S. E. Webb2
Okra (Abelmoschus esculentum) is a warm weather crop grown in the summer throughout Florida, but commercial production is concentrated in south Florida where it can be grown most of the year. It is often grown as a second crop after more valuable vegetables. Historically, relatively few insecticides and miticides have been registered for use on okra making it difficult to manage insect and mites effectively. Recently, okra has been added to the Fruiting Vegetables Crop Group (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant), and there are now many more options for pest control. Arthropod pests of okra include caterpillars (larvae of Lepidoptera), aphids, thrips, whiteflies, and mites.
Leaf-feeding caterpillar pests (lepidopteran larvae) that attack okra include beet, southern, and fall armyworm, cabbage looper, and corn earworm. Cabbage looper and corn earworm can also bore into pods. Scouting for these pests is essential because some of the pesticides available (Bacillus thuringiensis products, spinosad, and methoxyfenozide) are most effective on young caterpillars and are less effective on later stages that can defoliate plants. Melon aphid, green peach aphid, and silverleaf whitefly can be very damaging. Imidacloprid will control these sucking insects but effects of a soil application will wear off before the end of the growing season. Melon thrips and southern green stink bug can also cause serious damage and growers have very limited options for control at this time. Spinosad is effective for reducing thrips populations but overuse could lead to the development of resistance and loss of control. There are now six products available for mite control. Products containing neem or azadirachtin can be used for all pests of okra but are generally only moderately effective.
Because of limited options for chemical control of insects, conservation of natural enemies is important and possible. As with all crops, destruction of the crop after harvest can help reduce pest populations. The practice of prolonging production by topping plants may contribute to pest problems even though it reduces the cost of production.
This document is ENY-466, one of a series of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date July 2002. Revised September 2007, February 2010, June 2013, and February 2017. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.
S. E. Webb, associate professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology; UF/IFAS Extension Gainesville, FL 32611.
The use of trade names in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing specific information. UF/IFAS does not guarantee or warranty the products named, and references to them in this publication does not signify our approval to the exclusion of other products of suitable composition. All chemicals should be used in accordance with directions on the manufacturer's label. Use pesticides safely. Read and follow directions on the manufacturer's label.
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U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.