How to detect and monitor False Codling Moth (FCM) with digital technologies?
What is False Codling Moth (FCM)?
False codling moth (Thaumatotibia leucotreta) is a small moth with a wingspan of only 6-9 mm. It is nocturnal, meaning it is most active during the evening and night. Despite its small size, this species is a major agricultural pest that can cause significant damage to a variety of crops, including stone fruit, avocado, citrus, corn, cotton, and macadamia. The false codling moth has the potential to cause significant economic losses for farmers as it feeds on and damages the fruit and leaves of these crops. Its presence can also reduce the overall quality and marketability of the affected produce.
Why is False Codling Moth so dangerous?
False codling moth is a dangerous pest because it can infest and damage a wide range of crops, including citrus, cotton, deciduous fruits, macadamia nuts, and more. It is particularly problematic in areas with warm winters and a sufficient supply of host plants, as this allows the moth to sustain its population and continue to cause damage. False codling moth is also a quarantine pest, meaning it poses a significant threat to importing countries due to its potential to spread and cause damage to crops.
List of crops which can be damaged by False Codling Moth
False codling moth has been recorded from an extensive range of host plants. In particular, it damages over 24 commercial crops, such as:
- Cotton (major pest in equatorial Africa)
- Sorghum (major pest in Central Africa)
- Citrus (major pest in southern Africa)
- Chilli pepper
- Macadamia nuts
- Pecan nuts
In addition to these commercial host plants, the false codling moth has also been recorded on 52 different wild host plants.
How does FCM damage the crops?
False codling moth larvae typically enter fruit at the stalk end, but they can also enter at any other point on the fruit. Once inside, they tunnel towards the center of the fruit and feed on the tissue around the stone or core. As they feed, they produce dark brown granular excreta. As the larvae mature and prepare to emerge from the fruit, they may push the excreta out of the exit hole.
The pest status of false codling moth is largely determined by winter temperature conditions and the availability of wild host plants. In warmer production areas with access to a sufficient supply of host plants, false codling moth can be a serious pest of various crops. However, in areas with cold winters, the pest is much less of a threat. Early-ripening cultivars are generally less vulnerable to infestation, while late-ripening cultivars may be more heavily infested. False codling moth is also a quarantine pest, meaning it poses a significant phytosanitary threat to importing countries. Infestation levels can vary within and between seasons, as the moth is a sporadic pest.
Life cycle of False Codling Moth
The life cycle of the false codling moth consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
- Egg: The female false codling moth lays eggs on the fruit or on the leaves of the host plant. The eggs are small, oval-shaped, and white or yellow in color. They hatch into larvae within about a week.
- Larva: The larva, or caterpillar, is the feeding stage of the false codling moth. It is a pale yellow or green color and has a distinctive dark head capsule. The larva feeds on the fruit or leaves of the host plant, causing damage as it goes. It grows and molts several times as it feeds, eventually reaching a length of about 1.5 cm.
- Pupa: When the larva has reached its final instar, or growth stage, it will stop feeding and seek out a suitable place to pupate. The larva spins a cocoon around itself and pupates inside. The pupal stage lasts for about a week.
- Adult: The adult false codling moth emerges from the pupal stage as a fully-grown moth. It has a wingspan of about 1.5 cm and is a brown or gray color with distinctive white or pale yellow markings. The adult moths mate and lay eggs, starting the cycle anew.
The entire life cycle of the false codling moth can take as little as four weeks or as long as several months, depending on the temperature and availability of food. In warm, tropical climates, the moths may have several generations per year, while in cooler regions, there may be only one generation.
How to detect and monitor False Codling Moth?
In the past, detecting and monitoring this pest was a manual process that involved scouts physically inspecting crops for signs of infestation. However, visual method was not very effective as it was prone to inaccuracies and relied on the individual scout’s ability to accurately identify the pest. Additionally, this method was limited in its ability to detect the pest at early stages, which can be critical for successful control efforts.
To address these issues, Petiole has developed an innovative artificial intelligence-based solution for early-stage detection and monitoring of false codling moth. This solution uses data collected actively, passively, and through assessment of other factors at the growing facilities that can impact the lifecycle of the moth. By using this data, the solution can accurately and efficiently detect and monitor the presence and activity of false codling moth, allowing for timely control measures to be implemented. This smartphone-based solution can be applied to any type of commercially grown crops in Africa, making it a versatile and effective tool for managing this dangerous pest.
How to control False Codling Moth?
False codling moth is not a particularly difficult pest to control, as it can be effectively managed using insecticides and a pheromone monitoring system. The pheromone monitoring system provides accurate information about the moth’s flight activity and presence, allowing for timely control measures to be implemented. Female moths are only attracted to ripening and ripe fruit, meaning that protection is only needed for a relatively short period of time. For early peach cultivars, protection is typically needed for 4-5 weeks before harvest, while mid-to-late season cultivars require protection for 6-8 weeks before harvest. To effectively control false codling moth, thorough spraying and effective coverage of leaves and fruit is necessary.