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Hawaii Agriculture Department warns of new avocado pest

  • COURTESY HAWAII DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
                                Adults and nymphs of the avocado lace bug. Agriculture officials said the bug was first detected in December in Pearl City.

    COURTESY HAWAII DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

    Adults and nymphs of the avocado lace bug. Agriculture officials said the bug was first detected in December in Pearl City.

Avocado growers, beware.

The state Department of Agriculture has confirmed the presence of a new pest — the avocado lace bug, or Pseudacysta perseae — in Hawaii.

Ag officials said the bug was first detected in Pearl City, Oahu, in December, and then found on Hawaii island as well as on plants at stores on Maui that have since been treated or destroyed.

How it was introduced to Hawaii remains unknown.

Experts say the lace bug does not feed on the fruit itself, but destroys avocado plants by extracting nutrients from its leaves, causing green to yellowish blotches. The damaged leaves eventually dry up, curl and drop prematurely, reducing fruit yields.

Ag officials have issued a field guide, with photos, to help identify the new pest.

Adults are about 2 millimeters long, with black heads and a black stripe across the width of their yellow-tan wings.

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

Known to exist in Florida in the early 1900s, the avocado lace bug is also present in California, the southeastern United States, Caribbean, Central and South America, and Portugal.

University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources extension agents are working on effective treatment plans for Hawaii.

In the meantime, possible infestations should be reported, with photos, to HDOA’s Plant Pest Control Branch at hdoa.ppc@hawaii.gov.

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