Peach Grower's Guide: Catfacing Explained

Explains catfacing, a common problem of stone fruits like peaches and nectarines. Learn about damage from insects and weather.

What is it?

Catfacing in peach and nectarine trees gets that name due to the corky disfigurations which appear on the fruits. These corky disfigurements appear to look similar to a cat's face, hence catfacing. Typically these sunken, corky areas are caused by either a variety of stink bugs or the tarnished plant bug, lygus lineolaris.

What does it look like?

Lygus lineolaris, the tarnished plant bug is a small insect pest very similar to the stink bug. Either of these pests can cause catfacing in peach and nectarine trees with the same result. The peach and nectarine fruit catfacing is caused as the insect pests feed on the buds and fruits. The feeding of the insects causes the fruit to develop sunken pockets which then become dry, corky and mar the surface into the catface pattern of damage. Both lygus lineolaris and the stink bug come in a variety of colors from brown to green to an orangish rust color. These peach and nectarine pests are typically between 1/4 and 1/2 inch in length and feed on both the buds of the peach and nectarine trees as well as the stone fruits themselves. The most common damage from the tarnished plant bug and the stink bug is the catfacing, however these insects may also cause blossoms to drop as they feed as well as be the catalyst for young fruits to drop prematurely. Additionally, extensive catfacing can also cause the developing leaves and twigs to be deformed because the insect population is causing so much damage to the peach or nectarine tree.

How does it manifest?

Both stinkbugs and the tarnished plant bug hibernate over winter in broadleafed weeds such as vetch. As peach and nectarine trees begin to bloom in the spring, the insect pests emerge to feed on new buds. These insect pests feed on new buds, blooms, and fruits as the tree growth continues. Their feeding causes catfacing and may cause the fruit to drop, twigs to malform as they grow, and buds and blooms to drop off the plants. Typically damage from the tarnished plant bug and the stink bug occurs early on in the growing season, however in optimal conditions the bugs may continue to feed all the way through until the harvest season. Occasionally catfacing may also occur without bug infestation. This is rare, but does occur with hail and cold weather damage to the surface of young fruits and blooms. However, it is much more common for catfacing to occur due to insect pest populations of stink bugs and lygus lineolis.

What can you do about it?

When buds first turn pink on peach and nectarine trees, spray them with a captan or malathion containing insecticide to help control insect populations. You will need to respray again when the petals have dropped off the peach and nectarine trees or whenever you see the presence of bugs or bug damage on the trees. In the fall, after harvesting the stone fruits, be sure to clean up any remaining plant debris or weeds in the area surrounding the tree. This will help to eliminate over wintering of the tarnished plant bug and stink bugs which should help cut down on the controls you need to implement the following spring.

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