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Peach tree Borer

Peach tree Borer, also called the peach crown borer is the most destructive insect pest of peach, cherry, plum and other stone fruits in Northern United States. The insect feeds under the bark of the tree, where it cuts deep gouges. When abundant, peach tree borers seriously weaken and even kill trees. In most areas of the state it is necessary to periodically control this insect to maintain tree vigor.

Peachtree Borer

Peachtree Borer

The mature larval stage of this species is about 1.5 inches long, white to cream with a dark brown head capsule. A mature larva also has two dorsally located, dark brown, sclerotized areas. One is on the prothorax the segment behind the head, and the second is on the last abdominal segment. Light brown pupal exoskeletons may be observed partially protruding from the trunk of infested trees.

The adult stages of this pest resemble wasps when flying and are often misidentified as members of the insect order Hymenoptera. The female is dark metallic blue with a broad, reddish orange band around the body on the fourth abdominal segment. The male is smaller with a shiny, dark metallic blue body. Both front and hind wings have a transparent amber sheen. This species has a wingspread of 0.5 to 1.5 inches.

Life Cycle: Adult emergence commences early in July, peaks in August, and may extend into October. Mating occurs soon after emergence. Several hours later, egg laying begins. A female may produce up to 800 eggs, the average being about 400. Ovipositing females seem to be attracted to trees previously infested by the peachtree borer or to trees on which mechanical injury has occurred. The moths die a few days after the short period of egg deposition ends. The incubation period varies with the temperature and averages about 10 days. First egg hatch occurs in mid-July. Upon hatching, the larvae immediately start burrowing into the bark, usually entering at a crack or wound near the soil surface. The larvae feed on the cambium or growing tissues and tunnel between the inner bark and the sapwood.

The larvae normally attack the tree trunk between 76 mm (3 in) below ground to 254 mm (10 in) above ground. Some of the earlier-hatching borers are nearly mature by fall, but most are only half-grown. The larger larvae hibernate in their burrows beneath the bark, while the smaller larvae usually pass the winter on the bark under a thin silken covering or hibernaculum.

Peachtree Borer

Peachtree Borer

Feeding resumes with the advent of warm weather in April and May. Prior to pupation, the mature larvae normally enter the soil, where they construct silken cocoons containing particles of chewed-up bark, frass and soil particles. The cocoons are elongate, brownish to sand-colored capsules averaging about 22 mm long. They are usually situated in an upright position just beneath the soil surface. Within the cocoons, the larvae pupate into dark brown to black pupae measuring about 14 mm long. The pupae possess stiff spines on their backs which assist them in working themselves out of the cocoons. The combined period of cocooning and pupation averages about 28 days.

Damage: The main damage is done by larvae feeding on the cambium tissue, which is the layer of living cells between the wood and the bark. Damage is usually confined to the trunk, from a few inches above to a few inches below ground level. Young trees can be killed if they are completely girdled by larval feeding. Older trees are less likely to be girdled, but injury can lower vigor, making them vulnerable to other insects, diseases and conditions that contribute to their death. Infested trees bleed frass infested gum from damaged areas during the growing season.

Only the larval stage of the peachtree borer causes injury. Larvae burrow in and feed on the cambium and inner barkof trees, usually at the base of the trunk from three inches below to 10 inches above the ground line. They also feed on large roots that are near the soil surface. Larvae construct and feed in galleries. Accumulating gum, frass, and bark chips are pushed out of galleries to the outside. These masses are often the first evidence of infestation. Several larvae may develop in one tree. Young trees are particularly susceptible to borers; when infested they are unthrifty and grow poorly. Borers easily damage large portions of the vascular tissue in small trees; mortality is common in these instances. Older trees infested by borers may exhibit partial die-back, yellowing of foliage, stunted growth, and loss of vigor and productivity.

Controls: Look for the presence of frass and gum at the bases of trees when monitoring orchards in spring. Also check trees in fall for signs of peachtree borer activity. At this time, you can kill larvae by carefully using a knife or wire to probe the trunk. Mark infested trees that you find, and return to treat them the following spring with insecticide by spraying the trunk from the scaffold to the soil line. Apply the insecticide with a hand-held sprayer to the tree trunk from the juncture of the main scaffold limbs to the soil line.

Cover the trunk thoroughly, using enough spray material so it will run off to form a small puddle at the base of the tree. Use from 0.5 to 1.5 gallons per tree, depending upon the size of the trunk. Remove suckers and pull soil away from the base of the tree before treating. Two applications are recommended to protect during the prolonged period when adults are active, one in mid-May when adults are first detected and one in the middle of July. Be careful to observe preharvest intervals and use low-pressure sprays to avoid contaminating fruit.

Peachtree Borer Larvae

Peachtree Borer Larvae

You can use pheromone traps to monitor adult emergence. They are useful for determining the presence of peachtree borers. The pheromone lure may be listed as peachtree borer or greater peachtree borer. Place the traps in trees no later than late April and maintain them through September, changing lures at the recommended interval usually one month and the trap bottoms when they become dirty and lose stickiness. If they catch large numbers of male peachtree borers approximately 10 or more per week, return later and examine the trees carefully for signs of feeding activity. Be sure to properly identify the moths that are trapped; other clearwing moths may be attracted by the peachtree borer pheromone.

Keep tree bases free of vegetation to help reduce problems with peachtree borer, especially in the Central Valley. Heat and dryness reduce the survival of eggs and larvae.

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