Insects That Eat Papaya Plants in Florida

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Papaya (Carica papaya L.) is also known as pawpaw, du du and loko. The tropical fruit is harvested all year in the optimal tropical growing weather in Florida where there is a small commercial papaya industry. Papaya is a native of the lowlands of Central America and southern Mexico. The fruit belongs to the caricaceae family and grows on short-lived trees about 33 feet high. Popular papaya varieties in the United States include red lady and maradol. Papaya is susceptible to a number of pests.

Papaya Fruit Fly

  • Papaya fruit fly (Toxotrypana curvicauda) is the most serious pest to infest papaya. The insects eat through the peel of the fruit, and then lay their eggs in these cavities. The larvae feed on the fruit and then emerge from the damaged fruit. Papaya fruit fly has a long abdomen and wasp-like black and yellow markings and is often mistaken for a wasp. An early sign of papaya fruit fly infestation is the presence of yellow markings on the fruit and premature fruit drop. The best non-chemical control of the insect is to cover each fruit with a paper bag while it's still small, and to remove the bags when it is time to harvest.

Papaya Webworm

  • The papaya webworm (Homolapalpia dalera), also known as the fruit cluster worm, damages papaya by weaving a web around the fruit and stem and then feeding on the fruit under this web. The insect is primarily a pest of newly developing fruit peel around the stem area, and so it's frequently found either on or near the stems of the papaya fruit and flowers. Best control methods include handpicking the worm or hosing the papaya trees with strong jets of water to remove insects. The damage caused by the worms to the fruit skin makes the fruit susceptible to the fungal disease, anthracnose.

Papaya Whitefly

  • Papaya whitefly (Trialeuroides variabilis) eats the foliage of the papaya trees and causes leaf drop and reduced fruit yield. Adult papaya whiteflies are small and white and can be seen when the leaves of the tree are shaken. The insects are more common on new leaves where they lay oval, yellow eggs. Papaya whitefly looks like scale crawlers and feed on the underside of the foliage. The honeydew produced by the insects leads to the growth of sooty mold.

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  • Photo Credit papaya image by Freeze Frame Photography from Fotolia.com
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