Bug Blog

Pistachio Pests

Pistachio Pests

The pistachio industry is preparing to combat its biggest pest, the Navel orangeworm (NOW), which spreads aflatoxin to its precious nuts. These pests can cause mold to grow on the pistachio nuts. Since the nuts are sold in-shell, this has been a hug problem for the industry, as infected kernels can literally end up in a consumer’s mouth. The industry has already raised $600,000 to pay for research into methods of better controlling these pests.

The pistachio industry is looking to the already successful pink bollworm eradication program used by the cotton industry for answers. They are launching a project to rear and sterilize a massive number of the NOW moths, which they will then release into the wild in the hopes of eradicating this pest. They plan to flood the population of native NOW moths with the lab-bred moths at a ratio of 25 to one. When the lab-bred moths mate with native moths they produce no offspring. With the high number of lab-bred moths being released into the native population the likelihood of two native moths mating is greatly reduced, and the population will dwindle within a month or two.

The pink bollworm eradication program was so successful that no native moths have been detected since the Spring of 2012.

Do you think the NOW eradication program will be successful? Is this a promising method to use to control these pests?