Avocado (Persea americana) is an important export crop for South Africa, contributing ZAR1.75 billion in export revenue to the gross domestic product. As an export-oriented industry, increasing the exportable percentage of avocado fruit is a major concern. A tussock moth, Bracharoa mixta (Snellen), is reported for the first time on avocado trees, scarring fruit and defoliating leaves. Feeding damage by the larva results in corky tissue development, making the fruit unsuitable for export. The study aimed to determine the identity of the larvae (morphologically and DNA barcoding) and ascertain levels of damage. Sequencing of the barcoding region of cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) gene was done. In-field fruit damage assessment of infested trees showed an 11 % scarring damage level resulting in 3.67 % downgrading of fruit. This represents a potential revenue loss of up to ZAR 1352.90/t (2.26 % revenue loss). The defoliating caterpillars also caused an 18.22 % reduction in leaf area. This study documents the potential of B. mixta to cause economic loss and sporadic, isolated outbreaks.
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Vol. 28 • No. 1