Peach Borer and Other Peach Pests

Clemson University has a great page about insects that attack peach trees. Here are a few of the pests listed and some advice on how to prevent them and what to do if they become a problem.

Peach-tree Borer

The adult peach-tree borer is a clear wing moth that looks similar to a wasp. Adults will produce one generation per year. The larva is about and inch long, creamy white with a brown head. Adult borers lay eggs at the base of the tree in wounds or rough bark. The larva hatch, then burrow into the bark. They mostly feed on the roots of peach trees, but can sometimes find their way to about 10 inches up the trunk. The larva will feed until feed again in the spring. Often they will leave behind a gummy concoction with bits of sawdust on the tree trunk. Adult borers will emerge from the base of the tree as early as late May, but most often they are seen in August. The borer can be a real threat. A small number of grubs will kill a young tree. Applying an insecticide dip prior to planting may help ward off infestation and heavily spraying the trunk each August will discourage the females from laying eggs in that tree. Permethrin or esfenvalerate are common insecticides. They should not be used 2 weeks prior to harvest.

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Lesser Borer

As the name suggests, these insects look similar to the regular peach-tree borer but are slightly smaller in both adult and larval stages. Their attacks are not limited to the base of the tree. They will go after limbs as well. Adult sightings peak around April to mid-May and again in July to mid-August producing two (sometimes three) generations of larva. Cankers and wounds in tree branches are a favorite egg laying site. Keep damaged limbs pruned to discourage them. Be sure to destroy any pruned branches in case they are already inside.

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Shothole Borer

The shothole borer is a small beetle that digs tunnels into the bark to lay eggs. They can be spotted by their entry holes which look like bird shot bullet holes (hence the name). Around April or May the adult beetles emerge from the bark and move to new trees to lay more eggs. They prefer damaged trees so keeping your trees in good condition is a good preventative measure. Prune out any broken branches and destroy the those branches before April (in case they have little beetle tenants living inside). For chemical control, permethrin or esfenvalerate can be used. (Again, do not spray in the two weeks prior to harvesting.)

Oriental Fruit Moth

This grayish-brown moth has a ½ inch wing span and is seen at night. In its larval stage it can be seen as a small, white caterpillar with a black head. As it grows, it turns pink with a brown head and distinct legs. Around blooming season, the adult moths emerge from cocoons in and around the tree. They lay multiple generations of eggs on the peach trees. After the larva hatch, they burrow into new growth of the branch tips. This will cause branch tips to wilt, and die. As the season progresses and the branches harden, the next generation of larva will eat the fruit. If you think you have a moth problem, use pheromone traps to collect moths. If you collect 10 or more moths per trap then you may want to consider spraying permethrin or esfenvalerate. (Do not spray two weeks prior to harvest.)

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Plum Curculio Beetle

The adult is a mottled brown beetle with a rough shell and a long curved snout. Larva are yellow-gray grubs with brown heads. The adults will be seen around blossom time. They invade the outer rows of the orchard first. They are typically seen in mid June, then late July...then again in the fall. Adult females make a crescent shaped cut in the fruit skin to lay eggs..which leads to “D” shaped scars in the fruit. The grubs eat the fruit first. Later in the season if the adult beetles are eating your fruit you will notice small holes. They overwinter in messy areas near the peach trees. Keep leaves and fallen fruit picked up to discourage them from staying. If you think you may have plum curculio beetles there is an easy way to check. Place a light colored sheet or tarp under the tree and shake a branch. Their defense mechanism is to tightly fold up their legs and drop to the ground. As soon as the petal fall, you can begin chemical control. Some chemical sprays will require a 3 applications at weekly intervals: mid-June, the end of June then Early July.

Tarnished Plant Bug & Stink Bugs

The tarnished plant bug is small (¼ inch) and brown with a white triangle on its back shoulders. Stink bugs are brown, green and shades in between. They are usually a ½ inch or slightly larger. Both have a long, needle-like feeding tube (like a mosquito). They pierce the fruit and suck out dinner. The damage caused is cosmetic only. It will often appear as “cat-facing”. The best way to prevent these bugs is to eliminate their hiding spots. Remove fallen leaves and debris around the trees. Permethrin or esfenvalerate can be sprayed (up to 2 weeks before harvest) or carbaryl can be applied (up to 3 days before harvest).

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