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Tag: pea aphids

Alfalfa Update

–by Dr. Jeff Whitworth, Dr. Holly Schwarting & JR Ewing

Alfalfa weevil larvae have been hatching throughout north central and south central Kansas for the last couple of weeks.  However, as of 9 March, there doesn’t seem to be much feeding or development yet (Photo1).  There are also a few of these tiny larvae that are dead (Photo2).  Because these larvae are so small and vulnerable it is difficult to determine the cause of death.  At least some of the mortality could be related to weather fluctuations that have reached mid 70’s for several days but also dropping into the mid to low 20’s some nights.

 

 

 

Most of these larvae are so small that they are well enclosed within the plant terminals to the point that they cannot be dislodged by shaking the stems into a bucket, as the most accurate sampling method specifies.  This can definitely cause you to underestimate larval populations.  Probably the easiest solution is to hold off sampling until the middle of next week, if the weather turns cooler as predicted.  There are a few more mature larvae present, along with adult weevils (Photos 3, 4). Adults will probably continue depositing eggs for a few more weeks, thus extending the period of larval hatching.

 

 

There are also a few pea aphids present.  Populations do not seem to be increasing now, and there are lady beetles and parasitoid wasps actively attacking these aphids.  Also, reports of cowpea aphids in south central Kansas bear watching.  These aphids are usually more numerous in warmer summer months.  They can add stress to plants by feeding, but they also produce copious quantities of honeydew which can become covered with sooty mold.  This may further stress alfalfa by interfering with photosynthesis, especially with small plants coming out of winter dormancy and experiencing dry conditions and fluctuating temperatures.

 

 

 

 

Alfalfa weevil status

–Jeff Whitworth, Extension Entomologist: Holly Schwarting, Entomology Research Assoc.; Steve Watson, Agronomy; Mary Knapp, Weather Data Library

Thanks to the unusually warm winter, alfalfa weevil larvae are already present in some areas. Many more will no doubt be hatching in the next few days to weeks. Alfalfa weevils will continue to hatch and larvae continue to develop any time temperatures exceed 48°F.

 

Thus, it looks like larvae will be emerging, and damage progressing, relatively quickly. Whether this warm weather will compress the alfalfa weevil larval feeding so that the period of damage is not as stretched out as usual remains to be seen. There are also lady beetles active in the alfalfa fields, as well as a few pea aphids. The treatment threshold we use for alfalfa weevil insecticide applications is 30-50% infestation, i.e. 1 larva/2-3 stems.

 

Alfalfa weevils are cool-weather insects. Adults lay eggs in alfalfa fields in the fall or even the winter. Most of these eggs survive the winter. Eggs hatch and larvae emerge after accumulating enough degree days or thermal units, normally in early spring. Alfalfa weevil adults also lay eggs in the spring, but in many cases the first larvae to emerge are from eggs that were laid in the fall and overwintered.

 

That said, an anomaly we encountered in the fall of 2016 was a significant infestation of relatively large (2nd and 3rd instar) larvae from mid-November to mid-December. Alfalfa weevils normally overwinter as eggs or adults – not larvae. In the last week we could find none of these more mature larvae, or any pupae. So, hopefully they perished in the colder weather.

Figure 1. Alfalfa weevil larvae collected Nov. 16, 2016 in Dickinson Co.

 

 

Figure 2. Alfalfa weevil larva collected Feb. 22, 2017 in Dickinson Co.

However, as of February 22 we did start finding newly hatched larvae in north central Kansas (Figure 2). Obviously the larvae hatching out now are coming from eggs deposited prior to Jan. 1, 2017. The return of below freezing temperatures may kill those very small, young larvae, especially if they stay in the plant terminals. But, they may survive if they crawl down the plant and get in the plant residue where they will be protected. So, scouting should continue as follows:

 

 

Early scouting for alfalfa weevil

 

Scouting for alfalfa weevil larvae should start after plants break dormancy – which means now. A degree day or thermal unit accumulation system can be used to predict when to initiate scouting. Insect development is controlled by temperature. This can be used to help manage these pests. Weevil activity has been tracked in Kansas for the past few years and has been used to generate recom­mendations (Table 1).

 

 

Table 1. Approximate degree days required for alfalfa weevil development

Degree Days or Thermal Units Stage Importance
25–300 Eggs develop and hatch In stems
301–450 1st and 2nd instars Leaf pinholing – start sampling
450–600 2nd and 3rd instars Defoliation
600–750 3rd and 4th instars Defoliation
750+ Pupa to adult Adults – some feeding – oversummering

 

To calculate a degree day, record the daily high tempera­ture anytime it exceeds 48ºF. For example, if there is only one day in January that the temperature exceeded 48ºF, take that temperature and add the lowest temperature for that day, or 48ºF, whichever is higher. Then divide by 2 to calculate the average tempera­ture for that day. Next, subtract 48ºF.

As an example, say there was one day in January when the high temperature was 60ºF and the low was 35ºF. You would use 48ºF as the default value for the low instead of 35ºF. The calculation in this case would be:

[(60 + 48)/2] – 48 = 54 – 48 = 6 degree days (or weevil development units)

 

The following chart from K-State’s Weather Data Library shows examples of the degree days that have accumulated for the period for Jan. 1 – Feb. 21, 2017 and for last fall:

 

 

Do not be too quick to treat for alfalfa weevil. Wait until the field reaches the treatment threshold. Treating too early is not only unnecessary, it can also have detrimental effects by killing beneficial insects.

 

For more details, see Alfalfa Weevils, K-State publication MF-2999, at your local county Extension office, or http://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF2999.pdf

 

 

Other early spring alfalfa insects

 

While scouting for alfalfa weevils, you will probably also notice a few pea aphids. These are also early season potential pests. However, in the past few years pea aphids have seemed to be adequately controlled by adult lady beetles. This year seems to be starting that way as well, with a few pea aphids, but also many adult lady beetles present.

Figure 3. Pea aphid on alfalfa leaf.

 

Also, producers need to keep an eye out for army cutworms as there were some reports of army cutworm activity last fall. Army cutworms start feeding again any time temperatures are above 50 degrees F. Armyworms are another potential problem, but probably a little later in the spring.

 

Those are the early season pests which have the most potential for damaging alfalfa prior to the first cutting. For more information on control, see K-State publication MF-809, Alfalfa Insect Management 2017, at: http://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF809.pdf

Alfalfa

–by Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Schwarting

Alfalfa pests are still causing concern among alfalfa producers.  In north central Kansas the alfalfa has yet to become dormant, at least as of 29 Nov.  Also, in these slowly growing fields the pea aphids seem to be doing very well and no beneficials, which might help to control them, were detected.  Also, alfalfa weevil larvae are still actively feeding on leaf tissue.  One potato leafhopper was also picked up in sweep net samples.  Hopefully, the colder winter weather will eliminate the pea aphids and alfalfa weevil larvae!

pea-aphid-29-nov

aw-29-nov

aw-single-29-nov

Alfalfa Update

— by Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Schwarting

Alfalfa in north central Kansas doesn’t seem to be in the overwintering mode yet.  It is still growing, albeit slowly.  But, the unusual situation this warmer-than-average fall weather has caused is with alfalfa weevils.  On 16 November, several alfalfa fields were sampled in north central KS and many adult alfalfa weevils were captured.  However, the unique situation was the sampling of many alfalfa weevil larvae. Some leaf feeding by these larvae was also evident. These insects are normally univoltine (one generation of alfalfa weevils/year).  The adults are moving, or have moved, back into the alfalfa fields by now and started laying eggs.  Eggs laid in the fall are not normally developed enough to hatch this time of year.  Late February is usually the earliest that alfalfa weevil eggs hatch.  After the coming cold front moves through and temperatures warm back up we will re-sample to determine how the cold temperatures impacted these larvae.

aw-adult-nov

 

aw-larvae-nov

Also, there are many pea aphids present which is not as unusual for this time of year.  Numerous lady beetles are also present but they do not seem to be feeding on either pea aphids or alfalfa weevil larvae.

pea-aphids_aw-feeding

Alfalfa Update

–Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Schwarting

Much of the alfalfa in northcentral Kansas that could be swathed has been in the last week.  The cool damp weather has kept the adult alfalfa weevils in the fields.  They are congregated under windrows in the cut fields where they do a little feeding on the stems, resulting in characteristic spots of epidermis removal, called ‘barking’.  As these windrows are picked up there will be the characteristic striping across the fields where the windrows held back the regrowth underneath, plus provided the weevils with a protected site to continue feeding.  Fields not yet swathed also have significant populations of adults but this should not impact the foliage prior to cutting.

AW adult and barking

Windrows

Pea aphids are also present in both cut and uncut fields, but lady beetles and green lacewings are also, so would not expect pea aphid populations to have a negative impact on alfalfa.

Pea aphids adult and nymph

greenlacewing

pinkspotted lady beetle

Sevenspotted lady beetle

Potato leafhopper adults are already present in all alfalfa fields we checked over the past week.  This is earlier than usual for these pests as they typically don’t migrate into the state for another month, between the 2nd and 3rd cutting.  Some of these populations already exceed the treatment threshold with just adults, so hatching nymphs will just increase the populations further.  These potato leafhopper populations need to be monitored throughout the rest of the growing season.

PLH adult and nymph

Alfalfa – Pest Update

–by Dr. Jeff Whitworth, Dr. Holly Schwarting & J.R. Ewing

Cool, wet weather continues to dominate the state. This has allowed the alfalfa weevil adults to remain in the alfalfa fields. As they remain in fields they are feeding in/on terminals and the new foliage. However, they don’t feed anywhere near as much as the larvae, plus there aren’t near as many so, the feeding really is negligible. However, they do cause concern and their feeding on the new foliage and “barking” of the stems can slow regrowth if they remain in fields. Swathing alone will not eliminate the adults if the weather continues to be only in the 80’s for daytime highs.

 

AW adult barking

The first potato leafhoppers of the summer were detected in north central Kansas on 19 May. This is a little earlier than usual but fits right in with the unusualness of this spring.

Pea aphid populations have been steadily increasing the past couple of weeks. However, sampling some of the same alfalfa fields on 19 May indicated the aphid populations have reduced relatively dramatically. There are many larval and adult lady beetles in these fields and they can even be readily observed feeding on the aphids. So, these beneficials really seem to be helping with aphid control.

lady beetle larvae w aphid

Alfalfa Update

Wet weather has kept equipment out of the fields and has allowed the insects to flourish.  Fortunately, the plants are also doing well and tolerating these healthy populations of pests.  When these fields dry out and are able to be swathed, there will probably be relatively significant populations of alfalfa weevil larvae and adults still present.  They are accumulated into the windrows at cutting; they will feed on the stems under the windrows until the hay is picked up.  This causes the characteristic stripping in the fields where the regrowth under the windrows is chewed off while the areas beside the windrows grow back.  Once the hay is removed, the adult weevils will exit the fields and no longer be a problem.  Weevil larvae in north central Kansas on 7 May were 93% 3rd instar, and 7% 1st or 2nd instar.  There are many pupae and adults also.

weevil

weevil2

There are significant populations of aphids, mainly pea, in these central Kanas alfalfa fields as well.  Swathing will remove this problem, but there are many beneficial insects helping to regulate these aphids, and hopefully they will stay around after swathing to help manage any other aphids and/or potato leafhoppers that may show up (no leafhoppers detected yet).

aphidlacewing 2

Picture1lacewing

Some small grasshoppers were also noted.  Usually, grasshoppers do better in drier conditions, but not always.  So be aware that grasshoppers are present now and eggs will continue to hatch for the next month.

grasshoppergrasshopper2

—Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Schwarting

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