Cottony Cushion Scale. The pairing was an early form of biological eco-control, requiring no pesticides.

Citrus fumigation tents

California Historical Society

8. HIT THIS PIN to scatter trillions of TAMARIXIA RADIATE WASPS from Pakistan. Will these predators eat away at the population of Asian Psyllid and save the planet from HLB? We’ll see.

9. Roll your pomelo right into ANT BAIT and let the Tamarixia Radiate live. Argentinian Ants eat our little wasp friends, preferring to let the enemy Psyllid live on to produce the honeydew nectar the ants so love.

10. Knock down all ten pins to lift the tent off CYANIDE FUMIGATION. Developed in the 1880s as a portable gas chamber for all sorts of citrus pests, tent cyanide fumigation ushered in chemicalized industrial agriculture, and mass manufacture of cyanide for modern warfare.