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Managing Cocoa Pod Borer

Managing Cocoa Pod Borer

Detection & Inspection

The moth can be found on the underside of branches during the day, but as the moth is predominantly active at night and due to the moths dark colouring, it blends in well with its surroundings and is difficult to detect visually.
The most obvious visual indication of CPB is the external damage to the pod, which include the entry/exit holes caused by the larvae tunnelling into the husk and the overall premature or uneven ripening/yellowing of the pod caused by the internal feeding activities. If pods are opened, characteristic tunnelling, scarification and discolouration caused by the feeding larvae are very obvious and will generally affect the entire pod. Affected beans are typically misshapen, underdeveloped and clumped together, rendering the beans unusable. The damage to the mucous membrane surrounding the seeds also negatively affect the fermentation process and lead to inferior beans.


Due to the weak flying ability of the moth, its spread is controlled by natural barriers and terrain. However, the moth is predominantly spread through the transport of infected material and vegetation.
Countries not yet infested by the cocoa pod borer should take special precautions against its introduction via the trade in its known hosts (cacao, rambutan, longan). There are instances of the long-distance spread of live borer inside rambutan fruit. Presumably, long-distance spread in cocoa pods is a possibility, although only fermented beans are traded internationally.
The shipping of whole pods is not recommended. In general, germplasm should be obtained from an intermediate quarantine station where pathogen testing is carried out.

Control Methods

Natural Predators

While there have been very few natural predators of the CPB identified to date. It has been found that certain species of ants, predominantly small varieties such as fire ants (Solenopsis) have reduced the impact of pod borer and in some cases have been an effective control measure.

Agricultural Practices

Prune trees every 6 months to a height of 3m for easy harvesting, use “lung pruning” (open canopy allowing ample sunlight and airflow through the middle of the tree). Pick pods frequently and as soon as they turn yellow indicating maturity. Do this at 3 to 7-day intervals to disrupt the insect’s life cycle. The idea is to collect the pods before the adults emerge. This has become known as “Complete, Frequent, Regular Harvest” (CFRH).

Bury infected pods; do not leave them in the cocoa plantation as a source of moths to infest remaining pods. It is essential not to miss mature pods, and this practice must be done over large areas. Otherwise, moths from adjacent infested farms will reduce the effectiveness of the control measure.

Heavy pruning/removal of pods between seasons will reduce numbers of CPB, reducing the impact of infestation during peak seasons.

Chemical Control

Cultural measures should be used to control the cocoa pod borer rather than pesticides. Pesticides are not a cost-effective solution.

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