Friday, July 16, 2010

Stink bugs, tarnished plant bugs and "worms" in cotton

My cotton insect observations this week were as follows: many fields have a number of immature (late instar, soon to be adult) tarnished plant bugs. This stage of immature, along with the adult stage, is what will be giving us our “dirty” blooms in the days ahead. Mixed in with these immature TPBs are a few fleahoppers (both immature and adults) and a few immature clouded plant bugs. Many fields would profit from a plant bug complex “clean-up” spray if it has not already been done during the past two weeks.

Aphids have built rapidly during the past week in a number of fields. Where cotton is currently under drought stress, the presence of aphids and honeydew on all plants might influence the choice of chemistry for this bug clean-up spray.

Several fields of April planted cotton in southeast Alabama had treatable levels of “worms” this week. These worms were likely already about a week old on July 15, which means the eggs were deposited around July 5. This was during the period when most moths observed were tobacco budworms. Appropriate chemistry would be needed if targeting these worms. By next week (July 19-26) the eggs deposited will likely be bollworms and pyrethroids would be the most economical chemistry.

Even though the percent internal boll damage may not have increased in recent days, the brown stink bug problem has not gone away. My thought as to why the percent damage hasn’t gone up is due the fact that peak boll production is close in cotton planted in late April. Let me explain. A week or two ago we had about one boll per row foot about 10-12 days old (the size stink bugs prefer). Some of our stink bug damage levels at that time were running 20% or more. At one per foot this would be about 14000 bolls per acre x 20% or 2800 per acre with internal damage. At present these same fields have up to 3 or more 10-12 day old bolls per row foot. This would mean that 42000 bolls per acre are at risk, but the stink bug population hasn’t increased greatly at this point. The percent internal stink bug damaged bolls has gone down in many fields but that doesn’t mean we are not taking economic damage. Ten percent damage to 42000 bolls per acre is 4200 bolls. Percentages can be misleading. The damage we are incurring is a function of two things – the number of bugs present and the number of bolls at risk. In the old days this situation existed with the number of squares and the number of boll weevils. The damage percent would go down prior to increasing rapidly.

Not only will we wake up one day a couple of weeks down the road with more internal stink bug damage than we thought, but also with a sharp increase in the percent damage. This will be a function of more stink bugs present by then, but also a reduction in the number of bolls per acre that are in the desired feeding size. Borrowing a line from one of our recent politicians “this makes sense to me – does it to you”?