Cereal Leaf Beetle

Joanne Whalen, Extension IPM Specialist; jwhalen@udel.edu and Gordon Johnson, Extension Ag Agent, Kent Co.; gcjohn@udel.edu

In recent years, we have had fewer problems with cereal leaf beetle due to a combination of good biological control programs and spring and summer weather conditions. However, each year we still have fields with economic damage so you still need to scout your fields in the spring as the cereal leaf beetle larvae can cause heavy damage and crop losses if not controlled when present.

As temperatures increase in spring (April normally), we begin to see adult cereal leaf beetles, especially along field edges that border woods or in protected areas. Adult beetles feed along the veins of grain leaves leaving characteristic narrow linear holes parallel to the leaf veins. Although they do not cause much damage, you should routinely check these areas since this is where you are likely to find the first eggs and larvae. Larvae can feed heavily on leaves, especially flag leaves, and can quickly cause significant yield reductions if they exceed the economic threshold level.

Be sure to begin sampling fields in April for cereal leaf beetle activity. In recent years, the threshold for cereal leaf beetle has been adjusted to include sampling for eggs, especially in high management wheat fields or areas where problems were experienced the previous year. The eggs are elliptical, about 1/32 inch long, orange to yellow in color when first laid, changing to a burnt orange prior to hatching. Check our website for pictures of cereal leaf beetle adults, larvae and eggs: http://www.udel.edu/IPM/facts/clbpictures.htm

Generally, eggs are laid singly or in small scattered groups (end-to-end) on the upper leaf surface and parallel to the leaf veins. Cereal leaf beetle larvae are brown to black, range in size from 1/32 to 1/4 inch long, and eat streaks of tissue from the upper leaf surface. Since cereal leaf beetle populations are often unevenly distributed within the field, it is important to carefully sample fields so that you do not over or under estimate a potential problem. Eggs and small larvae should be sampled by examining 10 tillers from 10 evenly spaced locations in the field while avoiding field edges. This will result in 100 tillers (stems) per field being examined. Eggs and larvae may be found on leaves near the ground so careful examination is critical. You should also check stems at random while walking through a major portion of the field and sampling 100 stems. The treatment threshold is 25 or more eggs and/or small larvae per 100 tillers. If you are using this threshold, it is important that you wait until at least 50% are in the larval stage (i.e. after 50% egg hatch).

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