Growers are being advised to be on the lookout for avocado lace bug as the invasive pest slowly makes its way further into California. The spread has been taking place for some time and has simply gone undetected, which could be a positive development.
“Growers, in general, are probably not very well-aware of this pest,” said Tim Spann, Research Program Director at the California Avocado Commission (CAC). “The commission right now is working on educating the growers about it and what to look for.”
The CAC conducted research on what kind of threat the pest posed to the industry after it was initially discovered. During that time the pest never spread beyond backyard trees in Southern San Diego County. “It’s been in California since 2004, but it just recently started showing up in commercial avocado groves,” noted Spann.
So far, the pest has only been confirmed to be present in Los Angeles County and areas to the south. There has been some suspicious looking damage to the north that is currently being investigated, but the bug’s presence has not been confirmed.
The best thing for growers to look for is the damage caused by the bug which looks similar to tip burn. The pest feeds on the underside of leaves and “suck the cells dry and that causes a necrotic lesion on the leaf,” Spann noted. The damage is apparent in the center of the leaf in what Spann referred to as “necrotic islands.”
The slow rate of spread of avocado lace bug could mean that there are already beneficial insects out there keeping the population under control. Fortunately, the bug does not feed on the fruit itself and it would require an extremely heavy infestation before yield would be impacted. As the CAC continues to make growers aware of the situation, Spann said the commission will be “keeping our eye on it figuring out what’s going on and trying to plot the best path forward.”