False codling moth

False codling moth

FCM is found in all citrus production areas of southern Africa. It closely resembles the litchi moth and the macadamia nut borer. Young and newly hatched larvae, which are about 1mm in length, are creamy-white with a dark brown to black head. The adult moth is an inconspicuous nocturnal moth that is seldom noticed in citrus orchards. It has a variable mottled grey colour with a plume of grey scales on the upper body.
False Codling Moth 4
False Codling Moth 6

Type of damage

False codling moth is one of South Africa’s most detrimental agricultural pests, causing substantial damage annually to citrus, peach, nectarine and apple orchards, as well as vegetables and flowers. FCM damage is different with fruit bearing/ vegetable plants and flowers. In general: the moth lays singular eggs. After hatching, the larvae burrow into the fruit/ nut/ vegetable/ flower. Fresh larval penetration holes in fruit are 1mm in diameter and can only be found through thorough inspection. The holes may result in premature ripening and fruit / flower drop as well as secondary infections, pathogens and pests entering through the hole. The mature larvae enlarges the original hole sufficiently to leave the fruit and pupate. Damage differs across plants. For example:
  • Citrus: The peel around the penetration hole in citrus eventually assumes a yellow colour. On ripe fruit this area is initially orange-coloured, but can eventually become sunken and brown as the damaged tissue decays.
  • Avocados: the penetration area develops into a raised crater on the surface of the fruit.
  • Maize/corn: Larvae damage corn by entering the ear from the husk through the silk channel.
  • Macadamia: Larvae damage the nuts by feeding on the developing kernel after they pierce the husk and shell.
  • Stone fruit: All stages of stone fruits are vulnerable to attack. Once a fruit is damaged, it becomes vulnerable to fungal organisms. Larvae burrow into the fruit causing damage.
  • Roses, hibiscus, coral tree and other soft flowers: The challenge is to trace the moth as one cannot see if there is a moth/ larvae inside the flower from outside. FCM larvae cause damage on the flower bud. As it enters into the bud, the larvae leave behind frass (droppings), covering the entry hole on the outside. They then burrow downwards, feeding on the inside of the stem (and hence often misleading the observer to call it a “stalk borer”). Visual inspection of plants involves looking out for signs of poor growth or rot; holes in flowers; adults hidden in foliage and crawling larvae. Once the flower is damaged, it becomes vulnerable to fungal organisms that cause rot. Infestations can be identified by the brown spots and dark brown frass.

What they eat

Fruit, vegetables, flowering plants
False codling moth are recorded to feast on a variety of cultivated and wild plants, from fruit trees to nuts, vegetables, flowers and perennial flowers. They live in numerous plants and trees that they don’t necessary feast on, but rather use as a harbouring site to continue their lifecycle.
  • Fruit and Vegetables: The most important hosts of FCM are citrus, stone fruit, avocados, pomegranates, persimmons, macadamias and hot peppers. They also like to eat maize, grapes and litchis.
  • Shrubs and trees: cotton
  • Flowering plants: Roses and hibiscus.

Managing False codling moth

  • Prevention is the best method, as FCM is such a problematic pest.
  • Pheromones have been used for mating disruption and this is considered one of the best pest management methods.
  • The Insect Science FCM PheroLure™ capsule is housed within a yellow Delta Trap. The specific yellow of the trap, along with a sticky liner and the PheroLure™ containing specific pheromones are designed to attract and trap FCM before they reproduce.

More Information on the False codling moth

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