False Codling Moth

In the 1980s a unique and viral pest, the False Codling Moth (FMC) migrated to Israel, originally native to South Africa. Since its arrival the False Codling Moth has had a thirty-year history of wreaking havoc on citrus, pomegranates, and other soft fruit species, impacting EU export projections. Certain cultivars are particularly susceptible to FMC, such as the Ori Mandarins and Nova Mandarin varieties which are primarily grown for export. International market demands a zero FMC infection rate on soft fruit exports, to which the False Codling Moth presents a clear and direct threat to these vulnerable yet very valuable fruits. If even one infected fruit out of a whole shipping container is found to be contaminated by port authorities or international import customs, the entire shipment will be rejected immediately. Countries are sensitive to this issue because they themselves do not want to risk similar infestations and for good reason.

Other countries such as the US, Canada, China, the EU and Korea will not put at risk their own domestic agriculture. For example, during tests made during the 2019 season orchards and the packing houses, about 40 shipments of exports were disqualified, of which two were expelled immediately upon arrival in France, resulting in huge financial losses and negative precedent for the global market. In 2019, the EU issued a requirement to the State of Israel to present export preparation protocol monitored by the Plant Protection Services. These protocols provide strict regulations and controls for growers intending to export. An established system of registration, inspection (fields, orchards, and packing houses), and monitored maintenance and supervision will all be carried out by Plant Protection Services and growers who do not meet requirements cannot export fruit. 

Depictions of the stages of the FMC’s lifecycle and development. Their larvae are very small and pale white in color. Eggs are laid on the rind of the fruit, sometimes near the navel. Before changing, their color changes to pinkish red.  

The False Codling Moth: Eggs in varying degrees of development, before hatching, the larva can be seen through the eggshell (Photo: R. Caspi)

The Larva: The larva head is dark red-brown in color. Along the dorsal part there are typical bumps of vesicular figures. The larval color in the young grades, grades 1-3, is whitish-yellowish; And in the adult grades, grades 4-5 – pink (see photos).

False Codling Moth: Top: Larva Fifth degree; 

Bottom: young Larva second degree (Photo: R. Caspi)

How to diagnose an infection by the False Codling Moth:

External diagnosis of suspected and infected fruit: A. In infected fruit, although the peel is green, there has been an unusual change in color from green to yellow and at an uncharacteristic date before ripening (similar to the fruit fly bite). B. In a full-colored fruit, a yellow aura develops in the larval infiltration area, against the orange color of the bark. C. In the cut of the fruit, a burrowing of the moth larva can be noticed in the buoyancy, and within them the droppings that the larva exudes in its feeding. The droppings are white in color, and later they turn black. No moist decay in the fruit was created following the larval infiltration.

False Codling Moth: Larva’s pathway of rotting inside the Orange (Photo: R. Caspi)

In advanced stages a large number of fruit infected larvae may fall to the ground, but not all infected fruit fall out, so they can be picked with the rest of the fruit and reach the packaging system.

How to eradicate the False Codling Moth:

Pesticides – The False Codling Moth population is controlled using a combination of pheromone and other biological chemical treatments.  Pheromone applications confuse the male False Codling Moth and interrupt the moth mating cycle.  Other biological and chemical preparations kill the larvae on the bark of the fruit. Pheromone treatment method is recommended when more than 3 male False Codling Moths are found in orchard traps.  This should be followed with other chemical treatments to kill larvae.

Using drones to apply pheromone to eradicate the False Codling Moth: 

ALTA Innovation developed a unique drone system for dispersing the pheromone material. The system allows the material to be dispensed using a drone in a precise, efficient, and fast manner, while saving manpower. Using drones, the pheromone is applied to the upper third of a treated tree and is effective for 10-12 weeks after first application and resistant to all weather conditions, including heavy rain. The required dose is 100 grams per dunam (about 1.6 grams per tree).

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