Kansas State University


Extension Entomology

Tag: mating

Sorghum Update – (chinch bugs, corn leaf aphids, corn earworms)

–by Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Schwarting


Chinch bugs continue to be very active in both corn and sorghum throughout north central Kansas.  Both nymphs and adults are present.


Many adults are still mating, which indicates that there are more eggs, nymphs, and adults yet to come.  One consolation relative to the numerous chinch bugs in sorghum fields is that the four spotted egg eater, Collops quadrimaculatas, seems to be plentiful as well.  They have been collected in samples while sweep sampling alfalfa and are also present in sorghum fields.  These little beetles are predacious on insect eggs, and it has even been reported that they feed on chinch bug eggs.  Not sure they will be able to provide a great deal of control on chinch bug populations but it sure can’t hurt!


Corn leaf aphids are also very plentiful throughout north central Kansas.  These aphids usually feed on developing corn tassels and silks, but probably are more commonly associated with, or at least noticed in, whorl stage sorghum.  These aphid colonies sometimes produce enough honeydew, and it is so sticky, that often the sorghum head gets bound up in the whorl and therefore doesn’t extend up properly.  These colonies are not usually dense enough on a field-wide basis to justify and insecticide application.  These plentiful aphids are also serving as a food source for many predators, i.e. lady beetles, green lacewings, etc.



Corn earworms are still plentiful in corn but as they mature, pupate, and become adults they most likely will migrate to sorghum to feed on developing kernels (between flowering and soft dough), and soybeans where they will feed on developing beans within the pods.

For more information on sorghum and soybean pest management, please consult the KSU Sorghum Insect Management guide: https://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/mf742.pdf

And the KSU Soybean Insect Management Guide: https://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF743.pdf



Chinch Bugs

–by Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Schwarting


Chinch bugs are numerous and very active throughout north central Kansas, and have been for at least the last month.  The overwintering adults deposited eggs in wheat and oats, as far as our agricultural crops are concerned, and apparently the overwintering survival was relatively high because there have been huge numbers of chinch bugs migrating from these two crops.  Fortunately, most of the corn and sorghum have developed enough to be able to withstand relatively large numbers of chinch bugs as they suck plant nutrients.  Chinch bug populations sampled this past week consisted of 90% nymphs (both the very small reddish orange and larger gray nymphs, both of which have a transverse white stripe).



These nymphs, for the most part, are around the base of the plants feeding behind the leaf sheaths.  These bugs will feed and develop for approximately another couple of weeks, then mature into adults.  Mating and oviposition then will start another generation of chinch bugs that will continue to feed in corn and/or sorghum fields.  With good growing conditions, most of this feeding will go unnoticed and have little effect on yield.  However, if growing conditions deteriorate but bugs continue feeding, they can cause stalk lodging, which makes harvesting much more difficult.  Spraying for chinch bugs at this stage of crop development is usually not effective as most bugs are relatively inaccessible to insecticides at ground level behind leaf sheaths.


Iris Woes – Iris Borers

–by Dr. Bob Bauernfeind

I have been following Ward Upham’s weekly recordings of reported “pest concerns”. And occasionally, iris plants have been mentioned. Of course as an entomologist, my interest would be iris borers. Where-oh-where would I find iris borers? Well, I never have to look any further than the iris bed along the north side of my house. I have purposely allowed them free reign for the past several years —- and they haven’t failed me.

Iris borers are the caterpillars of iris borer moths. While described as being drab tan moths, they really are exquisitely patterned and colored —- at least if one really takes a close look. People rarely see the moths because during their short flight period in fall, they fly at night when mating and depositing overwintering eggs primarily on leaves, and especially at the base of the iris stalks.
As current-season leaves develop (A), newly hatched caterpillars/larvae climb up on the new foliage and create tiny pinholes (B) through which they enter leaves. By splitting leaves at those sites, larvae can be found (C).

1-Iris Borer Moth - jpg

Currently measuring about ¼- inch long, larvae will begin tunneling downwards toward the base of the plant.

2-Iris series - jpg

By late summer, caterpillars will measure up to 1½ -inches in length and leave the somewhat restricted confines of the leaf. They will bore into the iris rhizomes to complete their feeding phase, after which they leave the rhizome to enter the soil where they will pupate. This will bring us back full circle to the emergence and mating of moths in the fall and the subsequent deposition of overwintering eggs.

3-Rhizome - jpg

The consequences of iris borers are twofold: current-season foliage becomes discolored with tattering along leaf margins, and leaves dying. Also, the bases of the plants as well as their rhizomes become an oozing mushy smelly mess due to fecal contamination along with the action of bacterial soft rot organisms.
At this current point-in-time, plants can be inspected for leaves displaying the presence of iris borer caterpillars. Due to their current small size, they can be squashed by a person running their finger and thumb along the leaf. Or, that leaf may be cut off and disposed of. If larvae are allowed to continue feeding uninterrupted, the entire plant and possibly the rhizome can eventually be roughed out. This would need to be done before pupation in order to prevent the production of new moths/mating/egg production.