Agronomic Crop Insects – April 1, 2011

Joanne Whalen, Extension IPM Specialist;

Alfalfa Weevil:
We are starting to see the first hatch of alfalfa weevil eggs. As soon as the weather begins to warm up, you should begin to sample for larvae on a weekly basis. Look for small larvae feeding in the tips of plants producing a round, pinhole type of feeding. Once you detect tip feeding, a full field sample should be taken. The most accurate way to time an application is to sample stems and determine the number of weevils per stem. A minimum of 30 stems should be collected per field and placed top first in a bucket to dislodge larvae from the tips. Then count the number of weevils per stem. The following thresholds, based on the height of the alfalfa, should be used as a guideline when making a treatment decision: up to 11 inches tall – 0.7 per stem; 12 inches tall – 1.0 per stem; 13 – 15 inches tall – 1.5 per stem; 16 inches tall – 2.0 per stem; and 17 – 18 inches tall – 2.5 per stem. Numerous pyrethroids are now labeled for alfalfa weevil including Baythroid XL, Mustang MAX, Proaxis, Warrior II and numerous generic pyrethroids. Imidan, Lorsban, Lannate and Steward are also labeled for alfalfa weevil control. Be sure to check all labels for rates, restrictions and days to harvest before application. The following is a link to our recently updated fact sheet including pictures of life stages and damage.

Cereal Rust Mites:
Since spring green-up is underway, be sure to sample fields for cereal rust mite activity. Mites can be found in fields at this time. These mites are very small, so the use of a 20x-magnifying lens may be helpful. If rust mites become a problem, Sevin XLR Plus is still the only labeled, effective material: . Be sure to read the label for information on the number of applications per season as well as the days to harvest. For effective rust mite control, the use of the higher labeled rate and at least 25 gal/A of carrier to get good coverage of leaf surfaces generally results in better control. The following is a link to new fact sheet including pictures of mites and damage:

Cereal Leaf Beetle:
It is time to begin sampling fields for cereal leaf beetle activity. We are starting to find evidence of adult feeding, so fields should now be scouted for egg masses. The threshold for cereal leaf beetle includes sampling for eggs, especially in high management wheat fields or in fields with historical problems. The eggs are elliptical, about 1/32 inch long, yellow in color when first laid, changing to a burnt orange prior to hatching. The following is a link to our recently updated fact sheet including pictures of life stages and damage:

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 ¼ 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).

Winter Grain Mites: With the recent cooler weather, consultants are starting to report an increase in winter grain mite populations, especially in no-till wheat planted into corn stubble. Temperature and moisture are the most important factors influencing mite development and abundance. Cool, rather than warm, temperatures favor their development. Egg laying is heaviest between 50° and 60°F and the optimum conditions for hatching are between 44° and 55°F. Mite activity in the spring drops rapidly and the eggs fail to hatch when the daily temperature exceeds 75°F. The larvae as well as the adults feed higher up on the plants at night or on cloudy days. Heavily infested fields appear grayish or silvery, a result of the removal of plant chlorophyll by mite feeding. When high infestations feed on the plants for several days, the tips of the leaves exhibit a scorched appearance and then turn brown, and the entire plant may die. These mites do not cause the yellowing characteristic of spider mite feeding. Many of the infested plants do not die, but become stunted and produce little forage or grain; damage on young plants, however, is more severe than on large, healthy ones. Damage may also be greater in plants stressed by nutrient deficiencies or drought conditions. There are two types of damage to the small grain: (a) reduced amount of forage throughout the winter and (b) reduced yields of grain in the spring and summer. The following is a link to our recently updated fact sheet including pictures of mites:

The most effective scouting method is to use a 10x hand lens, checking both plant foliage and crop residue on the soil surface for the presence of immature and adult mites. A sweep net may also be effective in determining if mites are present. The best time to scout is early in the morning and at dusk on calm days because the mites will seek refuge during the day in the top 4 or 5 inches of the soil profile to avoid the sunlight. On cool, overcast days, they may be observed actively feeding on plant foliage throughout the day.

No economic thresholds have been developed for WGM in small grain fields. However, as a general rule of thumb, if plants exhibit symptoms of damage, weather conditions are favorable and several mites per plant are found, a chemical control may be necessary to prevent or reduce yield loss. If populations are small and the plants show no feeding injury or if populations and damage symptoms are isolated, the field should be scouted more frequently to insure yield losses are kept at a minimum.

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