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Caulotops Barberi Pests: Learn About Agave Plant Bug Control

Caulotops Barberi Pests: Learn About Agave Plant Bug Control


By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

Agave is a desert plant, native to Mexico and hardy in zones 8-10. While generally a low maintenance, easy-to-grow plant, agave can be susceptible to fungal and bacterial rots, as well as pest problems such as the agave snout weevil and the agave plant bug (Caulotops barberi). If you have noticed bugs eating agave plants in your landscape, continue reading to learn more about Caulotops barberi pests and controlling agave plant bugs in the garden.

What are Caulotops Barberi Pests?

In the landscape, agave plants can potentially grow to a height and spread of 20 feet. However, these landscape grown agaves can be susceptible to the Caulotops barberi pest, resulting in stunted or irregular growth. If you notice stunted or distorted growth, speckled or spotted foliage, or what appears to be scabs or chew marks on your agave plants, you may wonder, “Are bugs on my agave?” The answer may be a resounding, yes!

The agave plant bug is also commonly called the agave running bug because for such a small insect, it has long legs, enabling the insect to run very quickly. These 1.6 mm long insects can go almost unnoticed because they are so small and will quickly hide if they feel threatened. Agave plant bugs are most likely the culprit in U.S. hardiness zones 8-10. Container grown agave plants in cooler climates are rarely effected by this pest, though.

In late summer to early fall, large populations of agave plant bugs may infest agave and other succulents, causing massive damage to a xeriscape. In groups, these small tan-black colored insects are much easier to spot, but by then you’ll have quite an infestation to try to rid your landscape of and damage to some of the plants may be irreversible.

Agave Plant Bug Control

Insecticidal soap or broad spectrum insecticides can be effective in controlling agave plant bugs. However, these tiny insects can hide in soil, mulch and garden debris around the infected plant, so it is necessary to treat all areas around the plant as well. Keep beds clear of debris to eliminate hiding places.

Insecticides should be applied in the early morning or late at night, when Caulotops barberi pests are most active. Agave plant bug control should be repeated every two weeks to ensure eradication of this pest. Be sure to spray all surfaces of the plant, as these small insects can easily hide in every nook and cranny. A preventative systemic insecticide can be used in spring to help control agave pests.

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Agave and Yucca: Tough Plants for Tough Times 1

Many people rightly think of agave and yucca as tough plants associated with extreme climates like deserts and dunes. What they may not realize is that agave (Agave spp.) and yucca (Yucca spp.) also adapt well to home and commercial landscapes, where they thrive in the sometimes harsh conditions associated with urban environments.

Interest in agave and yucca has grown recently, thanks in part to increasing water restrictions in many Florida urban areas. Agave and yucca are found in native environments that typically are dry, hot, sunny, and windy with low rainfall and poor soil. In cultivation, this adaptability translates into low maintenance since typically they need little or no irrigation, fertilizer, pruning, or spraying. Furthermore, many agave and yucca withstand drought, heat, strong winds, and cold weather, and have few pests and diseases. They are tolerant of poor soils and therefore rarely develop nutrient deficiencies. The wide variety of sizes, shapes, and growth characteristics permits many landscape uses, including groundcover, bedding plants, container plants, shrubs, and, especially, dramatic specimen plants. Table 1 lists a number of species and cultivars available, along with their descriptions.

Above and beyond their toughness, agave and yucca capture the imagination because of their dramatic architectural forms and unusual shapes. In addition, these plants boast intriguing defensive "weaponry"—stiff, hard, or leathery leaves, often armed with barbs, teeth, or spines. Because of this armor, many of these plants can present a hazard, especially to small children.


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