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How to Manage the Pecan Nut Casebearer

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The pecan nut casebearer, Acrobasis nuxvorella (Neunzig), is the most damaging nut-feeding insect that occurs in pecans. This species only occurs in pecans but is closely related to similar species that cause the same damage in hickory and walnut. The pecan nut casebearer (PNC) is found from Florida to southern New Mexico, encompassing almost all of the pecan growing region.

Seasonal Cycle

Pecan nut casebearer can complete two to three generations per year. Overwintering larvae develop into pupae and ultimately moths that emerge from late May to early June. After tree pollination, female casebearer moths begin laying eggs on pecan nuts. These eggs result in first-generation larvae that feed on pecan nuts and generally cause the most damage.

Second-generation PNC begin appearing in mid-July. Larvae feed primarily on pecan shucks. Unless populations are extremely high, little damage is created from second-generation larvae. Third-generation PNC hatch 30 to 40 days later and feed for a short time (if they feed at all) on shucks. Late in the season, each small larva forms a tightly woven, protective silken case (hibernaculum) near a bud or leaf scar for overwintering. These larvae emerge from hibernacula in the spring and feed by tunneling into shoots. Pupation of the overwintering generation occurs in these tunnels formed from feeding, and adults emerge the following spring to deposit the first generation of eggs on pecan nuts.

pecan nut casebearer

Guidelines for Pheromone Trap Use

Pheromone-baited traps for PNC are available. The pheromone mimics the chemical emitted by female casebearer moths and attracts males to a sticky trap. Traps can be used to detect the arrival of PNC into an orchard, to provide growers an estimate of population numbers, and to provide a signal of when first significant nut entry by larvae may occur.

Some guidelines for using pheromone traps:

  1. Use three traps in 30- to 50-acre orchards and five traps in orchards larger than 50 acres.
  2. Do not place traps closer together than 100 yards.
  3. Place traps near the terminal of a nut-bearing limb at a convenient height.
  4. In Oklahoma, traps should be in the orchard by May 1.
  5. Monitor traps every two or three days, three times a week if possible, and keep detailed records.
    • Frequent monitoring will help detect the first flush of moth activity.
    • Record the trap location and monitoring date each time.
    • Remove all moths, other insects and any debris that is found on the traps' sticky surfaces.
    • Replace any traps that have become too dirty or covered in debris.
    • Pheromone lure can be carefully transferred (with forceps) to the new trap.
    • Pheromone does not need to be replaced during the season.
  6. Do not confuse PNC moths with other similar species.
    • Pecan bud moth Gretchena bolliana (Slingerland)
    • Pecan leaf casebearer, Acrobasis juglandis (LeBaron)

Scouting for PNC

First capture of PNC males generally occurs 12 to 16 days before the optimum time for application of insecticides.

Scouting should begin seven to 10 days after the capture of the first PNC moth.

Look for eggs on the nuts using a hand lens to determine the maturity of eggs.

Examine 10 nut clusters per tree across several trees.

If two or more clusters contain eggs or damage before 310 clusters have been examined, an insecticide application should be made as soon as possible.

Traps can be used to monitor flights of later PNC generations.

Second-generation PNC occurs approximately six weeks after the spring flight, and larval damage can be expected 12 to 16 days after the flight begins.

The decision to treat an orchard is based on scouting to detect eggs and/or larvae not on the numbers of moths captured. The traps allow you to know when to start scouting for eggs. The pheromone trap is very effective and will capture moths even when economic infestations of larvae are unlikely to develop. Later generations (third and possibly a fourth) are rarely a significant threat to nut production.

Will Chaney serves as a pecan management systems senior research associate and has been with the Noble Research Institute since 2008. He received his bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Leadership and his master’s degree in Horticulture from Oklahoma State University. He grew up on his family’s land in south central Oklahoma. His areas of interest are centered around integrating agricultural animal production and tree crop production into a silvopasture system.