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Extension Entomology

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Sugarcane aphids still hanging on!

–The KSRE Field Crop Entomologists Team

Sugarcane aphid populations continue to persist in sorghum across much of Kansas, but cooler temperatures are slowing them down considerably. However, monitoring populations is still strongly encouraged as infestations can grow quickly if temperatures warm up. Winged aphids are moving from early planted sorghum fields to late planted fields, so pay close attention to whether infestations are winged or wingless. Wingless aphids have the potential to increase rapidly, but several factors, including presence of natural enemies, can help slow population growth. In all cases, be sure to monitor populations closely. Bottom line: scout often.

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Winged aphids (alates).

Yield loss due to aphid feeding can occur up through black layer. However, most losses caused by sugarcane aphid occur between boot stage and up through soft-dough (50% dry weight in the seed) stage; more data is needed to understand losses between hard dough and black layer, but seed weight (grain quality) and total yield may be reduced. Further details about sorghum growth and development can be found here (MF3234.pdf).

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Lady beetle eggs in a sorghum head.

Harvest of early-planted sorghum is underway, and late-planted fields are only a couple of more weeks from being ready (depending on weather conditions). Most decisions to spray for sugarcane aphid this time of year are aimed at avoiding mechanical issues associated with high aphid numbers and honeydew coating leaves and heads. Although buildup of honeydew can cause significant harvest problems, this is not an inevitable outcome. Weathering can reduce honeydew stickiness, so once grain is fully ripe, delaying harvest for a week or two may be an option, provided there is no indication of lodging. As lower leaves senesce or die off, aphids migrate to the upper leaves and eventually into the heads. We have observed this behavior in several fields this fall. However, colder overnight temperatures will significantly retard aphid growth and reproduction, and significant aphid mortality may occur before freezing.

Aside from honeydew and potential mechanical issues, lodging can also be associated with high aphid populations. It is important to understand that sugarcane aphid is not the only pest in sorghum this fall. We have observed high levels of 2nd generation chinch bugs feeding behind panicle leaf sheaths, which can also weaken stalks and cause lodging. In addition, from a plant physiology standpoint, during the last weeks of grain filling sorghum stems tend to shrink due to natural plant remobilization process, affecting final stalk strength.

When making a decision to treat so close to harvest, growers should consider four main factors: 1) overnight temperatures, 2) stage of crop maturity and potential yield, 3) aphid density, and 4) and the preharvest interval for registered insecticides. If the aphids have been heavy, but your grain has turned color, you may want to wait until the honeydew weathers to become less sticky before trying to harvest it. Read and follow the insecticide labels. For Sivanto and Transform, the preharvest interval is 2 weeks. Follow forecasted temperatures for upcoming weeks. Cooler nights will slow populations. We’ve observed aphids killed by 10 hours at 46F in a small lab study, but more data are needed to understand what low temperatures, for what period, will kill them under field conditions.

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Sugarcane aphids after exposure to freezing temperatures.

Again, monitoring fields and relying on more than a single sampling event will provide additional information for making a treatment decision. The only reason to treat aphids past black layer is to avoid potential harvest issues. Killing aphids this fall will not impact aphid populations next year in Kansas. This is a migratory pest and will not overwinter in Kansas.

Oak Vein Pocket gall: Back with a Vengeance!

–by Dr. Raymond Cloyd

We have received numerous inquiries (in fact…LOTS) regarding gall-like growth on the underside of pin oak (Quercus palustris) leaves. In some cases, many pin oak trees have extensive galling on nearly all the leaves, with the leaves twisted or distorted. In fact, one tree on the Kansas State University (Manhattan, KS) campus, located behind Umberger Hall, is nearly 100 percent infested with this gall. I really think the gall makes the tree more attractive J. The culprit is the oak vein pocket gall, which is caused by the gall-midge, Macrodiplosis quercusoroca. Galls are elongated, pocket-like swellings on the lateral veins and mid-rib of pin oak leaves (Figures 1 through 3). The gall-making organism is a small fly called a midge (Family: Cecidomyiidae). Adults are 3.0 mm long and resemble small mosquitoes (but they are not mosquitoes so do not worry). Female midges attack newly developed leaves that are unfolding – just before they are flattened. After the eggs hatch, small larvae or maggots migrate to the lateral and mid-veins, and subsequently begin feeding. After several days, tissue forms and surrounds each larva. Full-grown larvae are white and approximately 2.0 mm in length. Development is completed by mid-spring to early summer. The larvae eventually emerge from the gall, fall to the ground, and overwinter or enter diapause (a physiological state of arrested development) until the next spring. There is one generation per year. There are no control measures for this gall. Remember, this is not the gall-former that the oak leaf itch mite feeds on…that is the marginal oak leaf fold galler (Figure 4).

Figure 1. Oak Vein Pocket Gall
Figure 1: Oak Vein Pocket Gall

Figure 2. Oak Vein Pocket Gall
Figure 2: Oak Vein Pocket Gall

Figure 3. Oak Vein Pocket Gall
Figure 3: Oak Vein Pocket Gall

Figure 4. Leaf Marginal Fold Gall
Figure 4: Leaf Marginal Fold Gall

I want to acknowledge Matthew McKernan; Horticulture Agent (Sedgwick County; Wichita, KS) for keeping me abreast of the situation (and sending images) regarding the oak vein pocket gall in south-western Kansas.

Sugarcane Aphids

–by Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Schwarting

Sugarcane aphids are also still causing much concern throughout KS.  Dr. Bob Bowling, Extension Entomologist TAMU, has conducted research on these aphids for a couple of years in Texas and answered a couple of the most common questions about this aphid.  According to Dr. Bowling, these aphids will not infest corn or wheat, only plants in the sorghum family, i.e., sorghum, Johnsongrass, shattercane, etc.  They are a tropical or sub-tropical insect so probably will not overwinter in KS, or even continue to thrive and increase in numbers as the weather becomes cooler with lower humidity.  Also, and maybe most importantly, the honeydew breaks down within a few days after the colony is gone (or at least is no longer producing honeydew).  The products registered in Kansas for treating these aphids (Transform and Sivanto) both seemed to provide good control in the TAMU efficacy trials when used with at least 15 gal./acre of water (carrier).

sugarcane aphid colony

Ash/Lilac Borer Activity

—Dr. Robert Bauernfeind

Not to beat a dead horse given that Dr. Cloyd’s KIN #2 article addressed the facets of ALB development/damage/control, and last week’s update in KIN#3 substantiating the actual initiation of the 2015 flight activity, but I noted that the table was incorrect in the “Date” column. So to correct that, I have entered the proper dates, and also added in this week’s flight numbers. Again, as can be seen, these moths just don’t fly at temperatures below 70. So this week when temperatures were into the 70’s, moths were active. And, no more wrens.

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