In south Georgia growers have started picking and in middle Georgia ripe berries will be here soon. Growers need to be on the lookout for a few different insect pests as they walk their fields. So far this season, I have not heard of too many growers with spider mite problems. Early-season detection of mites is important for protecting yield as we move into harvest. I guess since spider mites are not bad this season we needed another insect to take its place. I have gotten several pictures of damaged fruit and the insects that caused it. Most of the damage has been from plant bugs. Most likely the tarnished plant bug, but there are others out there.

Tarnished Plant Bug on sunflower

Tarnished plant bug (TPB) feeding produces distorted or “cat-faced” fruit. This damage is due to seed feeding by nymphs or adults as fruit develop. Damaged seeds are frequently brown on the outside and hollow on the inside (Hannah Burrack). Early in the season it is easy to confuse this damage with poor pollination. The main determining factor is the presence of the insects and seed size of damaged berries. Seed on strawberries damaged by TPB are all the same size. Poor pollination results in seeds of various sizes on the same fruit.

(top) poor pollination. Note varying seed size. (bottom) normal strawberry
Tarnished plant bug damage. Note uniform seed size

The other insect growers to our south have started seeing is strawberry seed bugs. These are not as common as TPB but they can cause damage to developing fruit.

Strawberry Seed Bug

The University of Florida has a good factsheet to help you identify this pest. If you find TPB or strawberry seed bug in your field contact your County Agent for management options.

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