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Blueberry Gall Midge

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Blueberry Gall Midge

Blueberry Gall Midge, are very small insects, approximately 3 mm in size, or smaller than the average mosquito. They have long slender legs, globular cylindrical antennae, transparent wings with long black hairlike structures and reduced venation.

Blueberry Gall Midge

Blueberry Gall Midge

The larvae are small (2 mm) and generally not easy to observe within the confines of infested buds. Females lay eggs in either floral or vegetative buds just after bud swell, when scales begin to separate and the tips of flowers become visible. A single female can lay up to 20 eggs in the mid to inner scales of the buds, which provide protection for the developing midges.

Eggs hatch into larvae (maggots) within a few days and the larvae continue to develop inside the buds. The emerging maggots feed on plant juices within the buds, remaining unseen to the naked eye. Ultimately it is the larvae, feeding on the nutritive plant juices, which cause the debilitating symptoms associated with blueberry gall midge infestation.

Life Cycle: The biology of the blueberry midge is still poorly known in the southeastern US. In North nine larvae in a single flower bud. Larvae apparently feed on bud tissues and on the pedicels that hold the individual flower buds to the peduncle within the developing flower cluster. Larvae probably drop to the ground after feeding, then pupate and transform to the adult stage. Under laboratory conditions, infested flower buds yielded adults after 12 days.

Flower buds are subject to continuous oviposition from January to March. As plants progress to vegetative budding, oviposition also occurs on the new shoot meristems. Infested vegetative buds swell and the outer leaves curl enfolding feeding larvae inside. Oviposition continues until the end of May. During summer, fall, and early winter in Florida, larvae apparently enter developmental diapause and remain in the soil.

Blueberry Gall Midge Larvae

Blueberry Gall Midgee larvae

Damage: Flower buds dry up and disintegrate within about two weeks after infestation. High levels of flower bud abortion may occur during winter and early spring. The severity of damage varies from year to year and tends to be worse after mild winters and in more southern locations.

Vegetative meristems may also be infested and killed or damaged leaving only very short shoots with a few highly distorted leaves. After mid-May, little damage occurs in Florida even though new growth flushes continue throughout the summer. The severity of damage also varies from field to field. Young plantings in their 2nd or 3rd year often flower and fruit well, even while nearby fields of mature plantings have severe bud loss. This suggests a low vagility of the midges and a slow population increase to pest proportions.

Controls: Control methods are still under investigation. Adults are readily killed with insecticides. However, their multivoltine life history and short adult lifespan necessitate careful scouting and timing of insecticide application. Contact your county Cooperative Service Extension agent or office for latest applicable insecticides. Egg and feeding larval stages are less easily killed, since these stages are at least partially protected by surrounding plant tissue.

Blueberry Gall Midge damage

Blueberry Gall Midge Damage

Larvae and pupae in the soil may be susceptible to a soil drench insecticide treatment. Any insecticide treatment during the blueberry flowering period must be judiciously applied because insect pollinators are active at this time. Alternatively, insecticides could be applied after flowering when vegetative meristems are under attack and huge midge populations are developing.

This timing would reduce the oversummering larva population and subsequent midge attack the following winter and spring. Cultural controls may be effective. Shallow disking beneath blueberries, probably in late fall or early winter, may kill diapausing larvae in the soil or expose them to predators. Likewise, using a disk to spread a thin layer of sand under the blueberry bushes may inhibit adults from emerging from the buried pupae.

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