Incredible Diversity of Critters on Eggplant Crop

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lace bugs

Eggplant lace bug adult with newly hatched nymphs. Photo by Debbie Roos.

assassin bug

Assassin bug (Atrachelus cinereus). Assassin bugs are general predators and feed on other small insects. Photo by Debbie Roos.

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!

View the photos.