Native to southwestern China, the kiwi is a vigorous, woody vine with attractive, rounded leaves, fragrant white or yellowish flowers, and hairy, oval fruits. While kiwi plants are tough and relatively easy to grow, they can fall prey to various kiwi plant pests. Read on to learn more about kiwi insects and tips for treating kiwi bugs.
Common Kiwi Fruit Pests
Below are the most common types of insect pests that affect kiwi plants.
Leafrollers – Leafroller caterpillars are considered minor pests of kiwi, but the pests can take a toll when they feed on the fruit. Avoid chemicals, as these may kill beneficial insects, like tachinid flies and parasitic wasps, which prey on leafrollers. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a safe, non-toxic treatment. Pheromone traps are also an effective means of control.
Spider mites – Spider mites are difficult to see with the naked eye, but you can recognize their presence by the fine webbing and speckled leaves. These minuscule kiwi insects are most prevalent during dry, dusty conditions. They are usually fairly easy to control with insecticidal soap spray or neem oil.
Thrips – These tiny kiwi fruit pests generally don’t kill the plant, but they can do their fair share of leaf damage, causing stunted growth when they suck out the succulent plant juices. Slender insects with fringed wings, thrips are often kept in check by blasting the affected areas with a strong stream of water. Insecticidal soap sprays are usually effective but must be repeated regularly.
Boxelder bugs – These winged pests of kiwi are most prevalent on kiwi plants grown in coastal areas. If you aren’t familiar with boxelder bugs, they are easy to recognize. Although the oval-shaped, mature bugs are dark with narrow red lines on their back, the young ones are tiny and red in color.
Nematodes – These tiny roundworms are usually relatively harmless in small numbers, but larger infestations weaken the plant and reduce fruit size. The best way to control these pests of kiwi is to treat the soil before planting. Healthy plants are more resistant than plants that are stressed due to drought or overwatering.
Japanese beetles – Although the metallic green bugs are beautiful in their own way, Japanese beetles, with their voracious appetites, are the bane of fruit growers. Encourage robins and other songbirds to visit your garden, as birds (got chickens?) enjoy munching on the grubs. Although chemicals should always be a last resort, broad-spectrum insecticides may be required if the damage is unacceptable.
While not much of a problem unless in high numbers, grasshoppers occasionally visit these vines and feed on the foliage or fruit.