Most people know the common reasons why we shouldn’t let greenfly run amok over our chilli plants, they suck it dry of sap and nutrients and they spread disease. One other big problem with greenfly is that they ruin fruit. Malformed fruit is a fairly common problem on chillies and other factors come into play such as environmental conditions, genetics, and diseases, but problems resulting from greenfly damage are often not credited as such because they occur long after the greenfly have gone.
The above picture shows how they enjoy getting their beaks into the soft flesh of a flower, often the flowers and new shoots are the first parts of a plant to be attacked because they are the most tender and succulent. Once this flower opens they will get inside and feed of the reproductive parts of the plant and the tiny chilli before it has even developed. This results in scar tissue from where they pierced the flesh and the outcome is a chilli that is split, or misshaped. You can see this in the picture below.
Now the Chilhuacle Negro is an odd chilli anyway, the skin is always matt coloured and leathery, even when it is fully ripe (when it turns brown) and it is never smooth and round, but you can see here that secondary fruits have formed close to the calyx (where it joins the stem). On the right hand one these aren’t even closed, they are split open and you can see inside. Whilst still edible, this will probably start to rot before it ripens, and if you were a commercial farmer it certainly wouldn’t be of a quality that you could sell.
The answer to this problem is that as soon as you see evidence of greenfly, usually the feathery white skins on the leaves below, check your flowers. It is difficult to get at the greenfly inside and crush them without damaging the flowers, so you can use an organic spray, but I think it is best to nip off the flowers while they are young so the plant doesn’t waste its resources growing useless fruit. It will soon grow more flowers,usually they produce many more flowers than fruit anyway, and it ensures you get rid of your greenfly and leave the plant producing a healthy crop.
I have had more problems than usual with greenfly this year, but as documented in a previous blog, by far the worst affected have been the Chilhuacle Negros, these fruits must have come from the first flowers be hit, before I even saw them, and I have picked a few fruits like this now. You can never be too diligent!