Gazette Gardener: Tarnished plant bug may be the culprit in damage to fruit

The garden can pose all sorts of challenges. This week, I’ve heard from several people about a bug t

The garden can pose all sorts of challenges. This week, I’ve heard from several people about a bug that is fast to flee and causing damage on fruit and flowers.

What causes this sort of damage? It could be the tarnished plant bug.

A co-worker asked about what could cause her strawberries to become nubby. She said at the start of the season, her Ozark strawberries looked normal. Then, as the harvest slowed down in mid-June, the berries became smaller and distorted. Cornell fruit expert Marvin Pritts said: “This variety is very susceptible to tarnished plant bug feeding. The bugs feed on the flowers and cause distorted, nubby fruit.”

The populations begin to build in mid-June. Pritts said the problem will likely continue to get worse through the summer — unless the grower sprays or otherwise protects the flowers from plant bug feeding.

Some of the controls include row covers until flowering, insecticidal soap against nymphs, choosing varieties that are less susceptible to TPB damage and cleaning debris from around plants because the bugs overwinter in leaf litter, stones and tree bark.

Strawberries aren’t the only plants TPBs find appetizing. Raspberries, apples, peaches, lettuce, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, Asian greens, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, potatoes, beans, carrot, dill, chard, beets, asparagus and cut flowers, especially member of the composite family such as daisies, asters, sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias, cosmos and hundreds more are all on their menu.

How to ID

Adults are about a quarter-of-an-inch long, oval and somewhat flattened. The Cornell Web site — — describes the bug as greenish brown with reddish brown markings. A distinguishing characteristic is a small but distinct yellow-tipped triangle in the center of the back, behind the head.

The tarnished plant bug has a number of natural enemies, such as other true bugs, ladybird beetles and spiders, but they are not able to control the pest completely. Other natural enemies include parasitic wasps.

In my own garden, I have found TPBs. My first control is to mow the strawberries after harvest to cut down on pests and clean up thoroughly. I also accept that even TPBs have to eat and a few fruits and flowers will be damage and let it go at that.

Ripening fruit

Will strawberries and blueberries ripen after they are picked?

No. Cherries, grapes, berries and watermelon, if not picked ripe, never will ripen. Strawberries get redder but not sweeter. There are fruits that do sweeten, such as pears, bananas, kiwis, mangoes and apples.

The tricksters are those fruits that get softer but not sweeter after picking, such as peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots, cantaloupe and honeydew.

Happy gardening.

Categories: Life and Arts

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