Indigo Insect Pests – Dealing With Bugs That Eat Indigo

indigo pest
indigo pest
(Image credit: Forest and Kim Starr)

Indigo (Indigofera spp.) is one of the all-time favorite plants for dye making. It has been cultivated worldwide for centuries for the blue colored dyes and inks that can be made from it. Indigo is believed to have originated in India, though it escaped cultivation ages ago and has naturalized in most tropical to sub-tropical regions. One reason indigo plants have so easily spread globally is because there are very few bugs that eat indigo. Continue reading to learn more about pests of indigo plants and when controlling indigo pests is necessary.

About Indigo Pest Control

Indigo not only produces vivid dyes, it is also a nitrogen fixing member of the legume family. In many tropical regions, it is not only valued as “the king of dyes” but is also grown as a green manure or cover crop. In addition to being pretty resistant to insect pests, indigo is rarely grazed on by livestock or other wildlife. In tropical regions where indigo can grow into a woody perennial, it can actually become a pest itself by choking or shading out native flora. However, there are a few indigo insect pests that keep it from becoming invasive or can damage indigo crops.

Common Pests of Indigo Plants

One of the most damaging pests of indigo plants is root-knot nematodes. Infestations will appear as patches of sickly looking plants in crop fields. Infected plants may be stunted, wilted, and chlorotic. The indigo roots will have swollen galls. When attacked by root-knot nematodes, indigo plants are weakened and become highly susceptible to fungal or bacterial diseases. Crop rotation is the best method of root-knot nematodes indigo pest control. The psyllid Arytaina punctipennis is another insect pest of indigo plants. These psyllids do not cause significant damage just by eating the indigo foliage but their piercing mouth parts oftentimes carry disease from plant to plant, which can result in significant indigo crop loss. In some tropical or subtropical locations, chrysomeliad leaf beetles can significantly reduce crop yields of indigo plants. As with almost any plant, indigo plants can also become infested by aphids, scale, mealybugs, and spider mites. Crop rotation, trap crops, and chemical controls may all be integrated to ensure high crop yields of indigo plants.

Darcy Larum