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Avocado Lace Bug Infestation Sweeps through Hawaii

Avocado trees on the Hawaiian Islands are facing a new threat, after several reports have confirmed the existence and spread of a generic bug.
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Avocado trees on the Hawaiian Islands are facing a new threat, after several reports have confirmed the existence and spread of a generic bug.

Hawaii’s state Department of Agriculture announced on Thursday afternoon that the Avocado lace bug (Pseudacysta perseae) has now spread across the state, cautioning farmers across the region to be extra vigilant, West Hawaii Today reports.

Research Continues, as Threat Level Increases

The bug was first sighted last December in Pearl City, Oahu. Soon after, plants across retail centers started to show signs of infestation, and while most of them were either treated or destroyed, their proliferation has become more of a cause for concern.

The report explained that their source of entry into the state remains unknown. However, experts have also pointed out that the lace bug doesn’t feed on the avocado fruit itself- instead, it extracts nutrients from the avocado leaves, thus destroying the plants by depriving them of their natural source of food. The infected leaves eventually dry up, curl, and drop. As fruits themselves become damaged, farmers’ yields drop significantly.

The lace bug was known to exist in the state of Florida as far back as the early 1900s. However, it has also grown to establish a presence in California and the Southern U.S. states, as well as across the Caribbean, South and Central America, and Portugal.

Collaborating with the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, the state Department of Agriculture has issued a comprehensive field guide- with pictures- to help farmers and locals to identify the pest. As the guide explains, adult bugs are about 2 millimeters long, with blackheads and yellow-tan wings that also have black stripes across their width.

As for the immature ones, they sport various colors- from red to black and dark brown- depending on the stage of maturity that they’ve reached. Eggs, on the other hand, are entirely black and are usually found in clusters on the undersides of avocado leaves.

Officials have committed to fighting the spread of the bug across the state, although they recommended that in the meanwhile, all reported sightings should be reported- with comprehensive pictures- to the Plant Pest Control Branch of the state Agriculture Department.

The World Feels the Sting of Plant Pests

Invasive pests have become a problem this year, with reports extending far beyond just the United States. In East Africa, a swarm of locusts is beginning to threaten the supply of food across several countries.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations recently published an update on the nymph (infant) desert locusts, revealing its growth patterns in Somalia and its tendency to expand and multiply. As we reported last week, about 360 billion locusts have made their way from Somalia to Ethiopia and Kenya. Mark Lowcock, a humanitarian for the United Nations, explained that while the locusts are still in infancy, they could very well grow to become the most devastating locust plague in living memory as soon as they gain the power of flight.

The United Nations has also committed itself to fight the growth of plant pests across the world, as it declared 2020 the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) at a meeting earlier this year. At the time, it explained that plants around the world are under the threat of invasive pests that could destroy up to 40 percent of the world’s crops and cause a $220 billion loss in trades annually.

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Robin Watson

Robin owns his own Landscape Gardening company based in the UK and has over 10 years professional experience working outdoors, creating beautiful landscapes for his clients in the UK. He is also a keen garden-grower and maintains his own fruit and vegetable gardens. He also has a level 3 Certificate in Practical Horticulture from The Royal Horticultural Society and is currently working on his first book about gardening. Contact him at Robin@gardenbeast.com

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