Using its long, wavy, ridged stems and fiery red fruit, it is no wonder the pitahaya (Hylocereus undatus) plant is commonly known as dragon fruit. Its powerful and menacing name Reducing the plant’s capability to protect itself from predators. Even though this tropical cactus, which rises in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11, is resilient, it will not have some common pests that threaten plants.
Scales, Mealybugs and Aphids
Sap-sucking pests can escape control on a dragon fruit. Scale insects and mealybugs are tiny, flat, disk-shaped insects as well as the females have no legs or wings. They hide under a protective waxy coating and feed by piercing plant flesh and sucking the sap out. Aphids are pear-shaped, approximately 1/8-inch-long insects, and they’re often wingless. These insects excrete a sweet fluid, called honeydew, which attracts ants.
Ants and Beetles
If your dragon fruit contains aphids, ants aren’t far behind. The sugary honeydew aphids produce is a favorite ant food. Even though they may not consume your plant directly, the ants protect aphids from predators. Even more aphids survive with the help of the bodyguard ants and also further damage the dragon fruit. Some ants can also be attracted to the sweet fruit and may damage it. Beetle larvae may also feed on the plant or the fruit.
While not insects, spider mites may impact your dragon fruit. These arachnids are tiny relatives of spiders and, unlike their eight-legged cousins, feed plants. You might need a magnifying glass to spot mites on your dragon fruit. Silk webbing on the plant, together with speckled damage to the stems, usually signal a mite issue.
Four fringed wings and short antennae distinguish thrips from other insects but it is difficult to view them on dragon fruit since they are less than 1/20 inch long. Their feeding behaviour leaves a stippled pattern on the plant that is mainly an aesthetic issue. Thrips rarely kill a plant.
Increasing vegetable fruit, which is native to South and Central America, is comparatively new in the U.S. and special pest control strategies aren’t fully developed. Monitor your plant for pests and damage. Eliminate aphids, ants and mites with a forceful spray of water from the garden hose. Pick off beetle grubs if you visit them. Trim off lemon juice stems infested with thrips or scale insects to stop additional spread of the pests. Spray the pruning tool blades with household disinfectant and rinse them to prevent the spread of disease or pests.