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by Ric Bessin, Extension Entomologist

University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

Plum curculio is a native pest of North America that has caused considerable problems in orchards throughout Kentucky. While it has only a single generation in Kentucky, it can cause serious early season fruit damage to apple, pears, peaches and other stone fruits.

Life History

Plum curculio adult
R. Bessin, Univ. of Kentucky
The adult is a typical snout beetle, 1/4 inch long, dark brown in color with patches of white or gray. There are four prominent humps on the wing covers. The snout is 1/4 the length of the body, with mouth parts located at the end.

Plum curculio overwinters in the adult stage in ground litter or soil usually outside the orchard. Adults migrate into the orchards each spring. Often border rows near woods are the first to show injury.

Plum curculio damage on apples
R. Bessin, Univ. of Kentucky
The adult curculio becomes active in the early spring where it flies to trees and feeds on buds, flowers and newly set fruit over a five to six week period. This results in cat-facing of the fruit because of plum curculio feeding and egg-laying injuries.

The female adult cuts a hole in the fruit with her mouthparts and hollows out a small cavity then turns and deposits an egg in the cavity.

She then cuts a crescent-shaped silt which extends beneath the egg so as to leave the egg in a flap of flesh. Injury will appear as a 1/8 inch crescent-shaped cut on the fruit.Plum curculio damage (crescent-shaped slit)
R. Bessin, Univ. of Kentucky

This prevents the egg from being crushed by the rapidly developing fruit. After about five days, the larvae will hatch and burrow into the fruit. The larva is a legless grayish white grub with a brown head. Its length will be about 1/3 inch when full grown.

When the larvae are fully developed, they will leave the fruit through clean exit holes. No frass or webbing will be evident. Frass is usually found around the calyx end on codling moth damaged fruit.

Surface feeding and egg-laying by the overwintering adults can scar or misshape the fruit by harvest, while feeding by the larvae causes premature drop of the fruit. In peaches, gummy material can often be seen at the location of the wound. These insects are active primarily at night and serious damage may appear in orchards that have been scouted rigorously even though the adults were not detected. Currently there are no methods to accurately predict when plum curculio damage will occur.

Newly emerging adults in the late summer will feed on apples for a short period of time. They cause round, cylindrical feeding wounds in the side of the fruit that penetrate about 1/4 inch that often lead to localized rots on the fruits.


Adults control is accomplished by insecticide applications timed at the pink and petal-fall stages for apples, and the petal-fall and shuck-split stages in peaches and cherries. Serious plum curculio damage is usually restricted to orchards that do not use both these insecticide applications. Home gardeners can help reduce future problems by picking up these damaged apples as they fall off the tree and destroying them before the adults emerge. In apples, the larvae will only complete development in fruit drops.

For more information on reduced insecticide apple management programs, see ENTFACT-201, Controlling Apple Insect Pests with Reduced Insecticide Usage.

Issued: 7/92
Revised: 1/04

CAUTION! Pesticide recommendations in this publication are registered for use in Kentucky, USA ONLY! The use of some products may not be legal in your state or country. Please check with your local county agent or regulatory official before using any pesticide mentioned in this publication.


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