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Monday, April 21, 2014

Expect Those Ugly Bugs on Pomegranate and Pistachios Now!

Q. We have a big pomegranate tree that has been doing great for a few years.  Last year we had an infestation of nasty, prehistoric looking large grey bugs on our pomegranate tree. What can I do to get rid of them?
These bugs had really big thighs, and smaller red ones that look like a cross between a carpenter ant and a mosquito.  This year I noticed the eggs on many branches and cut them off.  I am sure that I missed many and am wondering what I can do to get rid of them.  We  have been keeping it organic up until this point and would love to continue that since we eat as much of the fruit as possible.  Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks so much!! 
Leaffooted plant bug on pomegrante with all the younger generations (nymphs).

A. You do not need to cut those branches off. You can just rub them off with a cloth and alcohol or pull leaves off if they are the undersides.

This insect is called the leaffooted plant bug, a close relative to stinkbugs, squash bug and several others that are pests in home landscapes and gardens. They get their name from the leaf-like appendage on their rear legs.

Picture of adult from Auburn University.
They spend the winter hiding out in landscape trees until Spring. In the Spring these bugs multiply very rapidly and feed on new soft, succulent growth from leaves and expanding fruit and nuts. This insect seems to prefer fruit trees such as pomegranate, almonds and pistachios but can be found on other plants as well. They are winged so the adults can fly from plant to plant, tree to tree or landscape to landscape. Their damage to plants includes leaf damage, leaf drop, fruit damage, fruit drop and nut drop in almond and pistachio.

Control of these insects is difficult and will require quite a bit of work on your part. Organic sprays would include soap sprays such as Safers, oils such as Neem and pyrethrin sprays. Organic sprays are usually not as potent as conventional commercial insecticides so must be used more often and requires closer monitoring of the plants for buildups in their populations. Spraying multiple times through the growing season will be required because of their abilities to build their populations so quickly and their ability for flight.

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