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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 did not 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!

Plant-Feeding Insects

Click on each  photo to enlarge

punctures on pedicel

Telltale punctures on the pedicel told me that an insect was likely the cause of the abscission of the small fruit. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Clouded plant bug

Clouded plant bug (Neuroculpus nubilus). Photo by Debbie Roos.

Clouded plant bugs feeding on eggplant

Clouded plant bugs (Neuroculpus nubilus) feeding on eggplant. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Adult Colorado potato beetle

Adult Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata). Photo by Debbie Roos.

Colorado potato beetle larva

Colorado potato beetle larva. Both adults and larvae chew holes in the leaves and can cause significant damage. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Eggplant tortoise beetle

Eggplant tortoise beetle (Gratiana pallidula). This is a chewing insect and is usually not a significant pest. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Tobacco flea beetle

Tobacco flea beetle (Epitrix fasciata). Photo by Debbie Roos.

Eggplant flea beetle

Eggplant flea beetle (Epitrix fuscula). Flea beetles chew tiny holes in the leaves, leaving a characteristic “shot-hole” appearance. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Brown marmorated stink bug nymph

Brown marmorated stink bug nymph (Halyomorpha halys). Photo by Debbie Roos.

Sharpshooter leafhopper

Sharpshooter leafhopper (Graphocephala versuta). Not a significant eggplant pest. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Harlequin bug

Harlequin bug (Murgantia histrionica) eggs. Harlequin bugs feed primarily on brassicas but in their absence will feed on other crops. Not a significant eggplant pest. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Eggplant lace bug

Eggplant lace bug (Gargaphia solani) adults. Lace bugs are sucking insects and can develop large populations. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Eggplant lace bug adult with newly hatched nymphs

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

Eggplant lace bug nymph

Eggplant lace bug nymphs on the move. Photo by Debbie Roos.

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