Category Archives: Insect

The value of scouting for plant bugs

The entomology program recognizes the logistic difficulty in scouting. We know that you have to cover a large acreage in a limited amount of time, you manage multiple crops, and some weeks, frankly, you would rather spend the time with your family. We get it.

So, let’s chat about how to scout cotton for plant bugs, and the amount of money that it will make you, in the fewest possible bullet points:

  1. Decisions can be quick and easy – if scouting multiple locations in a field (either by quadrant or on the diagonal) results in numbers over threshold (8 per 100 sweep or 2-4 per beat sheet sample), spray the field. Likewise, if you are seeing consistently below threshold numbers, don’t spray. The only scenario where more time is warranted is when you capture near-threshold numbers in multiple spots. In this scenario, you must decide: 1) how much yield you want out of this field, 2) whether you have time to revisit this field in 3 to 5 days to scout again, and 3) how spraying right now fits into your schedule. Remember two things: 1) it always pays to spray on threshold, and 2) spraying in this hot, dry year increases your risk of secondary pests with any insecticide application. I favor treating the problem that I have and dealing with the problem that may occur, but this is entirely up to you and your operation. An additional 15 minutes of scouting may be more profitable than spraying an entire field. It’s ultimately your choice.
  2. Any sampling method works. Our data (below) from 2018 show that when you scout with a sweep net, a beat sheet, or both combined, you are profiting over not scouting at all. This is why we are distributing beat sheets free of charge at the Tidewater AREC. The companies that have paid for your beat sheets (Corteva, BASF, and FMC) agree. No one wants you to spend money unnecessarily – especially in this difficult time.

Figure 1. Comparison, in terms of lint yield, of different sampling methods for tarnished plant bug (sweep net, drop cloth, and sweep net until 2nd week of bloom combined with drop cloth after) and different thresholds (low, medium or recommended, high, and very high). Favoring the low threshold (1 per drop cloth sample) was profitable when using a drop cloth alone, but this did not make money over using a medium threshold in the combined method. Regardless, you make money if you sample and spray by any method. Not every Virginia field will experience this high pressure.

 

 

 

Table 1.  Net economic returns (per hectare) for threshold trial in 2018 above the untreated control. Cotton was priced at $0.77 per acre for 2018; nitrogen (32-0-0) was priced at $49.18/acre (120.0 lb/acre); bifenthrin (6.4 oz) was priced at $2.90/acre; acephate (8 oz) was priced at $3.12/acre; sulfoxaflor (2.25 oz) was priced at $13.80/acre; thiamethoxam (2 oz) was priced at $15.61/acre; chlorantraniliprole (27 oz) was priced at $26.35/acre

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always, best wishes for a profitable 2019. Please reach out to Sally or myself if you have questions or concerns. I hope that you have the opportunity to spend this weekend with the people and activities that you value most. Happy 4th y’all!

Plant bugs in cotton update

Plant bug populations have been spotty, and lower overall than this time last year (click to see map). 10% or fewer of Virginia fields need insecticide applications this week, but, unfortunately, a much higher percentage will end up treated. Before making a decision to spray without scouting consider several things:

  1. Your risk of aphids and spider mites increases, especially if it does not rain soon.
  2. Your risk of subsequent plant bug infestations increases.
  3. You spend money that you did not have to spend.

Spraying for plant bugs at or exceeding threshold will pay off. Keep in mind that sprays during flowering typically yield higher returns. These two Focus on Cotton presentations by NCSU (click here) and VT (click here) will tell you what you need to know about plant bugs in our region (follow links).

If you need help scouting, ANR agents Josh Holland (Southampton) and Elizabeth Pittman (Suffolk) will be hosting scouting clinics in July. More information coming soon. Beat sheets are available to you free of charge at these events and at the Taylor lab at the Tidewater AREC. Stop by anytime Monday through Friday 8 am – 4 pm. We are closed next Thursday and Friday.

A big thank you to FMC, BASF, and Corteva for sponsoring this round of beat sheets!!

A big thank you to Josh Holland for his help scouting this week!

Click this link for interactive map with insect density and square retention data (click points for summary data).

Plant bug spray thresholds in cotton

Early season scouting (pre-bloom cotton)

We recommend scouting for plant bugs as soon as cotton begins squaring. We encourage everyone to scout for plant bugs, especially those that saw high numbers last year. Early in the growing season (pre-bloom) we are scouting for adult plant bugs immigrating into cotton from flowering weedy hosts and other cultivated hosts nearby (corn, wheat, soybean). Plant bug adults (pictured below) are approximately 5-6mm in length (quarter inch) and can be identified by their yellowish brown body color, conspicuous “Y” shape on their scutellum or upper back, and two yellow dots on their cuneus or lower back. For pre-bloom cotton, we recommend sweep net sampling with an action spray threshold of eight plant bugs (adults and nymphs) per 100 sweeps. This can be done by conducting four to eight random 25-sweep samples throughout each field. We also recommend measuring square retention before bloom by sampling 25 random plants in each field and calculating the percentage of missing or black squares from all first positions on whole plants or the top five nodes. Consider a spray application for plant bugs if the insect threshold is reached (8 plant bugs per 100 sweeps) and square retention is below 80 percent.

Click on this video link to see sweep net sampling technique in cotton.

Plant bug pre-bloom action threshold in cotton.

Mid- to late-season scouting (flowering cotton)

For mid- to late-season scouting, when cotton is flowering, we are mainly sampling for plant bug nymphs using a black drop cloth. The action threshold for triggering sprays in flowering cotton is 2-3 plant bug nymphs and adults per drop cloth sample. For drop cloth sampling, we recommend placing the drop cloth in between two rows and vigorously beating plants onto the drop cloth. We also recommend taking at least four samples per field. 

Click on this video link to see drop cloth sampling technique in cotton.  

Plant bug action threshold in flowering cotton.

Insects often mistaken for plant bugs 

Common insects in cotton fields that are often confused with plant bugs include big-eyed bugs, aphids, and stink bug nymphs (pictured below). Big-eyed bugs head and eyes are wider than their body. Aphids are a secondary pest and are generally smaller and slower than plant bug nymphs with two tailpipes or cornicles on their lower back. Stink bug nymphs have a more shield-like body shape with three black stripes on their antennae.

Insects that are often confused with plant bugs include big-eyed bugs, aphids, and stink bug nymphs.

Economic benefits of managing plant bugs in cotton

The single most important management strategy for plant bugs in cotton is applying insecticides at the recommended action thresholds described above. The bar graph below highlights lint yield gained when applying insecticides at various thresholds (low, medium/recommended, high, very high) using sweep net only, drop cloth only, or both (as described above). We see that the highlighted recommended threshold using sweep net sampling pre-bloom and drop-cloth sampling during flowering was one of the highest yielding treatments with the highest economic returns among treatments with five or fewer spray applications. The major take-home from these data is that any scouting technique (sweep net and or drop cloth sampling) at any threshold, is going to significantly increase lint yield and economic returns when plant bug infestations are present!

Bar chart highlighting lint yield gained above the untreated control using various sampling techniques and spray thresholds for plant bugs.

Economic returns above the untreated control when properly managing cotton for plant bugs.

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.

19VA02_Transform_WG_Label_Cotton

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.

 

Corn earworm moth black light trap report for August 23, 2018

Average nightly corn earworm moth captures for local black light traps this week were as follows: Chesapeake=8.0; Dinwiddie=42.6; Hanover=3.4; Isle of Wight=0.9; Prince George (Templeton)=1.3; Prince George (Disputanta)=3.3; Warsaw=6.6; Southampton=0.9; Suffolk=33.0; and Sussex=1.9

Here is the link to the data table:  BLT_23_Aug_2018

Thanks to Watson Lawrence, Mike Parrish, Laura Maxey Nay, Livvy Preisser, Scott Reiter, Mary Beahm, Neil Clark, and Dwayne Sanders for their reports!