PESTS OF ASPARAGUS

Although there are only about 1000 acres of commercial production in North Carolina, asparagus is grown in home gardens. One of the most expensive vegetables, asparagus is a gourmet item. Asparagus has relatively few pests. Asparagus aphids, asparagus beetles, caterpillars, and slugs damage plants.

KEY TO ASPARAGUS PESTS

A. Insects that feed exposed on berries, buds, shoots, or leaves.

  1. Asparagus aphid - Pale green and powdery, asparagus aphids (Fig. 30) feed on leaves and bracts causing infested plants to become stunted or to die

  2. Asparagus beetle - These hard-bodied chewing insects are about 6 to 9.5 mm long and are smooth, shiny and slightly elongated. The antennae are less than half the length of the body. The tarsi appear four-segmented. They feed on meaty above-ground plant parts and leave brown scars on buds

    1. Asparagus beetle - This beetle has a metallic blue head. The thorax is red with two blue spots. Each bluish-black wing cover has three yellowish square spots (Fig. 31)

    2. Spotted asparagus beetle - This pest is red-orange or tan with six black spots on each wing cover (Fig. 32)

  3. Asparagus beetle larvae - These larvae are soft-bodied, plump, humpbacked, wrinkled, and sluggish. They grow to about 9 mm long and have three pairs of legs near the head and fleshy prolegs on most abdominal segments. They secrete a black fluid which stains the plant

    1. Asparagus beetle grub - The body is dark gray and the head and prolegs are black. They feed like adult beetles and scar the buds (Fig. 33)

    2. Spotted asparagus beetle larvae - The body is pale yellow to orange; they feed primarily on berries (Fig. 34)

    1. Beet armyworm - These 30-mm-long caterpillars are soft-bodied, green to black with three lightly colored stripes running the length of the body. There is a black spot on each side of the body on the second segment behind the head. It has three pairs of legs and five pairs of prolegs (Fig. 35). Beet armyworms damage buds, young leaves, and tender tips causing the stalks to curl and become deformed

    B. Insects that feed on roots or lower stems and usually are hidden in the soil

    1. Beet armyworm - (See above for description.) Beet armyworms usually feed on the foliage but occasionally they feed on roots or lower stems

    2. Cutworms - Several kinds of fat, soft-bodied, basically gray, black, or brown caterpillars (40 to 50 mm long when fully grown) feed on asparagus roots. Cutworms have three pairs of legs and five pairs of prolegs (Fig. 36A to C). Cutworms occasionally feed above ground on spears and ferns when young, but older larvae burrow in soil during the day and sever plant stems at night. They curl up when disturbed

    3. Asparagus miner - Small maggots mine in the stems close to the ground (Fig. 37) opening the plant up to disease-causing organisms

    4. Grasshoppers - Fullgrown grasshoppers (Fig. 4E) are 19 to 33 mm long. They feed on spears, consume foliage, and gnaw and girdle asparagus stems

    Return to AG-295 Table of Contents