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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Stinkbugs Cause Plant Damage Early in the Season

Most gardeners recognize the stinkbug in southern Nevada. But the populations may be on the rise in home gardens particularly early in the season.
Stinkbugs were not a big concern when we saw them in home landscapes and gardens in southern Nevada in the past. But recently I was at a home to inspect some damage on apricot leaves early in the season when the leaves were first coming out.

Cupping of leaves early in the season can be caused by feeding damage of insects like the stinkbug on new leaves just expanding from leaf buds. Not much for these insects to feed on early in the year and new growth is soft, succulent and available.
The homeowner sent me some pictures of leaves that were cupping and scorching on the edges like the one above. I didn't really spend too much time on it, just that it was a sign that there was early damage to the leaves before they got large. Then as the leaf expanded and got larger the undamaged part of the leaf toward the middle kept expanding while the damaged edges did not. This causes the leaf to "cup".

While visiting this homeowner and seeing the damage to the tree in the picture above the homeowner spotted the stinkbug on the branch and pointed it out to me. And I thought yes, that insect feeding on leaf tissue from expanding leaf buds could cause this type of damage.

Stinkbug photo courtesy of reader
This particular type of bug has a long sylet, like a hypodermic needle, for its mouth sort of like a mosquito that can suck blood. This long stylet can be inserted into soft tissue like expanding leaves or young leaves, even young fruit, and "take a drink" with that hypodermic snout it has. This bug does not want to damage plants but does need to feed. In the process of feeding it causes plant damage.

Sometimes it can be holes in leaves, damage to expanding leaves and even sap exiting from young fruit. Luckily they are easy to kill if insecticidal soap is sprayed directly on them. Otherwise you will have to rely on insecticides that leave residual poisons so they come in contact with it. Most insect sprays for fruits and vegetables will work.

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