Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Black Spots on the Kernel

It is not until you crack open a pecan that you discover that stink bugs have been feeding in your orchard. In the photo at left the large, sunken black spots on the kernel were caused by one of several large bugs, including the southern green stinkbug, the brown stinkbug, and the leaf-footed bug. We commonly lump all these insects together and call the damage they create, stink bug damage. The black spots are created when stink bugs feed on pecans when nuts are filling their kernels (mid to late August). This group of insects have a needle like mouth part that can pass through the shuck and hardened-shell to get to the kernel. As the insect feeds, it secretes digestive fluids into the nut that actually breaks down some of the kernel, so the insect can feed on a kind of pecan slurpee. These digestive juices are what cause the black spot on the kernel.
     For those of you that are picking out pecans for your family, be sure to break out these black spots and discard them. The black spots are bitter and will ruin a good pecan pie.