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Past Articles Library | Trees | Pests of Persimmon Trees

Oriental and American persimmon trees are functional and beautiful.  They provide a unique element to a fall landscape when they begin to fruit.  The little round ball start out green and then as they begin to ripen they turn a beautiful shade of orange.  If the fruits are allowed to stay on the tree, the orange balls turn to a golden brown.  But as wonderful as this tree is it can have its issues.

First, the tree itself can be a pest.  The fruits can draw wanted and unwanted pests to your yard.  These pests include deer, raccoons, and squirrels.  While the fruits are edible for humans, if they are not harvested they can leave a mess in the yard, sidewalk and driveway.  The squished fruit can be tracked into cars and home along with attracting bees and flies.

Second, this tree can attract many different types of insects, which includes scale both armored and soft, flat head bores, foliage feeding caterpillars, fuller rose beetles, Gail mites, mealybugs, and nematodes. 

While controlling insects on a tree can seem undoable, it is possible.  The first step in this process is to identify the pest.  Due to the size of the insect, scale can be hard to identify.  The best approach is to look for the damage.  Scale is a sucking insect that may or may not produce honeydew depending on the variety.  The damage can mimic other issues but typically appear as yellowing of leaves.  The leaves also begin to drop prematurely.  Branches that have been killed may look torched.  Finally, you may also see a mass of ants on the branches of persimmon trees affected with scale varieties that produce honeydew. 

While this insect normally does not kill the tree, it can cause other issues especially if the scale is producing honeydew.  Large populations of honeydew producing scale can cause a dripping of the substance onto cars and sidewalks.   There are several different approaches to control one can follow but the three easiest are tape traps, biological controls and ant control.

Tape traps are simple to use and can be used as a means of identifying the insects crawling on your persimmon tree.  To create your trap, one will need to wrap double-sided tape around the end of each branch.  The stickiness of the tape will trap the insect.  If you choose to use this approach, make sure to remove the tape in the fall.  This will prevent girdling of the branch as it grows. 

Biological control is another easy way of controlling scale on a persimmon tree.   Beneficial insects that love scale include parasitic wasps, lady beetles, and lacewings.  To attract and keep beneficial insects in the areas requires one to plant a variety of plants in your garden space.   This provides food, shelter and egg laying opportunities for the beneficial insects. 

Ant control is also easy but avoid the chemical approach.  Another way of handling the ant issue is to create barrier that prevent ants from climbing the tree.  The first step to this approach is to prune low hanging branches and remove weeds that can be used as an ant highway up the tree.  Next, wrap masking tape around the tree two to six inches from the ground.  Apply insect glue to the tape.  Utilizing this technique will trap the ants and prevent them from climbing up the tree.  It will also give you a survey as to what types of insects are climbing your persimmon tree.  At the end of the season, remove the tape.  This will prevent girdling of the trunk. 

Flat head bores are insects that take up home in areas that have been damaged.  This can come from pruning, natural injury or any other type of injury that scuffs or removes the bark.  While there really is no treatment for this pest once you have it, you can prevent it.  First, do not prune in the spring.  This is when the bore is activity.  The best time to prune the persimmon tree is in the late fall to winter.  Also, do not store cut branches near the tree.  This give the flat head bore an area to overwinter.

How do you know if you have the flat head bore?  If you have tunnels in the trunk that are seeping sap then you have flat head bores. 

Foliage feeding caterpillars such as the fall webworm and the redhumped caterpillar are another pest of the persimmon.   They can be seen completely eating leaves to creating webs of silk for shelter.  While a small population of caterpillars will not kill the tree, if unchecked this can quickly grow to a population that will devour the leaves of a persimmon and in doing so kill it.  To prevent this, pick off the caterpillars by hand and place in a bucket of soapy water.  Also, release Bacillus thuringiensis into the environment when the insects are at their early larvae stage.   Doing this step will reduce the number of caterpillars and cut back on any leaf damage. 

Another pest that really does not cause that much damage to persimmon trees is the fuller rose beetle.  A telltale sign of this pest is leaves being chewed up on the margins, which creates a notched appearance.  While these leaves are unsightly, the damage will not kill the tree.  To prevent this pest from reaching the leaves is to trap the insect.  To do this, place a six inch wide strip of masking tape around the tree.  To this tape, paint on an insect glue.  This simple step will create a sticky barrier by which the pest gets stuck in and cannot continue up the tree.

The Gail mite can be found on the persimmon tree as orange to yellow masses underneath leaves that have been blistered.  There is no control for this pest but a good management practice is to remove damaged branches and blistered leaves.  Do not place them in the compost bin instead throw away.  This later step will prevent reinfestation. 

If you find a sticky, white mass on your persimmon tree then you have the next pest, which is the mealybug.   This insect sucks on the leaves, stems and fruits of this tree.  It also produces honeydew, which attracts ants.  While mealybugs normally do not kill the persimmon tree, it will cause the tree to drop its leaves prematurely and cause the fruit to drop too soon.  To control this pest, one must first control the ants.  Next, apply an insecticidal soap to areas where you see damage.  Also, encourage a large range of beneficial insects in the garden space, which will aid in controlling both the mealybug and ants.

Many different plants can suffer from nematode damage; it is very unusual for them to kill woody plants.  Nematodes in the case of the persimmon tree cause knots in both roots and trunk.  While this is unsightly, these knots block uptake of water and nutrition.   There is no treatment to date except utilizing plants that are nematode resistant or tolerant. 

While controlling pests on a persimmon tree can be challenge the best approach is to encourage a healthy population of beneficial insects.  Utilizing this approach will control the negative insects and reduce plant damage without you having to move a finger or even be able to identify the problem.

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