Often referred to as ‘carrot root fly’, this is a major pest of carrots in the UK. Most damage to the crop is caused by fly larvae tunnelling into the main root of the carrot which, in severe cases, causes the carrot to rot.  They also gravitate to parsnips, parsley, celery, and celeriac. Find out more in this handy pest guide to carrot root fly.

What is carrot fly?

Psila rosae (carrot fly) is small with a black body. It can produce two or three generations within one growing season. They usually lay their eggs late May to early June and again in late August to early September. The larvae can also overwinter in the soil.

One of the first visible signs of an attack is carrot leaves turning red. This tends to happen in early summer, when the first generation of eggs are laid. However, be warned that a second generation often emerge towards the end of the summer.

The greatest damage occurs later in the crop’s growing season, when the larvae tunnel into the carrot’s tap root. When this happens, they often leave tell-tale dark rings around the outside of the root.

How to control carrot fly

There are a number of things you can do to prevent or minimise attack.

Firstly, try and sow seeds with gaps between them to avoid the need to thin seedlings as the roots grow and swell. This is because carrot fly are attracted to the smell released by carrot leaves when their foliage is crushed.

Grow varieties that are less susceptible to carrot fly such as ‘Resistafly’, ‘Fly Away’ and ‘Maestro’.

Some people plant rows of onions next to carrots in the belief that the smell given off by the onions whilst they are actively growing may deter or hide the scent of carrot leaves.

Choose a different place to grow carrots in each year using crop rotation just in case some of the larvae overwinter in the soil where carrots were previously grown.

Placing a barrier of insect-proof netting, 60cm to 90cm tall, around the crop can help keep carrot fly out.

Wait until the end of May to sow carrots and harvest before the end of August to help reduce the effects of carrot fly. This timing means it misses the first generation of eggs laid.

There are no pesticides available for use by the home gardener but there are some biological controls available by mail order for watering into the soil to help control the larvae.

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With this guide, you’re one step closer to having delicious carrots that are free from pests with this handy pest guide to carrot root fly. If you need specialist advice, get in touch with your local garden centre.

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