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Extension Entomology

Category: Field Crops

Field crop pest and beneficial organisms.

Soybean Stem Borers

–by Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Schwarting

Dectes (soybean) stem borer damage is becoming more and more apparent as soybean harvest is delayed throughout north central Kansas.  The dectes stem borer was first detected infesting soybeans in Kansas in about 1985 in south central parts of the state.  Annually, the adults emerge from soybean stubble, where they overwinter as larvae, around the 4th of July.  They mate and deposit eggs around soybean leaf petioles.  The small larvae bore into the plants and feed, making their way into the main stem.

Dectes stem borer larvae are cannibalistic, so as these larvae come into contact with others only one survives to tunnel down the main stem to the base where they girdle around the interior of the stem, typically just prior to harvest.  This girdling activity often goes unnoticed.  However, the stems are weakened and wind will blow girdled plants over.  Fields with significant infestations will have serious lodging, as we are seeing now in parts of NC KS.  Harvesting these lodged plants is very difficult at best, and if harvest is delayed further, the grain lying on the ground may be lost to rodents, disease, etc.  Infested fields should be harvested as soon as possible, hopefully before any additional lodging occurs!  There is no preventative or rescue treatment available for dectes stem borers in soybeans.

For more information on the biology of the dectes stem borer, please visit Dectes Stem Borer, MF2581: https://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF2581.pdf

 

Fall armyworms, Armyworms, and Army Cutworms in Wheat

–by Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Schwarting

Where wheat has emerged, fields need to be checked for fall armyworms, armyworms, and army cutworms. If you see worms on your wheat this fall, the first thing to do is to determine which worm is present. Proper identification is important because they have different feeding and overwintering patterns.

We have been hearing about and seeing a mixture of both armyworms and fall armyworms on wheat and other host plants this fall. These small worms start by causing small “windowpanes” in wheat or alfalfa. No army cutworm infestations have been verified yet on wheat.

Flocks of birds in wheat or alfalfa fields in fall or early spring are often indicative of a “worm” infestation as the birds are feeding on the larvae. Fields with 25-30% of the plants showing “windowpane” feeding need to be monitored frequently as these larvae consume more as they get larger. Treatment should be applied before stands become threatened.

Fall armyworms

When scouting fields for fall armyworm damage, look for “windowpane” injury caused by tiny larvae chewing on seedling leaves. Each individual field should be scouted in several locations, including the field margins and the interior. The larvae themselves are usually too small to be easily observed after they first hatch, and hide in or around the base of seedlings. Within a few days of hatching, the larvae become large enough to destroy entire leaves.

The suggested treatment threshold is 2-3 actively feeding larvae per linear foot of row in wheat. Fields with 25 to 30 percent of plants with windowpane injury should be re-examined daily and treated immediately if stand establishment appears threatened. Larvae increase in size at an exponential rate, and so do their food requirements. Later instars do the most damage, sometimes destroying entire stands, and are the least susceptible to insecticides. Without treatment, problems can continue until larvae reach maturity or until a killing frost. Thin strands of wheat are especially at risk.

 

Fall armyworms will feed until the temperatures cool into the mid-20’s or they pupate, whichever comes first. If a killing frost does not occur soon after the treatment threshold is reached, fields may require chemical treatment.

 

Armyworms

Armyworm larvae are green to black with stripes of various colors. The head capsule is medium brown with dark markings. Most damage to wheat in Kansas occurs in southern and eastern areas of the state during warm, moist periods from late April to early June rather than in the fall. Like fall armyworms, armyworms will feed until the temperatures cool in the mid-20’s or they pupate, whichever comes first.

Most armyworm damage occurs during the last three to five days of larval feeding. When leaf feeding is observed, look for larvae curled up on the ground under litter, especially in patches of lodged plants. Treatment is usually not necessary below levels of four or five larvae per foot, but is probably justified at infestations of five to eight per foot depending upon larval maturity in relation to crop maturity.

 

Army cutworm

The army cutworm is a late fall /early spring pest in Kansas. Leaf damage by early stage army cutworm larvae  looks very similar to that of fall armyworms. However, army cutworm larvae are typically very small in the early fall – smaller than fall armyworms or armyworms. If the worms causing defoliation in wheat in the fall are relatively large, ½ inch or more, they are probably armyworms and/or fall armyworms.

Adult moths lay eggs in soil in the fall. The brown, faintly striped larvae hatch during the fall and early winter. They will feed throughout the winter (unlike armyworm and fall armyworm larvae), burrowing in the soil to escape frost and emerging again to feed during sp

Unlike other cutworms, only above ground plant parts are consumed, giving plants the ap­pearance of being grazed by cattle.

Infestations in well­-established stands will probably not require insecticide appli­cations while wheat is dormant, but some fields never green up in the spring because of cutworm feeding. Along with fall scouting, frequent inspections during warm periods in February, March, and early April are strongly encouraged, particularly when preceded by a dry fall.

Moisture availability, crop condition, and regrowth potential are all factors influencing potential losses to this pest. Late­-planted fields under dry conditions with poor tiller­ing may suffer economic damage with as few as one or two larvae per square foot.

In most fields, treatment will not be necessary until populations average four to five worms per square foot. Vigorous, well-­tillered fields under optimal growing conditions can tolerate even higher popu­lations, as many as nine or 10 larvae per square foot, without measurable yield loss. Infestations in later stages of crop develop­ment are less damaging than early ones because established plants can compensate for considerable defoliation and larvae normally finish feeding before wheat enters reproductive stages.

Mixed populations

Mostly the same insecticides are registered for control of these species of worms, but higher rates are recommended for fall armyworm. Any fields with mixed populations should be treated with the fall armyworm rate.

For treatment options, please refer to the latest K-State Wheat Insect Management Guide 2017 at: http://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/mf745.pdf

Volunteer Wheat

–by Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Schwarting

Wheat is, and will continue to be planted throughout south central and north central Kansas over the next few weeks, as weather permits.  So, this is the best, and last, chance to control all volunteer wheat, which should be destroyed at least 2 weeks prior to planting the 2018 crop.  Volunteer wheat hasn’t been as persistent as in 2016, mainly because of the numerous rains that occurred in 2016 vs. this past year which has been drier.  However, there is still plenty of volunteer around and it just doesn’t take much wheat to support huge numbers of pests.  Wheat curl mites and Hessian flies are the arthropods most reliant on volunteer wheat as a ‘green bridge’.  In addition, many pathogens are also able to utilize volunteer wheat as a reservoir until it is able to infect a vector and is then transferred to cultivated plants.  Thus, eliminating this green bridge prior to planting along with delaying planting as long as possible, will go a long way toward reducing arthropod pests and pathogens in the newly planted wheat.

 

For more information on the Best Pest Management planting date as well as other pre-planting decisions, please see the 2017 Wheat Insect Management Guide: https://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/mf745.pdf

Soybean Update — Green Cloverworms

— by Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Schwarting

 

Green cloverworm larvae have been very numerous throughout north central and south central Kansas for the past 30-45 days.  However, the larval stage and the leaf defoliation that they’re known for, has pretty much ceased as most larvae have entered, or are entering, pupation.

 

 

A few green cloverworm larvae can still be found in late planted beans and alfalfa, but for the most part, their feeding will soon cease.  The most common question is, with all these green cloverworm adults around, will they be in the same fields next year?  They do not overwinter in Kansas and most soybean fields will be rotated, so the answer is no.  If the same fields are infested next year, it will not be because of the green cloverworms that survived the winter in that field.

 

Soybean Update – Green cloverworms and Stink bugs

–by Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Schwarting

Green cloverworm adults are quite numerous and are laying eggs in alfalfa and soybeans.  So, there are, or will soon be, small larvae present.  Feeding by green cloverworms will probably not impact alfalfa or most soybean fields unless there are significant larval populations in really late planted fields.

 

 

Stink bug populations seem to be increasing in north central Kansas but most beans should be far enough along in their development that stink bugs should be of little concern.

 

For management decisions for all soybean pests, please refer to the 2017 Soybean Insect Management Guide: https://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF743.pdf

Alfalfa Update – Alfalfa caterpillars and Potato leafhoppers

–by Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Schwarting

Alfalfa caterpillars are currently active throughout north central Kansas.  These caterpillars are feeding on foliage, and based upon the size of the larvae in fields, will soon be pupating.  In many fields, swathing is currently, or has just been done and this should help lessen alfalfa caterpillar populations.  However, if the timing is such that these larvae are pupating in the soil and thus swathing does not remove/destroy the pupae, the emerging butterflies may lay eggs on recently cut fields and the developing larvae may feed on regrowth.  This may retard regrowth for a couple of weeks until larvae pupate.

Potato leafhoppers are also very numerous throughout north central Kansas in uncut alfalfa fields.  Thus, their characteristic feeding damage, called ‘hopper burn’, is common.  Swathing should reduce potato leafhopper populations significantly and, hopefully, they will not rebound.  Continued monitoring is prudent as alfalfa caterpillar feeding and potato leafhopper damage may lessen the plant’s ability to store reserves in their roots for overwintering.

 

For management decisions for all alfalfa pests, please refer to the 2017 Alfalfa Insect Management Guide: https://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF809.pdf

 

Sugarcane aphid in Kansas sorghum, 2017

by –J.P. Michaud, Brian McCornack, Wendy Johnson and Sarah Zukoff

 

As we reach the midpoint of September, it is becoming clear that the impact of sugarcane aphid (SCA) in Kansas will be only a fraction of what it was in 2015 or 2016.  Multi-state monitoring efforts using myfields.info to track SCA have reported SCA in 138 different counties in 8 states in 2017; the first record in Kansas was on August 1 in Sumner Co. You can track county movement by visiting the myFields distribution map, or sign up for an account to receive an email alert when SCA has been detected in your area. Only southwestern Kansas has had some fields with infestations heavy enough to warrant treatment, and many others have remained below threshold (see our Scouting Card for more information).  A large proportion of the earlier planted fields are now mature enough to be safe from yield losses, even though SCA may be able to survive on these plants for some time.  At this point, only the latest planted fields that have not yet filled grain remain at risk, and lower overnight temperatures are slowing aphid activity.  Remember, SCA can survive overnight freezes and continue to feed on plants as long as they have any green tissue remaining, although without any further impact on yield if grain fill is complete.

 

Decreased acreage

 

A substantial decrease in sorghum acreage this year, especially in the regions of central Kansas that were most affected in 2016, has likely impeded northerly movement of the aphid this year.  Reduced sorghum acreage, much of it converted to soybeans and dryland corn, has meant the aphid must traverse longer distances to reach suitable plants on which it can establish populations capable of producing the winged migrants that enable further spread.  But several other factors have likely been even more important.

 

Improved management

 

There has been a much higher level of awareness among sorghum growers, and much better preventive and remedial management of the aphid in the southern regions that are the source of aphids for Kansas infestations.  The widespread adoption of seed treatments in south Texas effectively prevents the infestation of young plants for up to a month or longer.  An increase in the acreage planted to the many hybrid varieties expressing resistance to the aphid has greatly impeded its ability to produce large populations so quickly.  Timely scouting and identification by concerned growers has resulted in the early discovery and effective treatment of fields that did exceed economic thresholds, which in turn reduced the number and size of alate swarms that dispersed northward in 2017. Look for more help on scouting and determining treatable infestation levels here: KSU Scout Card

 

Evolving natural enemies

 

Just as pest species can evolve new behaviors (for example, attacking a new host plant), so beneficial species can quickly evolve new pest/host plant associations.  An example of this is provided by the Asian multicolored lady beetle, Harmonia axyridis, which last summer produced very large populations in Kansas sorghum for the first time, feeding primarily on SCA.  This lady beetle was not found in sorghum previously, but was drawn into fields by abundant SCA, and is now responding to sorghum as a habitat containing many types of suitable prey.  This year we have found it regularly feeding on corn leaf aphids and greenbugs, in the absence of SCA, something we had not previously observed.  Similarly, H. axyridis did not frequent soybeans until the arrival of soybean aphid in 2002, whereupon it quickly became a key source of mortality for this aphid, and has remained a regular resident of soybean fields ever since.  While the example of H. axyridis is quite obvious and visible, many changes in the responses of other aphid natural enemies in the sorghum agroecosystem are more subtle, but also important.  For example, the greenbug parasitoid, Lysiphlebus testaceipes, appears to be gradually overcoming SCA immunity to parasitism, and we are starting to find some successfully mummified SCA.  Aphid natural enemies are now colonizing sorghum faster, and in greater numbers, in response to SCA.  Surveys for SCA in central Kansas revealed many small colonies of greenbug, corn leaf aphids, yellow sugarcane aphids, and English grain aphids, all approaching extinction due to heavy predation and parasitism.  Lacewings and hoverflies were especially abundant, with adults flying everywhere and several lacewing eggs on almost every lower leaf, independent of the presence of any aphids.

 

In summary, we are clearly advancing from the epidemic phase of the SCA invasion to the attenuation phase, and considerably faster than we might have expected.  Vigilance will be required for the next few years, and appropriate monitoring and management will need to be maintained, but it is quite possible that 2016 will mark the high point for SCA problems in Kansas and we will not see another year that bad again.

 

Photo caption:

 

A colony of sugarcane aphid showing evidence of substantial predation.  Note ‘bloodstains’ (aphid hemolymph) along leaf midrib and the fact that aphids are widely scattered rather than forming a compact colony.

Sorghum Update – Chinch Bugs, Sugarcane Aphids

–by Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Schwarting

Chinch bug populations throughout north central and south central KS are not going away. These small sucking insects may still cause plant lodging, especially in these areas where moisture has been lacking

 

 

A small colony of sugarcane aphids was detected in Dickinson County on 30 Aug.  The colony was on the underside of one leaf on whorl-stage sorghum.  Tom Maxwell, Saline Co. Agricultural Extension Agent reported finding sugarcane aphids in Saline, Seward, and Ottawa Counties, also on 30 Aug. To see the current 2017 Sugarcane aphid distribution map, please visit MyFields: https://www.myfields.info/pests/sugarcane-aphid

For monitoring and management considerations for sugarcane aphids, please refer to the Sugarcane Scout Card: https://www.myfields.info/sites/default/files/page/ScoutCard%20KSU%20v05312017.pdf

Or see the 2017 Sorghum Insect Management Guide: https://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF742.pdf

 

 

 

Soybean Update – Defoliators, Pod and Bean Feeders

–by Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Schwarting

 

Soybeans continue to be the focus of attention of many defoliators, as well as bean and pod feeders, throughout north central Kansas. Thistle caterpillar populations seem to be largely late instar larvae and/or pupating inside of their very characteristic chrysalis.  Green cloverworms also seem to be increasing in both size and densities.  These are the main two species feeding on the leaves, but throw in a few yellowstriped armyworms and blister beetles and they all add up to a formidable group of very active defoliators.  Fortunately, soybeans are very resilient at coping with the loss of leaf tissue.  However, periodic monitoring should be continued, and if considering insecticide applications, please consult the 2017 KSU Soybean Insect Management Guide for treatment thresholds and insecticides labeled for these pests.

 

 

Pod and bean feeders seem to be just getting started. Bean leaf beetle adults may feed on the pods and will continue to do so until pods dry.  Soybean podworms (aka corn earworms) may feed upon the bean within the pod and thus both may reduce yields relatively quickly.  Fortunately, podworms will only feed on the beans for about two weeks.  However, bean leaf beetle adults may feed on the pods as long as they remain green.  Stink bug populations are also increasing and these may also feed directly on the developing beans within the pods.  Again, for management decisions, please refer to the 2017 KSU Soybean Insect Management Guide: https://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF743.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunflower Update – Gray and Red Seed Weevils

–by Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Schwarting

Double-cropped sunflowers are highly susceptible to both gray and red sunflower seed weevils.  Most double-cropped sunflowers sampled in the past week, just reaching the bud stage, were significantly infested with both seed weevils, i.e. more than two of each species/plant.

 

 

 

These weevils are, and will be ovipositing and the small grub-like larvae will consume or otherwise destroy the seed.  This damage can significantly reduce yield if enough seeds are destroyed.  For more information on sunflower insect pest management, please refer to the KSU Sunflower Insect Management Guide: https://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/mf814.pdf

 

 

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