Author Archives: Sally Taylor

About Sally Taylor

Please contact Sally if you have insect pest management concerns in field crops. email: phone: 919-801-5366

Scouting and spraying plant bugs in pre-bloom cotton

Virginia cotton fields are a mixed bag when it comes to plant bug infestations this week – some fields will require sprays and most will not. The only way to know what is in your field is to look in your field. It is time to scout when cotton starts squaring.

Spray cotton for plant bugs when square retention drops below 80% and you capture 8 or more plant bugs per 100 sweeps. Inevitably, there will be fields where bug numbers exceed threshold and square retention is >80%. In this case, I favor spraying to prevent bugs from reproducing in the field, but only if numbers exceed threshold.

As far as I’m concerned, all Virginia cotton fields are at risk for plant bugs. This animal has over 200 known hosts and you will find one in any field if you look hard enough. There are fields that are predisposed to higher populations. These field, in general, are:

  1. In Eastern cotton growing counties. Plant bugs populations benefit from warmer low temperatures. Abundant water in the landscape contributes to warmer lows and cooler highs.
  2. Near corn or double crop wheat/soybeans.
  3. In areas with high deforestation and new growth forests.

Results from our 2018 survey are below. Note that infestations cluster in the eastern region. However, fields in all regions are at risk.

I recommend a neonicotinoid insecticide pre-bloom. This class includes Belay, Centric, and Admire Pro. There is a lot of debate on using Admire Pro. In field tests, sometimes it is as good as Centric/Belay and sometimes it is not. This is why I recommend Centric or Belay. However, spraying Admire Pro will be better than not treating if you are over threshold. If you are not over threshold, do not spray any product. You will put yourself at high risk for infestations. This cannot be overstated.

As always, call me with your questions and concerns. If you do not know how to sample for plant bugs, I will show you. My program has beat sheets for you – free of charge. We will be distributing them at scouting clinics and field days this summer. If you need one before then, please stop by the Tidewater AREC. Please thank your sales reps from Corteva, BASF, FMC, Amana, and Bayer for funding this program. Cotton Inc. and the Virginia Cotton Board also generously provided support. Please thank Seth Dorman and his awesome plant bug scouting crew for generating data specific to our region.


Section 18 Emergency Exemption approved for Virginia cotton

Virginia cotton growers can now use Transform to control tarnished plant bug in cotton in 2019 (June 1 – Oct 1). This product will allow us to rotate modes of action and reduce our dependence on acephate and pyrethroids to manage this potentially destructive pest. Transform is softer on beneficials too, but you must notify beekeepers within 1 mile of cotton fields and, if there are known hives, apply before 7am or after 7pm when cotton is flowering. Transform is applied at 1.5-2.25 oz/A. Follow all label directions and keep a copy of the label with you when applying.


Based on early sampling numbers, we will have another high pressure year. Spray test results from the Tidewater AREC (shown below) can help you chose insecticides. Neonicotinoids (Admire, Belay, Centric, Endigo) should not be used after first bloom and are less effective during this time. Diamond is a growth regulator and is more effective against nymphs. There is evidence that it suppresses adult reproduction.

The single most important thing you can do to protect cotton from plant bugs is to spray at extension recommended thresholds (8 per 100 sweeps or 2-3 per drop cloth sample). As always, the only way to know what is in your field is to scout.

Call/text/email me if you have questions.

Thrips dispersal and foliar sprays

Virginia cotton requires a thrips control product at planting to preserve yield and avoid maturity delays. This is especially true since the arrival of tarnished plant bugs. Any maturity delay early-season will likely magnify plant bug injury. Cotton planted at the end of April and first week of May has put on 1-2 true leaves. It is time to scout for thrips injury and make foliar applications when necessary.

Levels of injury to cotton seedlings rated from ‘0’ (no damage) to ‘5’ (dead terminal
or plant) from thrips. Injury at ‘2-3’ or above approximates a threshold for intervention with an
insecticide application. (Photo and caption from Kerns et al., 2018)

Using a seed treatment alone will likely require a foliar spray based on research from the Tidewater AREC. In-furrow aldicarb and in-furrow imidacloprid with a seed treatment should not need a foliar spray. Scout cotton planted with in-furrow imidacloprid alone and determine if a foliar application is necessary (often it is not – saving you time and money).

All cotton planted in Virginia is under high risk for thrips injury. NCSU prediction model shows risk increasing in later-planted cotton. This model was highly accurate in 2018.

Tips for foliar applications: Consider plant-date and growing conditions. Cotton planted late-May into warm soil may not need a foliar spray. Do not apply foliar acephate if plants are growing fast with no to minimal thrips injury. Thrips injury is likely for all cotton planted in Virginia and risk will be high until plants are no longer susceptible. The three diagrams below from the NCSU model show when seedling susceptibility declines based on planting date (May 1, May 8, May 15). The blue line on these diagrams shows you when risk for thrips injury is highest.

Spraying is most effective when the first leaf is the size of a pencil tip to a mouse ear. I recommend a 6-8 oz. rate of acephate. Several scenarios may be responsible for reduced efficacy of sprays:

1. Rain. Acephate is not a rain fast product. Consider reapplying if necessary.

2. Resistance. Acephate at 3 oz. per acre has become less effective in spray tests. Rotate to Radiant if another spray is required or use a higher rate.

3. Species composition. Tobacco thrips are most common in VA, but western flower thrips can co-infest. Acephate is less effective on this species. Rotate to Radiant if another spray is required.

As always, call/text/email me with any questions. Good luck and happy planting!

Aphids in alfalfa

Large aphids populations have been observed in alfalfa this year following insecticide applications targeting alfalfa weevil. If you haven’t scouted for alfalfa weevil in Virginia, you should. See the bottom of this post for a weevil summary.

Aphids, typically pea aphids, can be problematic when their natural enemies are disturbed. They can reduce vigor and cause wilting in first cuttings. If early cutting is not an option, several insecticides (mostly pyrethroids) are labeled for their control. Low label rates are generally effective as long as you ensure good coverage. Scout for aphids by pulling 30 random stems per field and counting the number of aphids. This guide from Iowa State can help you make treatment decisions.

Most of the aphids I have seen in Virginia alfalfa are pea aphids (left) and cowpea (right). If you think you have another species, please give me a call or send an email.

Photos Erin Hodgson, Iowa State

My thanks to Lane Grow from Southern State Cooperative for his ongoing efforts to scout and report problems in western Virginia.

Alfalfa weevil information

Scout fields by pulling 30 random stems and inspecting foliage for weevils. Weevil larvae are small, can be white, yellow, or green, and have black heads. They are often tucked tight into new growth. It’s possible to dislodge larger larvae so be careful or collect stems into some container that catches these. I use a plastic freezer bag and insect stems in the shop or truck. This guide from Penn State can help you make spray decisions. Cutting alfalfa is an option if you don’t want to use pesticides. I recommend using clorpyrifos based on spray tests in 2018 and 2019. Some people have been successful with indoxacarb (Steward) or pyrethroids (many brand-name and generic options). Coverage is essential with any product.


Finishing out the soybean crop – when you can safely stop spraying

Soybean loopers have reared their ugly heads across southeastern and coastal Virginia this week. With many of us busy hauling corn, it is reasonable to ask  – when can we stop spraying beans?

In a normal year, we could safely ignore mid-September infestations. This year, the majority of double crop Virginia fields are completing pod fill. Research indicates that R3-R5 beans benefit from a spray when defoliation reaches 15% and you find more than 1 looper per sweep. I recommend that you at least double, and can safely triple, this threshold in R6 beans (i.e., 35-50% defoliation is acceptable). It benefits you to exercise restraint when treating fields after R5.5. There is no scenario when you need to spray R7 beans for loopers. Cooler evening temperatures will work in our favor when they arrive.

In Virginia, Intrepid Edge and Steward have been our most consistent treatments (see image below from 2017). Looper populations in Virginia have tested diamide resistant the past two years (e.g., Besiege, Prevathon). Spraying pyrethoids  will only make the problem worse.


mid-season cotton insect managment

Plant bugs continue to be a problem in some Virginia fields with ¼ of those scouted by the entomology team above threshold for the first two weeks of bloom. In anticipation of the upcoming bollworm flight, Monsanto sponsored a meeting last week at the TAREC to discuss mid-season insect management in cotton. Here is a summary of our discussion:

  1. For 2 gene cotton (Widestrike, Bollgard II, Twinlink): scouting for eggs is recommended. Sample 100 terminals and leaves. Aim for 10 in 10 locations in the field. If you find 25 eggs, spray an insecticide. I recommend Prevathon unless stink bugs or plant bugs are an issue in your field. In that case, use Besiege. Bollworm (Helicoverpa zea aka corn earworm) and tobacco budworm (Heliothis virescens) eggs are indistinguishable and budworms are 100% controlled by Bt cotton. There is some risk that you are spraying unnecessarily. Very low numbers (<3%) of larvae sampled in non-Bt cotton were budworms in 2016 and 2017.
  2. For 3 gene cotton (Widestrike 3, Bollgard III, and Twinlink Plus): scouting for 2nd stage larvae  (1/8″ or larger) is recommended. This gives in-plant toxins time to kill small worms. Sample 100 bolls, blooms, and/or squares. Aim for 10 in 10 locations per field. If you find three larvae in one trip, two larvae in two consecutive trips (two larvae in each trip), or one larva in three consecutive trips (one larva in each trip), spray insecticides. I do not anticipate damage in 3 gene cotton unless we have very high pressure.
  3. Pyrethroids have performed poorly in cotton in 2016 and 2017 tests (15-50% control). I think that pyrethroids are too risky in cotton. Some growers are satisfied with the control that they have been achieving. Last year, worm specific products ran out in some Virginia locations. I recommend Steward as an alternative to Prevathon and Besiege for bollworm control in cotton.
  4. Weekly scouting is recommended for all pests. Bollworm eggs hatch fast (2-3 days) and worms cannot be controlled by any product once they are inside of the boll.
  5. Spray bugs only at threshold. Bloom threshold for plant bugs is 2-3 per drop cloth sample. For stink bugs, use damaged fruit thresholds: Week of bloom 1 = 50% internal boll damage; week 2 = 30%; weeks 3, 4 and 5 = 10%; week 6 = 20%; week 7 =30%; week 8 = 50%. About a dozen beneficial insects are common in Virginia cotton. Ambush bugs, big-eyed bugs, minute pirate bugs, green lacewings, two species of ladybird beetles, and several types of spiders are examples. They are of two types: 1) predators that prey upon an insect pest (see examples below), or 2) parasites that live within the host insect. These insects, particularly the predators, reduce the number of eggs and larvae of bollworms, plant bug nymphs and aphids. Because these allies lessen the impact of pest insects, common sense dictates that producers use them as a management tool. Their presence often means that growers can delay and, on occasion, eliminate some insecticide applications. However, the rapid increase in pest populations will often overwhelm the beneficial population and applications become necessary. Do not hesitate to spray pest insects at recommended thresholds.

A big thank you to Seth Dorman and his scouting crew and to Glenn Roundtree for initiating and organizing our recent pest management discussion.

Corn earworm found in Virginia peanut fields

Peanut scouts in Suffolk today found fields with above threshold numbers of corn earworm/tobacco budworm (4 per row foot). Fields previously treated recently with chlorpyrifos may be at higher risk because they have fewer beneficial predators.

Black beat cloths can aide in sampling. However, shaking and slapping plants will dislodge worms onto soil for easy counting. Make sure and check around the base of the plant when using either method.

Feeding damage shows up in the form of holes in foliage. Worms may also feed on terminals and flowers so scouting for damage alone is not recommended. Peanuts can lose a lot of leaf material without losing yield, but drought-stressed or herbicide injured plants are at higher risk for yield-loss. Do not spray unless necessary. Recent dry weather in combination with broad-spectrum insecticides can flair spider mites.

Pyrethoids are a common choice for earworm control in Virginia and most products can be tank mixed with a fungicide to save money. Always read and follow label instructions. Pyrethroids are losing efficacy against earworm and we have experienced spray failures in other crops (soybean, cotton, sweet corn). Budworm have been resistant to pyrethroids for some time. You will not be able to distinguish these two species in the field. Refer to NCSU video for details. Do not expect complete control of large worms or high populations. Alternative products labeled in peanut include Prevathon, Besiege, Steward, Radiant, Intrepid Edge, and Blackhawk. A list of products and rates is included in Virginia Tech’s Pest Management Guide.

Plant bug control in blooming cotton

Tarnished plant bugs continue to be a problem in some Virginia cotton fields. This week, scouts found 14 of 32 fields over the pre-bloom threshold (8 per 100 sweeps) and increasing numbers of nymphs. Drop cloth sampling is recommended for blooming cotton and counting squares is no longer a good indication of feeding. Threshold is 2-3 bugs per sample. Check out this short video ( if you have questions on how to use this method or are unsure of what nymphs look like. Dirty blooms indicate feeding, but active populations should be confirmed before a spray is made.

As cotton begins to bloom, neonicotinoids (e.g., Admire Pro, Centric, Belay) lose efficacy and I recommend rotating to a pyrethroid, a pyrethroid/acephate mix, or Bidrin. These products will  also control stink bugs if present. Transform is not labeled in Virginia, but our representative in Richmond is working hard to get us a Section 18 and I hope to have one in place by next year at the latest. All of these products will kill beneficial predators in your field. This is a concern as we near bollworm egg lay in cotton.

I encourage you to treat for insect pests only when thresholds are reached. Plant bug control will likely be needed through mid-August when populations peak, even in fields that have been previously sprayed. Spider mites, aphids, and bollworm (in two-gene cotton) risk increases with each broad-spectrum insecticide use, as does the risk for sprayer fatigue.

Special thanks to graduate student Seth Dorman and crew for their continued scouting efforts.

Plant bug scouting report – Week 2

A team led by graduate student Seth Dorman scouted 34 VA fields for plant bugs this week. Plant bugs were found in all but 4 fields, 6 fields were over threshold. Prior to bloom, fields require treatment if you find 8 plant bugs in 100 sweeps AND less than 80% square retention.

Nymphs are increasing in number. Young nymphs are small (aphid-sized) and thus, can be harder to scout for. They will be captured in sweep nets – be mindful when checking the bottom of the net. I recommend sampling with a black beat cloth later in the season to help identify nymphs in blooming cotton.

I will continue to provide updates and recommendations as cotton begins to bloom in our area. My thanks to Seth Dorman and team for their continued effort.

Start scouting cotton now for tarnished plant bug

Black squares and missing squares are a sign that plant bugs have fed in your field. Scout to determine if they are still active.

Tarnished plant bug (TPB) has begun its annual migration into Virginia cotton. PhD student Seth Dorman scouted VA cotton fields this week (image below) that were over pre-bloom thresholds (indicated in red).

Plant bugs can be found in every VA cotton field from the first square on, but it does not pay to spray unless they are causing damage. Use thresholds when determining what fields to treat and use a sweep net to sample multiple places in a field since populations are not evenly distributed. Prior to bloom, fields require treatment if you find 8 plant bugs in 100 sweeps AND less than 80% square retention. Adults are highly mobile and can reinfest quickly following applications. It may be tempting to spray only later in the season. If you are above threshold, this decision will lower your yield.

Impact of different spray timings on yield. Spraying at any point in the season yielded higher than unsprayed cotton. Thresholds are as effective as weekly sprays and will save you money. The damage potential in late-plated cotton is higher.

Important considerations for this season include:

1) Late-planted cotton is at higher risk. This picture from last season shows that losses in late-planted cotton (Jun 1) are much greater than in early-planted cotton (May 1).

Effects of different spray timings on lint yield are much more apparent in late-planted cotton. Spraying for plant bugs at threshold will save money and increase yield regardless of planting date.

2) Spraying at threshold is as effective as weekly sprays and costs less money. Spraying only early (pre-bloom) or only late (>5th week of bloom) are the least effective spray timings.

3) Rotate insectides. Some populations in the Suffolk area are surviving high doses of acephate and bifenthrin. If your cotton is squaring, thrips treatments are no longer needed and acephate should be left out of the tank. I recommend using a neonicotinoid product pre-bloom (clothianidin, thiamethoxam, or imidacloprid). Check the label and use the highest allowable rate. Neonicotinoids will not provide adequate control after cotton has bloomed.

Seth’s team will continue to scout VA cotton counties and we will post distribution updates and management recommendations as the season progresses. I would like to thank Seth for his hard work on this problem. If you have concerns, please contact me.