Pea plants are grown in home gardens from early spring to June. The pods are harvested for several weeks and, when not eaten fresh, are dried, canned or frozen. Healthy pea plants that are grown in well-drained soil may still face infestation from pests. Pest populations vary in each region.
The cowpea curculio, or weevil, is particularly destructive to pea pods, according to Clemson University Extension. The adult weevil is a small reddish-brown humpbacked beetle with a long snout. Adults pierce holes into the pea pods and lay a single egg. The grub that hatches from the egg feeds on several peas before leaving the pod for further development. A preventive program of insecticidal spray is the only prevention against these pests. The spray is applied when the peas bloom and every five to seven days thereafter.
Aphids are small, slow-moving insects that feed off of the pea plant's fluids. Small numbers of aphids do not cause much damage. Newborn aphids develop into adults in seven days and reproduce asexually. A single aphid is capable of producing 80 live offspring in a week, according to the University of California. Applications of soapy water or insecticidal soap are used to control aphid populations. Additionally, they are preyed upon by other insects.
Infestations of spider mites cause discolouration and desiccation of pea plant leaves. Silken webs are present along the stem and underside of leaves. Spider mite reproduction and development is rapid in hot, dry weather with an entire life cycle occurring in eight days. Spider mites are removed by strong sprays of water, insecticidal soap and carnivorous insects.
Thrips are very small insects that feed on the flowers and, occasionally the leaves, of pea plants. Damage to the flowers may affect the production of pods later in the season. Thrips are controlled by insecticidal soap. Additionally, thrips are repelled by aluminium foil laid on the plant bed.
Other Common Pests
Corn earworms, cabbage loopers and pea leafminers also infest pea plants. Pea leafminers are flying insects and rarely do serious damage to pea plants. Insecticides have little effect on leafminers, however, their population is checked by natural parasites, according to the University of California. Cabbage loopers are caterpillars that cause defoliation but rarely require insecticides. Corn earworms are capable of causing significant damage to pea pods and are treated with insecticidal spray. These caterpillars have lengthwise stripes in varying colours.
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