If you live in South East QLD and have a citrus tree you may have noticed recently the fruit is dropping just short of ripening. If not, I implore you to keep reading regardless so you can take measures to protect yourself from the incoming invasion.
As we leave the drought behind us, things are starting to look up in the garden. However following a drought there is often a boom of bugs, as you may have noticed with all the delightful butterflies we’ve had recently. However not all the bugs are beneficial. Case in point, meet the Eudocima spp., more commonly known as fruit piercing moths.
Fruit Piercing Moths are nocturnal moths that have brown, green or cream forewings (depending on species) and distinctive orange with black spot hindwings. They are easy to spot at night on host fruit trees with a torch which reflects light off their eyes. Whilst this year the damage has been highly reported on citrus trees it is by far not their only choice of food, with bananas, guava, tomatoes, kiwifruit, mangoes, longon, stonefruit, and papaya among other known targets. The moth use their strong proboscis to pierce even the thickest skin of their target fruit to suck the juice. Typically this then leads to secondary pests being attracted by the fermenting fruit or easy feed source. Whilst they feed on fruit during the night they leave the plant before dawn to shelter on nearby grass making them typically hard to find outside of their feeding time.
Fruit Piercing Moth Caterpillars typically live and feed on a variety of native vines. They form a silk cocoon between webbed leaves before emerging as a moth 2½ weeks later. The adult moth has a lifespan of up to 70 days, although temperatures below 16° Celcius in their active time (the 4 hours following dusk) hamper their feeding and breeding activities. The moths are migratory and can fly 30kms in one night making disrupting the caterpillar lifecycle a somewhat empty gesture for your own crops.
Most years the numbers are limited and the damage is mostly unnoticeable, just a fallen fruit here or there, but as mentioned previously following a drought the damage can be catastophic. Prevention by means of netting or bagging the fruit is by far the most effective weapon against fruit piercing moth. The other main option of pest control is nightly inspections of targeted fruit trees with a strong torch to spot them as they feed then plucking them off and dispatching of them with a standard squish. Due to them targeting nearly ripe fruit the use of insecticides is generally not safe nor recommended.
A somewhat not totally confirmed method of control, but that we’ve seen some personal benefit in using, is turning on outside lights to attract the moths and then dispatch them. We began using this after noticing a bunch got trapped inside our shed after being attracted by the light. They were easy to capture from the ceiling during the daytime. By no means would I suggest this as your only means of control, but it’s an easy additional method.
Following an attack
If you haven’t caught Fruit Piercing Moth in the act but just noticed the subsequent fruit fall pretty much all you can do is clear the rotten fruit before it attracts more pests. However if you find the fruit thats been attacked while it’s still on the tree you may be able to cut away the sting affected portion and still make use of the fruit where possible.