Breadfruit trees provide nutritious, starchy fruit that are an important food source in the Pacific Islands. Although generally considered problem free trees to grow, like any plant, breadfruit trees can experience some specific pests and diseases. In this article, we will discuss the common pests of breadfruit. Let’s learn more about bugs that eat breadfruit.
Breadfruit Tree Pest Problems
As a tropical plant, breadfruit trees are never exposed to periods of hard freeze, which can kill off or cause a dormancy period of pests and diseases. Fungal pathogens have an especially easy time establishing and spreading in these hot, humid tropical locations. However, despite the ideal environment for pests and disease, most growers describe breadfruit trees as relatively pest and disease free.
The most common pests of breadfruit are soft scale and mealybugs.
- Soft scale are tiny, oval-shaped flat insects that suck the sap from plants. They are usually found on the undersides of foliage and around leaf joints. They quickly reproduce and are oftentimes not detected until there are many of them feeding on a plant. Because of the sticky honeydew that they secrete, fungal infections tend to go hand in hand with soft scale infestations. Airborne fungal spores easily adhere to this sticky residue and infect the damaged plant tissues.
- Mealybugs are just a different type of scale insect. However, mealybugs leave a white, cotton-like residue on plants, which makes them easier to spot. Mealybugs also feed on the sap of plants.
Both soft scale and mealybug symptoms are sickly, yellowing or wilting leaves. If infestations are not treated, they can infect other nearby plants and cause death to breadfruit trees. Mealybugs and soft scale pests of breadfruit can be controlled with neem oil and insecticidal soaps. Infected branches can also be pruned out and burned.
Other Common Breadfruit Pests
The sweet, sticky sap of mealybugs and soft scale can also attract ants and other unwanted pests. Ants also tend to infest branches of breadfruit that have died back after fruiting. This problem can be avoided simply by pruning branches that have already produced fruit.
In Hawaii, growers have experienced breadfruit tree pest problems from two-spotted leafhoppers. These leafhoppers are yellow with a brown stripe down their back and two dark brown eye spots on their bottoms. They are also sap-sucking insects which can be controlled with neem oil, insecticidal soaps or systemic insecticides.