Six on Saturday – W8/2021 – The suckers are back!

We have been marveling at our tamarillo crop, amazed at how well the plants are doing this year. We were looking forward to a bumper crop, as the trees were loaded with fruit. However, last week we noticed that some of the ripe fruit seemed to have been stung. Puzzled by this, we checked for fruit fly, but there did not seem to be any in evidence.

It was later on in the week, when I let the dogs out for their final pee for the night, that I noticed a moth sitting above the door! Aah Haa! Not believing that the sucking moths were back, we went outside the following night, armed with a long LED light. Sure enough, there on the tamarillo fruit were moths! Our suspicions were confirmed!

Fruit sucking moths seen at night on the tamarillo fruit. Notice how their eyes glow in the torch light.

Last year our entire citrus crop was decimated by fruit sucking moths, and not wanting a repeat of that, we decided that the best plan of action would be to harvest our entire tamarillo crop. After harvesting the tamarillos, we covered the citrus and pawpaw crops with nets to protect the fruit. That night we checked to see if the protected fruit was safe, and luckily it was! The moths however had discovered our only bush of bishop cap peppers, and in a single night they destroyed the entire crop. The following day we stripped the bush of all its fruit and composted it, and then covered our crop of passion fruit. Hopefully our efforts will pay off, and the netted fruit will continue to ripen for us to enjoy.

Fruit sucking moth on a tamarillo fruit
All our tamarillo fruit was harvested.
Bishop Cap Peppers fruit destroyed by fruit sucking moth

The fruit sucking moth, Eudocima fullonia, has orange and black hind wings, and brown forewings. The moth has a strong proboscis with barbs which enable it to penetrate the skin or rind of the fruit, and it is then able to suck out the juice of the fruit. The moths attack fruit that is ripe or ripening. The moths are nocturnal. If you are interested then these short fact sheets are a good read. Fact sheet – Citrus fruit piercing moth (113) (pestnet.org) and Fact sheet – Citrus fruit piercing moth (113) (pestnet.org)

Close up of a dead fruit sucking moth showing its strong proboscis

2. Last night when we went outside to check that the netted crops were safe from the moths, we saw this cute native frog on the lawn, very close to a cane toad no photo of the cane toad). The frog easily jumps a distance of half a metre. Looking through my reference books I think it is a Green-thighed frog, Litoria brevipalmata. Cane toads, Rhineland marina, were introduced from Central and South America into the sugar cane fields of Far North Queensland in the 1930’s. It was hoped that the toads would control two beetle pests. These toads have however become environmental pests and are now wide spread. The toads are toxic at all stages of life, and are considered an environmental threat. Needless to say, the toad was dispatched!

Green-thighed frog, Litoria brevipalmata

3. The Tibouchina are still taking centre stage in the garden, almost overshadowing some of the smaller perennials and shrubs desperate for some of the limelight! Trying hard to compete is this delicate pink Obedient plant, Physostegia virginiana, which is a clumping herbaceous perennial. They are also known as false dragonheads.

4. Also trying hard to get to centre stage is the cats whiskers, Orthosiphon aristatus. It is a shade loving plant, about 1 metre in height, and is native to tropical parts of Australia. The dark glossy leaves show off the white flowers beautifully, and the plant is just starting to put on a show. It is easily propagated from cuttings.

Orthosiphon aristatus

5. Waiting in the wings is one of my Helenium plants. I bought two plants, one Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’ and the other Helenium autumnale. I planted them side by side. One plant has yet to send up any flowering stems. The other plant is about a metre tall and almost ready to flower. It has to be propped up to prevent it from spilling onto the path, especially under the weight of raindrops. It is full of buds, and I can’t wait for them to open!

Helenium

My final six for this week is not waiting in the wings to flower; it is waiting for rejuvenation! During the week I was invited over to an old (neglected) garden to take any cuttings and plants I wanted before the land was used for redevelopment. Hidden behind a shrub was this lovely Platycerium stag/elk horn fern, which looked as if it had fallen off a felled or rotted tree. It is in desperate need of some TLC, and I plan to divide it up into at least 4 pieces and secure each piece to a tree.

Platycerium

Before I tackle this latest project I will be having some down time to read the other interesting Six on Saturday blogs posted from around the world. Our host is The Propagator, and links to the other blogs can be found in the comments section of his weekly Six on Saturday posts. You are welcome to join in!

16 comments

  1. I also had not heard of the fruit-sucking moth – it is very beautiful even if disastrous for fruit crops. I read one of the fact sheets and found it most interesting. Netting fruit that is not yet harvested seems like a good plan although it must be quite difficult to put it up so as to be effective at keeping critters out? I enjoyed seeing the pretty frog and the plants and flowers too.

  2. I hope your remaining fruits stay safe! Those moths are very interesting and beautiful, but look creepy sucking the juice out of your tamarillo. Cute little frog and great flowers!

  3. Goodness, and I thought I was blessed with destructive critters. I don’t think we get the fruit sucking moths here. There are so many pests and diseases now it seems we are always at war with something. I have never heard of tamarillo fruit. Are they sweet. Do you make jam or chutney with them?

    • Gardening is definitely challenging with critters around! Tamarillo, especially the yellow flesh variety, are sweet. We made Tamarillo chutney, similar to tomato relish, and also a sweet sauce to add to natural yoghurt. Each fruit has a lot of seed so we cook the fruit then push it through a sieve to remove the seeds. The fruit itself is refreshing and not overly sweet, so we use it in salads as well.

      • It sounds similar to our Nespera/medler fruit. It has about 8 large pips/stones per small fruit and last year I spent hours peeil and de pipping befor cooking. Maybe I shoutld try your method this year. 🙂

  4. Fascinating about the fruit sucking moths…I didn’t know there was such a thing, but they certainly do damage. Very disappointing. I love tamarillos, but I think they’re very expensive to buy. Will they continue to ripen now that you’ve picked them? And what will you do with them all? Can they be preserved in any other way than chutney?
    My one Helenium seems to be over, although it’s sending up new leaves, but there are no more flowers. I’m hoping it will do a bit of self seeding.

    • I had no idea these moths existed until last year. It was a shock to see how much damage they cause. Mr S used most of the ripe and almost ripe fruit to make the chutney, and also made a sweeter sauce with some. We searched for information on ripening the tamarillos and there seemed to be equal opinions that they would/would not ripen off the trees. We still have quite a few fruit left, and have given some away. We’re pleased that we managed to save a good portion of the crop. Apart from chutney and a sweet sauce, they can also be preserved as jam. When fresh we use them with other fruit at breakfast, or in salads.
      Won’t I be great if your Helenium self seeds? I’m so looking forward to the day when my Helenium flowers!
      Have a great week.

    • Those moths are awful. Still, to look on the bright side, we got cracking and made 3 batches of Tamarillo chutney, which probably would not have happened if we were steadily eating the ripe fruit! Seeing that little frog was a real treat!

  5. The moths are beautiful but not for the fruit…. Your flowers are very nice. Great pictures ! Enjoy the weekend.

  6. Reading of the moths is extraordinarily interesting – though I wouldn’t welcome them here. We don’t grow tamarillos as we don’t have the heat they need to ripen. The Swift Moth can be a nuisance for growers of snowdrops as they lay their eggs on the surface and the pupae make their way into the bulbs and eat them from the inside. Of course, one doesn’t notice anything until a favourite flower fails to appear the following spring and lifting it to investigate reveals the voracious pupa – dispatched, as you can imagine!

    • I had not even heard of these moths until last year! They are difficult to control as they prefer ripe or almost ripe fruit – just at a time when you can not have an exclusion period for any applied insecticide. The effects of the Swift Moth sound awful too.

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