Jun 1, 2011
Beware of clear wing moths in peaches

In New York state, there are two species of sesiid moths that attack peaches — the peachtree borer (PTB), , and the lesser peachtree borer (LPTB). The adult borers are striking clear-winged moths with yellow and steel-blue body markings. The adults of these insects have from one to four yellow-orange stripes across the abdomen, depending upon species and sex.

The PTB enters the tree near soil level and does not require the presence of wounds or breaks in the bark for entry, but the LPTB nearly always enters the tree at a pruning scar, canker, mechanical injury, or winter-injured area. The LPTB additionally attacks cherries, causing the same type of injury in the upper trunk and scaffold branches of these trees. Both species pass the winter as borers inside the tree, and in the spring emerge as moths that lay eggs on or in the trunk during the summer. The LPTB moth emerges first, normally in late May (we caught our first of this season on May 26), and the PTB doesn’t show up until mid-June; both stay active (laying eggs) through August. When the borer stages hatch, the PTB tends to crawl down the tree to soil level and burrow in there, but the LPTB will move to the nearest injured area, which may be on the lower trunk or just as easily up in the scaffold limbs. LPTB completes its development in one year, but some PTB larvae take two years to develop, so any control measure a grower would elect will require repeating for at least 2–3 years.

Injury is caused by larval feeding on the cambium and inner bark of the trunk close to the soil level (PTB) or on the upper trunk and lower scaffold branches (LPTB). Occasionally, larger roots are also attacked by PTB. Areas attacked often have masses of gum, mixed with frass, exuding from the bark. All ages of trees are injured. Young trees are at times completely girdled and subsequently die. Older trees are often so severely injured that their vitality is lowered and they are rendered especially susceptible to attack by other insects or by diseases. Although both species may be found in infested trees, younger plantings and those not afflicted by extensive cankers or other bark splits are attacked primarily by PTB.

Chemical control is difficult, owing to the concealed habit of the larvae. Growers have traditionally relied on one or more coarse insecticide sprays (e.g., Asana, Lorsban, Proaxis, Thionex, Warrior) of the trunks and lower scaffold branches to deter egg laying and kill newly established larvae. Because this is a labor-intensive measure that often fails to completely control these pests, many growers choose not to elect treatment, or else do an incomplete job, with the intention of getting what they can out of a planting until infestations combine with other peach production factors to warrant tree removal. However, there is a good alternative in the form of pheromone mating disruption (MD) tools for the control of these perennial pests.

Isomate-PTB Dual (Pacific Biocontrol/CBC America, EPA Reg. No: 53575-34) is the new (last season) twist-tie pheromone dispenser labeled for use against both of these species in all NYS stone fruits. They are placed in the trees at a rate of 150 to 250 ties/A at or before the first flight, with the higher rate (250/A) recommended when pest pressure is high. This product has replaced the Isomate-LPTB formalulation. We have conducted trials on the efficacy of Isomate-LPTB with and without the addition of directed trunk sprays in peaches, and after two years we saw that the pheromone dispensers completely suppressed trap catches of both PTB and LPTB for both seasons, compared with relatively heavy flights noted in the non-disrupted comparison blocks, showing that pheromone treatment was highly successful in disrupting the chemical communication of males and females of these two species.

These trials provided sufficient evidence that mating disruption alone is able to provide adequate protection from borer infestations in commercial orchards, giving growers an effective non-chemical alternative to trunk sprays for managing this pest complex in their stone fruit plantings. Growers interested in this approach should be placing the pheromone ties during these next one to two weeks, before the LPTB flight gets solidly under way.

By Arthur Agnello, Cornell University

75 Applewood Drive, Suite A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345
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