New avocado pest identified

  • Courtesy of state Department of Agriculture

    Adults and larvae of the avocado lace bug are seen on a leaf.

  • Courtesy of state Department of Agriculture

    The underside of a leaf infested with avocado lace bug is seen in the wild.

HONOLULU — A new pest of avocado has been confirmed by state Department of Agriculture entomologists with the help of the University of Hawai‘i College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources — Cooperative Extension Service.

The pest, avocado lace bug, Pseudacysta perseae, was first detected in Pearl City, O‘ahu, in December 2019, and was subsequently identified on Hawai‘i Island and from plants in retail outlets on Maui that were destroyed or treated.

DOA has not confirmed the presence of the avocado lace bug on Kaua‘i.

The avocado lace bug feeds on the leaves of avocado plants and extracts nutrients from foliage, causing gradual destruction of the leaves. The lace bug does not feed on the fruit itself but causes green to yellowish blotches on the leaves. Heavily damaged leaves become dry, may curl, drop prematurely, and may cause reduction in fruit yields.

It is also known to feed on red bay and camphor on the U.S. mainland.

Adult lace bugs are about two millimeters long with black heads and mostly black bodies, with a black stripe across the width of their lacy wings.

Immature avocado lace bugs can range in color from reddish to dark brown to black, depending on life stage. The eggs are black and look like specks of excrement, and may be found in clusters on the undersides of the leaves.

CTAHR-CES extension agents are currently working to determine effective treatment plans.

The avocado lace bug is found in parts of the United States, Caribbean, Central and South America and Portugal.

It has not been determined how the lace bug was introduced in Hawai‘i.

Possible infestations should be reported to DOA’s Plant Pest Control Branch at hdoa.ppc@hawaii.gov.

Photos of damage to avocado plants would also be helpful in identifying the cause, DOA officials said.

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