Friday, September 6, 2013

Outbreak of Sorghum Webworms

Scott Blankenship, Kelly Ag and Chris Parker, Wiregrass Research Center, Headland, AL, report a heavy outbreak of sorghum webworms on grain sorghum in the Wiregrass region of Alabama. As many as 70 to 80 larvae per head have been recorded. Pyrethroid insecticides have given poor control. Other treatment options include: Belt, chlorpyrifos (Lorsban or generics), Lannate, Sevin or Tracer. Growers should note the “days to harvest” restrictions with the various insecticide choices. Webworm picture provided by S. Blankenship.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Final Insect Update of the Season

The Alabama row crop insect control season is rapidly winding down. The few areas that still need attention for a few more weeks are as follows. We need to protect bolls on June planted cotton from stink bug injury until the bolls are approximately 25 days old. We still have plenty of time left in the season to mature small bolls that are present from blooms the last week of August. On soybeans, stink bugs continue to reproduce and feed on pods. Late planted, June to early July, soybeans will be susceptible to stink bug feeding for several more weeks. Stink bug adults will leave other crops when they mature and seek out late planted soybeans as their last host before heading for overwintering sites. I expect to see high numbers of stink bugs in many of these late maturing soybean fields. The good thing is that one application to economic levels of stink bugs in both cotton and soybeans made now should hold populations below damaging levels for the remainder of the season. Stink bug populations currently contain both the brown and southern green species. A high rate of most pyrethroids on soybeans should give adequate suppression. Kudzu bug adults are still present in many soybean fields but they are not as numerous in most fields as they were back a month or so ago. Their numbers seemed to have peaked in April and May planted beans back in the late June to early August window.

Overall 2013 has been a light insect year in Alabama for most species. A summary of what I have observed is the following. For cotton, thrips were moderate to heavy. However, their movement from wild hosts to cotton occurred in May instead of April. Therefore, their damage period coincided with our mid-planting period cotton instead of the earliest planted as happens most seasons. Plant bugs, aphids and spider mites were very light overall. Bollworms and tobacco budworms were low to nonexistent, even in fields of conventional cotton. I have conventional cotton on three research stations spread across the central and southern areas of Alabama. One had to search very hard all season to find a single larva or damaged fruit. Stink bugs were the only cotton insect that occurred at damaging levels in most fields in-season.

In soybeans, Kudzu bugs were extremely heavy in many early planted soybean fields. This was the first year that many soybean growers have had to deal with the Kudzu bug. Others will likely have their first experience in 2014. When all is said and done, I believe we will be able to handle this insect with one, or at most two, well timed sprays. Late maturing beans will likely still see a big buildup of stink bugs in coming weeks as other crops mature and dry down. The foliage feeding complex of green cloverworms, velvetbean caterpillars and soybean loopers have been very light in 2013. This follows the most widespread infestations of the past 40 years last season. Podworms have been very light in soybeans for the past two seasons.

This has been a very unusual year rainfall wise. This may be the only season during my 41 years here as our Extension Entomologist where we had too much rain.

With these comments we will end our in season blogs unless something unusual shows up. I hope my comments have been helpful to those of you that are receiving them. Hopefully we can continue this blog, the Syngenta Insect Hotline, and our tweets during the 2014 season.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Early August Insect Update

It has been a number of days since we last reported on Alabama insects. So what has been happening? First of all, August has been dominated early-on with little insect activity other than the bug complex in cotton. Second has been the weather, we had sun yesterday, August 19, for the first time in about 10 days. During this period, rainfall has been measured in inches varying from low single figures to double digits, depending on the location. Up to 4 inches in a 24 hour period has been common. This has resulted in bridges and roadways being washed out and public schools closing during the beginning of the fall term. Agriculturally wise, sprayers have been unable to get into fields and aerial applicators are over booked. Fortunately, insects have overall been low with just a few exceptions. The bug complex has been over threshold in many but not all cotton fields. In the past few days the caterpillar complex has built to damaging levels in soybeans. Some fields have been sprayed by plane for the lep complex, primarily loopers and velvetbean caterpillars. The heaviest infested fields are those where growers just preventatively added a pyrethroid when they were applying a fungicide.

It has been my experience in research plots that an application of a pyrethroid just prior to an infestation of foliage feeding caterpillars is like throwing gasoline on a fire. We usually see much higher numbers of soybean loopers where a pyrethroid application has been made within the previous 10-14 days. My advice to growers is that if they feel they must add something to their fungicide, just add 2 or 3 ounces of a product like Dimilin which does not disrupt the beneficial insects.

Once we have a damaging level of foliage feeders the first thing we need to do is to quantify the species present and the numbers. Five to seven caterpillars per foot of row will usually result in 30% or more foliage loss and therefore require controls. Treatment thresholds for sweep nets on drill beans are not quite as well defined. However, 2 to 5 per sweep would likely require controls. As to species, velvetbean, green cloverworms, corn earworms (podworms) and stink bugs can all be controlled with a pyrethroid. However, if many soybean loopers are in the mix, then one of the newer lep materials will be required. These are, in chemical alphabetical order: Belt, at 2-3 oz.; Steward at 7 oz.; Intrepid at 4-6 oz.; Prevathon at 18-20 oz.; tracer or Blackhawk at 1.5-2 oz. per acre.

One additional thing should be added about soybean looper control, especially if application is by air. Looper eggs are deposited on the lower leaves of the plant, therefore they infest the plant deep within the canopy. As the larvae mature they feed upward through the canopy. In order for any of the newer chemistry to be effective, the leaf containing the droplet has to be eaten. Therefore, it may take several days to fully suppress a looper population. It has been my experience that the surviving  larvae behind application will be early instar larvae found lower in the canopy. Most of these looper insecticides are very rainfast and have long residual on the leaves, so don’t panic if you see a few small loopers behind an application.

I will be on research farms for the next several days and will get back soon if we see or hear of damaging levels of insects developing.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Stink Bugs Showing Up in Fields

Based on calls from consultants during the past seven days, most insect attention on cotton in Alabama has now shifted to the stink bug complex. This appears to be the appropriate thing to do since no other widespread destructive insect is being reported and a high number of stink bugs are being reported from all the major row crops. This began with wheat during the spring months. Stink bug numbers later shifted to corn. High numbers have been reported in recent weeks in peanuts, with increasing numbers being reported in both cotton and soybeans.

If we back up and review the situation since the end of the 2012 season, this is as expected. Stink bugs built high numbers on soybeans late last season resulting in a high level entering overwintering sites. This past winter was mild and we did not have the excessive high temperatures or extended drought this spring to limit a 2013 population build up.

This complex included both the brown and the southern green species. In the more southern counties within Alabama, the leaf footed bug is also in the mix. Leaf footed bug damage is identical to stink bug damage to cotton bolls. The important thing here is that, control wise, they are more like the brown stink bug. Phosphide insecticides do a much better job in controlling brown stink bugs and leaf footed bugs than do pyrethroids. Growers will need to keep this in mind as they select their chemical for treatment decisions. In Alabama, escape bollworms on Bollgard and Widestrike cotton varieties have not presented a big enough problem to select a pyrethroid over a phosphate for stink bug control. Field monitoring between July 20 and August 10 will determine if that trend holds true for the 2013 season.

In a few weeks, as we begin to make more stink bug control decisions in soybeans, we will have to work more with the pyrethroid chemistry to suppress the brown stink bugs in the complex. Research trials across the south point to bifenthrin as their superior pyrethroid for brown stink bugs in soybeans. We can improve the percent control by using the higher labeled rates.

Back to cotton, here is how we suggest making treatment decisions. First, select a minimum of 25 ten to twelve day old bolls that are still soft to the touch and can be crushed by hand. Select more bolls from at least two locations from larger fields. Crush these bolls and observe for internal injury. Note, it may make this process faster by first separating the bolls with external feeding signs from those that have none. First, crush the bolls with external feeding only and determine the percent that have internal injury. If a threshold is reached, then the remainder of the bolls with no external feeding signs will not need to be crushed. Internal damage may consist of one or more warts on the inside of the boll wall, damaged seed or stained lint. Second, the decision maker needs to know how long that particular field has been in the blooming stage. Most stink bug injury and loss is coming during weeks three though five or six of bloom. This is the period when most harvestable bolls are being set.

In Alabama, I suggest using a 10% internal damage threshold during weeks three though six of bloom. An insecticide application will usually suppress stink bug numbers for seven to ten days unless a field borders another untreated crop with high numbers of stink bugs. If has been my experience that stink bugs do not move rapidly across fields like plant bugs as they reinfest. The first four to ten rows adjacent to corn or peanuts seem to get most of the migration initially.

In our heaviest stink bugs years, cotton in the coastal plains of the southeast have required up to four applications. Under most conditions however, only two or three sprays may be warranted.

One last thing I will mention today is that, in the past, stink bugs seem to cause more internal boll damage in wet seasons than in dry seasons. That being the case, and unless the weather changes, we need to be extra cautious of stink bug damage to cotton in 2013.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Update for the First Week of July

The Alabama cotton crop is growing rapidly resulting from abundant rainfall from multiple thunderstorms that have occurred during the last 10-14 days.

Insect wise things have been rather quiet on cotton but not the case with soybeans which I will discuss later.

Tarnished plant bug numbers have not increased as rapidly as expected in fields that I have observed. An occasional adult and or nymph can be found, depending on the age of the cotton. Migrating adults went to the earlier planted cotton first and have had time to now produce offspring. Cotton planted on April 10 is now blooming in Autauga County, Alabama.

To my surprise, I’m finding as many adult southern green stink bugs as I am adult plant bugs. We need to begin watching stink bugs in early bloom cotton. As I have stated before, these stink bugs will feed on thumb size bolls as soon as the dried bloom sheds. A huge stink bug population is waiting in corn. These adults will migrate to cotton, soybeans and peanuts as corn begins to dry down. This may be the largest population in corn that I have ever observed. There seems to be mating pairs in every corn plant at our research farms in Shorter and Prattville, Alabama this week. Most are the southern green species with an occasional brown in the mix. That will be to our advantage in a few weeks since the pyrethroid chemistry does a nice job controlling the green species.

The other insect that is building on cotton is aphids. They are clumped in terminals on occasional plants in numerous fields at present. These clumps will spread field wide before natural diseases wipe out the population. I would project that aphid population decline will not occur until around July 20.

The most intense insect pressure at present is Kudzu bug populations on soybeans in select fields throughout the state. Ten to 50 adults and over 200 immatures per plant can be found in many April planted beans. More adult Kudzu bugs are moving into beans from Kudzu daily. Beans will have to be scouted weekly for the remainder of this and future seasons. One to three sprays may be needed to protect beans this season. This will open the door to pod and foliage feeding caterpillars for the remainder of the season.

Information on the management and control of the Kudzu bug in soybeans has been posted in blog entries previous to this one and also on the Alabama Crops website (

Monday, July 1, 2013

Kudzu Bug Q&A

by Xing Ping Hu, Extension Entomologist, Auburn University

What is a Kudzu bug?
The Kudzu bug is a small yellowish green lady-beetle-like insect. However, they are not a beetle, but a true stink bug with sucking mouths that sip the juice from plants.

They like to aggregate in clusters and release a very strong, foul odor that you can smell several feet away.

Kudzu bugs are also called lablab bugs, bean bugs, globular stink bugs, and bean plataspids.

Are they a new pest and where did they come from?
Yes, the Kudzu bug is a new pest for us in the United States. Many new people are being introduced to it every day. We will all have to learn the best ways to deal with it.

The Kudzu bug is native to Asia. Genetic markers indicate this bug was likely introduced from Japan.

When did they get here and how widely spread are they now?
It was first reported in Georgia in 2009 and spread to Alabama in October 2010. Since then, it has been spreading like wildfire. By the end of June, it has been confirmed in more than 430 counties across 9 Southern Region States. They are in all but 53 counties in Alabama right now.

How do they spread so rapidly?
Many factors aid in their fast dispersal:
  • Hitchhiking on vehicles, airplanes, shipments of products and equipment, and even humans
  • They are strong flyers themselves, capable of flying at least a couple of miles
  • They are attracted to white and lightly-colored surfaces
  • Propensity to migrate
  • Diverse and flexible life history and rapid population growth rate
  • Availability of primary hosts – kudzu plants and soybean crops
  • Most interestingly, the new finding in my lab shows a majority of the adult females become fertilized before overwintering. A single pregnant female can lay egg masses in a new location without the presence of male.
What plants do they infest?
Kudzu bugs are leguminous plant feeders. Their primary host is kudzu plants; that is how they got their name. Of the other leguminous crops, they prefer soybeans to vegetable beans and wisteria vine.

However, they must feed on kudzu or soybeans to be able to reproduce. It is common to see them aggregate and feed on non-legume plants in early spring and late fall when leguminous plants are not available.

If they have been in AL since 2010, why the sudden population outbreak in soybean crops this year?
During the first year of invasion, the population was basically limited to kudzu patches. However, because of the exponential growth, overcrowding populations started to move into soybean fields in 2012 and reached peak outbreak this year.

What is the pest status of kudzu bugs?
They were first considered a nuisance pest in residential areas, but are posing much greater threat than previously thought. In Asian countries, it is a serious pest of soybean and vegetable beans. Here in the United States, besides yield loss of soybeans, it poses threats to international trade of agricultural products to Central America, and is an urban nuisance.

What damages do they cause in soybean crops?
They are slow feeders, sucking plant juice and gradually drawing down a plant’s vigor. They do not eat holes in leaves and do not take bites from pods or seed.

When do kudzu bugs move onto soybean plants and how long they stay in soybean field?

It depends on whether you have early, middle, or later soybean crops and the climate. In 2013, we observed adults of an overwinter generation move to lay egg masses on early-planted soybean crops when they are about 1 ft tall. Nymphs appeared in late May and by the middle of June, nymph population had peaked across the entire soybean field. This was also the optimal time for control treatment.

You will see Kudzu bugs in the field until the soybean plants become unsuitable (not enough juice). Last year’s research showed that Kudzu bug population was greater in early-planted soybeans rather than later-planted soybeans. We are monitoring Kudzu bug population dynamics this year.