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Blueberry IPM - Cherry/Cranberry Fruitworm

Blueberry IPM – Cherry Fruitworm (Grapholita packardi), Cranberry Fruitworm (Acrobasis vaccinii)

Sonia Schloemann, UMass Extension Fruit Program

ID/Life Cycle

Both Cranberry Fruitworm (CBFW) and Cherry Fruitworm (CFW) are native to North America, as are the blueberries they infest. The adult forms of these fruitworms are small brownish-gray or grayish-black moths. Eggs are laid near the calyx of green fruit and are pale creamy color. Larvae found within blueberry fruit in June are small and pale yellowish or pinkish in color.  CFW larvae have dark brown heads.

CFW/CBFW photos

Photos: left, CFW adult male - MSU Blueberry Facts; next, CBFW adult male - MSU Blueberry Facts; middle, CBFW (top) and CFW (bottom) larvae - MSU Blueberry Facts; right, CBFW feeding and frass in fruit cluster – Rutgers Crop Pest Advisory.

Fruitworms overwinter as larvae in the duff around bushes or field edges and pupate in the spring, emerging as adult moths after the start of bloom and usually before early fruit set. Cherry Fruitworm (CFW) emerges earlier than Cranberry Fruitworm (CBFW).  Once mated, moths move into blueberry plantings when fruit is small and green to lay eggs directly on the fruit. Larvae then tunnel into the fruit and begin feeding.  Infested fruit turn prematurely blue making them easy to identify when scouting. Larvae will consume from 3-6 berries, filling them with brown frass, and web together fruit with silk. The frass from CFW remains inside the fruit whereas that from CBFW is pushed out and visible.  Upon reaching maturity, larvae leave the berries and move to over-wintering sites. There is one generation per year.

Damage:  Larvae feed on ripening fruit.  Feeding reduces the crop and spoils marketability of the berries.


Monitoring: Pheromone traps can be used to monitor male populations of these pests and helps to identify the initial flight into a blueberry planting.  Lures are available for both species.  Traps should be placed during bloom with a minimum 50’ buffer between them.  Monitor trap catches twice weekly and remove moths caught each time you check in order to identify when sustained captures occur. Secondary scouting can be done for egg laying by inspecting the calyx end of green fruit with a hand lens.  Scout the periphery of the planting especially near woods and hedgerows.  Finally, scout for infested fruit by looking for prematurely pigmented berries.
Developmental Model: Fruitworm development is closely related to weather conditions for both species and can be predicted with reasonable accuracy using Degree Day accumulations.  Cherry Fruitworm is thought to emerge at approximately 230 GDD Base 50˚F from March 1. Cranberry Fruitworm emerges later, around 350 GDD Base 50˚F.  Emergence can be confirmed by using pheromone traps that capture male moths of each species during their first flight.  Noting the start of sustained trap captures can be used as the biofix for the developmental model.

The important stage to forecast for either species is egg-laying which, for CBFW, occurs during the period of 85-400 GDD Base 50˚F after the onset of sustained adult activity or flight (biofix). Therefore CBFW egg laying is generally predicted to take place during the period of 435-750 GDD Base 50˚F. Modeling for CFW egg-laying is not currently available but is likely somewhat earlier than CBFW.   

Control strategies

Eliminate weeds and trash around plants to minimize protective overwintering habitat for larvae.
Clean cultivate between rows to disrupt pupation sites and reduce the population of this pest.
Hand pick and destroy infested fruit in small plantings.
Preserve natural enemies whenever possible by selecting spray materials that are less toxic to beneficials. 

Apply recommended insecticides beginning 85 – 100 GDD base 50˚F after sustained trap catches (biofix), which usually coincide with berry-touch or when degree day models reach the action threshold. 
If action threshold is reached while some bushes are still in bloom, use materials that are listed as relatively safe for pollinators/parasitoids in chart below that are listed as relatively safe for pollinators/parasitoids.
Avoid use of insecticides with seasonal use restrictions that may be needed for Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) control later in the season.
Rotate insecticides from different IRAC groups to reduce the chance of resistance development in the pest.
Use pesticides that are less toxic to predators (e.g., insect growth regulators or B.t. products) to promote populations of natural enemies.

Table 1. Details of insecticide options and timing for fruitworm control in blueberry as of 2016[1].
Trade Names Chemical Class Life-stage Activity Optimal Spray Timing Pollinator/Parasitoid Toxicity Rating
Imidan Organophosphate Eggs, larvae, adults Eggs, larvae, adults Highly Toxic
Lannate/Sevin Carbamate Eggs, larvae, adults Eggs, larvae, adults Highly Toxic
Asana/ Danitol/ Mustang Max/ Hero/ Bifenture Pyrethroid Eggs, larvae, adults Eggs, larvae, adults Highly Toxic
Exirel/ Altacor Diamide Eggs, larvae, adults Eggs, larvae, adults Relatively Safe
Assail Neonicotinoid Eggs, larvae, adults Eggs, larvae, adults Moderately Toxic
Entrust/ Delegate Spinosyn Eggs, larvae, adults Early fruit set over eggs Moderately Toxic
♦Dipel B.t. Eggs, larvae, adults Early fruit set over eggs Relatively Safe
Intrepid/ Confirm Growth Regulator Eggs, larvae, adults Early fruit set over eggs Relatively Safe
♦Grandevo/ ♦Venerate Biologicals Eggs, larvae, adults Early fruit set over eggs Relatively Safe
Rimon Growth Regulator Eggs, larvae, adults Early fruit set under eggs Relatively Safe
Esteem Growth Regulator Eggs, larvae, adults Early fruit set under eggs Relatively Safe
***Where trade names are used, it is for the reader’s information.  No endorsement is implied, nor is discrimination intended against products with similar ingredients.  Please consult pesticide product labels for rates, application instructions and safety precautions.  Users of these products assume all associated risks.

♦OMRI certified for organic production.

[1] Michigan State Univ. Fruit Crop Advisory, Fruitworm Control in Blueberries (R. Isaacs, J. Wise) 5/17/16.

This work was supported by the Crop Protection and Pest Management Extension Implementation Program, Grant No. 2014-70006-22579 from the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Sonia G. Schloemann
Last Updated: 
May 24, 2016