Incredible Diversity of Critters on Eggplant Crop
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One of my duties as an Agriculture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension is to help farmers when they are having crop problems. I was contacted by Screech Owl Greenhouses in mid-August because they were having problems with eggplant fruit abscission. The tiny new fruits were dropping off the plant before they could develop any size. When I arrived it didn’t take me long to notice small punctures on the pedicel that bore the fruit so I knew it was some type of insect. It wasn’t until my second visit that I found the culprit, an insect I had never encountered: a clouded plant bug (Neuroculpus nubilus). These bugs insert their mouthparts along the pedicel and feed on plant juices which causes the fruit to drop off. I provided recommendations on how to control this pest.
While I was scouting the eggplant crop, I was impressed by the diversity of insects and other arthropods I saw. Grower Screech Sweger uses only organically approved pesticides (and only those as a last resort), so he had a wide variety of plant-feeding insects as well as beneficial insects. I visited the farm a few more times between mid-August and mid-October and recorded 39 different species, including 22 plant-feeders and 17 pollinators and predators. This by no means represents all the insects to be found on eggplant but I thought folks would be interested in seeing the incredible biodiversity to be found in the plant canopy!
I have posted photos I took of all the critters. Keep in mind that some plant-feeding insects are infrequent visitors and don’t develop large populations and so don’t typically cause significant damage. I have noted this in the photo caption.
Note: there are too many photos to post on one page without bogging down the system so make sure and visit all three pages!