Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Wireworms: a threat to stand establishment in the High Plains cotton

 As we approach the planting season, one of the first groups of insects that we need to start thinking about are wireworms. Wireworm issues are on the rise with increased adoption of conservation tillage practices and potentially the reduced use of aldicarb, a broad-spectrum insecticide over the last decade or so. Although cotton is not a preferred host for wireworms, they still can inflict serious damage to cotton seedlings especially in fields following grain crops.

What are wireworms?

Fig. 1. Click beetle (photo: Mike Quinn)
There are two types of wireworms. True wireworms are larvae of click beetles (Fig. 1) (Family: Elateridae), while false wireworms are larvae of darkling beetles (Fig. 2) from the Tenebrionidae family. Adults are highly variable in size and shape from species to species. Larvae (Fig. 3) in general look alike and are difficult to distinguish. They are smooth skinned, elongated, cylindrical, and up to 1¼ inches long. They are creamy white to yellow or light brown. Their heads are typically darker, and they have small true legs clustered near the head.

Wireworms (photo: Pat Porter)

Darkling beetle (photo: Mike Quinn)

What is the nature of wireworm injury/damage?

The larvae damage cotton by feeding on the root, hypocotyl (stem of the germinating seedling), and cotyledon (seed leaves) of emerging plants (Fig. 4). Root feeding can kill plants but usually results in stunting. The most severe damage occurs when the hypocotyl is severed, killing the plant, and reducing the stand. The larvae also feed on the growing point of the plant, slowing the growth of the main stem.

Wireworm injury to cotton seedlings (photo: Pat Porter)

 Are certain fields at higher risk of wireworm injury?

In general, fields with continuous vegetation cover allow more wireworms to survive if they are present or the field has history of wireworms. Wireworm attacks on cotton tend to be most severe when the cotton is planted following grain crops (especially sorghum), weedy ground, or in reduced-tillage systems.

 Does cultural practices such as crop rotation help?

Soil tillage in late spring and late summer when larvae or eggs are in the upper soil layers to enhance their death by desiccation, mechanical injuries or predator exposure can help reducing the wireworm load. Crop rotation is ineffective due to a much longer life cycle (2-8 years depending on species) and broad host range.

How to monitor wireworms and is there an established threshold?

Wireworms are difficult to monitor as larvae are strictly soil-dwellers and not seen unless removed from the soil. After planting, inspect emerging plants for any visible chewing damage to roots and stem and monitor the plant stand. There are no rescue treatments for wireworms, but regular field scouting will help make timely re-plant decisions based on the extent of stand loss and the size of skips.

Bait trapping a few weeks prior to planting can help monitor wireworms. Although the results of this technique have been inconsistent, it can help detect the presence of wireworms. To do this, dig several holes the size of a softball and fill them with soaked wheat or oats. Cover the hole with soil and examine the baited holes after about a week to determine if wireworms are present.

 What are the management options for wireworms?

There are no rescue treatments. Foliar insecticides targeted at adults are rarely needed. However, if adults are present in large numbers, causing evident plant clipping and probable unacceptable stand reduction, foliar insecticide application can be made. Treat wireworm larvae preventively. Insecticide (e.g. imidacloprid, thiamethoxam) seed and at-plant treatments are the most effective means of minimizing wireworm damage.

 Where to look for more info on wireworms?

Checkout our fact sheet on wireworms

Short video on wireworms

Assessing wireworm damage


Monday, February 13, 2023

The 2023 Version of the Handy Bt Trait Table for Corn is Posted

The new and revised 2023 version of the Handy Bt Trait Table for US Corn Production has been posted. Two of the seed companies are changing the names of their product lines this year, and the table now includes the new and old names. We chose to continue listing the older Bt products that have been removed from the market, in part so people can go back to older planting records, seed guides and research results. 

More hybrids from different companies now have the RNAi product dvSnf7 added to rootworm Bt corn, and this is reflected in the table. We have expanded the herbicide tolerance column to reflect the new Enlist technology.

Expansion of the table meant that we had to go to two pages to list everything, but the good news is that the font is larger!

Pat Porter

Friday, February 10, 2023

Managing insects in ThryvOn cotton

 Suhas Vyavhare and David Kerns

We have had a few inquiries around ThryvOn technology in cotton which has recently been fully commercialized in the US.

What is ThryvOn?

ThryvOn is a genetically engineered cotton expressing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), toxin mCry51a2. This protein has insecticidal activity (mostly deterrence/repellency) against thrips and plant bugs. Cry51 has an excellent activity on thrips. Field research indicates that ThryvOn cotton will not need insecticidal seed treatment (e.g., imidacloprid) or a foliar insecticide application for thrips in cotton. We do find adult and immature thrips in ThryvOn cotton but significantly fewer than the non-ThryvOn and with little or no injury to seedlings.

What would be the recommendation for thrips control in ThryvOn cotton?

We do not recommend insecticide treatment for thrips in ThryvOn cotton. Seed treatment (imidacloprid) will be optional when purchasing seed in West Texas but not in the East region where ThryvOn is packaged with insecticidal seed treatment. Contact your seed rep for more info on seed availability and seed treatment options.

How good is it on Lygus bug?

Not as dramatic as it is on thrips. There seems to be little or no activity on adults, but overall, there would be fewer and relatively smaller nymphs in ThryvOn cotton compared to the non-ThryvOn. Plant bug populations develop relatively slower in ThryvOn cotton which will provide some flexibility in terms of crop management (e.g., product choice, application timing) but will not necessarily eliminate the need for foliar application. Until we have a better understanding on ThryvOn on plant bugs, we are recommending following the current action threshold for plant bugs in both ThryvOn and non-ThryvOn cotton. Plant bug thresholds are based on combination of insect numbers and the level of fruit retention.

Does it have any activity on cotton fleahopper?

Cotton fleahopper will not be included on the ThryvOn label as a target pest. However, bioassays conducted by Bayer suggest mCry51Aa2 has activity on cotton fleahopper. Research conducted by Dr. David Kerns at Texas A&M indicates that ThryvOn cotton exhibits some activity on cotton fleahopper under field conditions and in cage studies, and slightly reduces the number of large nymph survival. However, these effects will most likely not prevent the need for foliar insecticide applications. Although cotton fleahopper numbers may not vary much between ThryvOn and non-ThryvOn cotton, ThryvOn cotton has consistently shown better square retention than non-ThryvOn at varying levels of cotton fleahopper infestation. Similar to Lygus bugs, we are recommending treating cotton fleahoppers in ThryvOn cotton using our current action threshold.

Does this technology have any impact on beneficial insect populations?

Considering the relatively broad-spectrum activity of mCry51Aa2 compared to the older Bt proteins in cotton, this is a concern among several. We have not noticed any negative impact on the beneficial populations that will affect the natural control at field level. Research conducted by Bayer indicated that mCry51Aa2 is unlikely to pose much risk to a number of beneficial insects in cotton including lady beetles, lacewings, minute pirate bugs, big-eyed bugs, damsel bugs and assassin bugs. Thus, we anticipate any impact on beneficial insects will be little to none.

In summary, ThryvOn is yet another tool in the toolbox that will further improve insect pest management in cotton. It will reduce the insecticide applications targeted at thrips and maybe to some extent against plant bugs. Regular field scouting, however, still remains critical to monitor plant bugs and other insects to make timely management decisions.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Managing late-season insects in cotton

 As we approach the end of August, one question that has been received lately more often than any other is at what stage do I stop worrying about insects in cotton?  

The major insect activity that I am noticing in South Plains cotton at this stage is around lygus bug and stink bug.  

Stink bugs, on the other hand, will have to be scouted for a bit longer. Although they favor medium-sized bolls, they can feed on any size bolls. Stink bugs may feed on bolls 25 or more days old; bolls of this maturity are relatively safe from yield loss. In larger bolls, stink bug feeding often results in dark spots about 1/16 inch in diameter on the outside of bolls. These dark spots do not always correlate well with the internal damage—callus growths or warts. Once the cotton reaches 450 DD60 beyond 5NAWF, sampling and treating for stink bugs may no longer be necessary since bolls produced after this point will not become fully mature or contribute significantly to the crop yield. Now, it is possible that this value may shift slightly due to factors such as boll shedding, variety, irrigation, presence of pathogens (e.g., boll rot).  Action threshold for stink bugs is based on percentage of bolls with internal injury. For instance, the stink bug threshold during 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th week of bloom is 10% 20%, 30%, and 50% internal boll damage (lint staining, boll warts), respectively.

Link to updated cotton insects guide: https://lubbock.tamu.edu/files/2022/07/managing-cotton-insects-in-texas.pdf

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Update on the Mozena leaf-footed bug in Texas High Plains cotton

 Suhas Vyavhare and Kerry Siders

Leaf-footed bug, Mozena obtusa (fig. 1) is being spotted on a variety of plants across the Texas High Plains. We have gotten a few inquiries about how damaging this insect is to cotton and what insecticides would be most effective. In cotton, we have spotted this insect in multiple counties across the South Plains region. The numbers remain very low in all the fields where we have seen it except one field in Hockley County where it was found to infest cotton in large numbers (15-20 immatures/plant). In this particular field, insects appeared to be moving from the adjacent fallow field with mesquite trees which are preferred host of Mozena bug. Even the immature stages of this insect are quite agile and can travel some distance in search of new hosts. Fig. 2 shows results from the insecticide efficacy trial being conducted near Sundown, TX. Data collected at 3 and 7 days after treatment application indicate pyrethroids to be the most effective insecticides. We are also collecting data on the impact of Mozena bug on square retention in cotton. Thus far, we have not observed any square loss that can be attributed to this insect. Overall, square retention across the trial area remains over 90%.

Fig. 1. Mozena obtusa adult and nymphs
We are beginning to notice a few egg masses and small immatures on cotton plant indicating its suitability as a host for Mozena bug. With the absence and/or reduction in the availability of preferred hosts such as mesquite and other legumes, this leaf-footed bug can become an issue in cotton. Leaf-footed bugs in general prefer to feed on fruits and seeds and therefore their populations need to be monitored closely as our crop enters the boll development phase.  I would treat them more like stink bugs which feed in the similar manner with their piercing and sucking mouth parts and are mainly boll feeders in cotton. When scouting fields monitor both insect population density and the extent of damage to the crop (fruit retention, external and internal boll injury) and base the treatment decisions accordingly.

Here is a link to our recently updated cotton insect management guide: https://lubbock.tamu.edu/files/2022/07/managing-cotton-insects-in-texas.pdf


Fig. 2. Insecticide efficacy against leaf-footed bug, Mozena obtusa in Texas South Plains cotton. Means showing the same letter are not significantly different [Tukey’s HSD; P = 0.4226 (3 days after treatment (DAT)); 0.0302 (7 DAT)].

*Insecticide products were evaluated for research purpose only. When using an insecticide read and follow label directions for safety precautions, rates and preharvest intervals.



Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Highest Fall Armyworm Numbers in 12 Years of Trapping

The title of the article pretty much says it all; for the week ending today on June 22 I caught 1,242 fall armyworm moths per trap at Lubbock. The prior record, 912, was set in 2021 when FAW caused extensive damage as far as the upper Midwest. 

Thanks to some genetic work done by Ashley Tessnow, a post-doctoral researcher at Texas A&M, we know the vast majority of May moths were "corn strain" fall armyworms. However, she found that our summer flight might be as much as 35% "rice strain" mixed in.  This is not to say the majority of moths from this week won't go to sorghum or pasture grasses, for they surely will - the host preference between strains is not that strong. 

The bottom line is that any of our crops that are susceptible to fall armyworm should be scouted. Our Bt corn will provide good control of these larvae on whorl stage plants. However, sorghum, especially small sorghum, is at significant risk, as are any of the other host crops including vegetables. 

In looking back on my 12 years of data it is apparent that FAW numbers have increased on average over the years. I don't have an explanation for this, but I know what I am seeing. I am using the same pheromone lure year after year, and the traps are in the same place, so I think it is fair to say that increasing fall armyworm is a real phenomenon. 


Saturday, April 30, 2022

Insect pest guesses for this strange growing season

As we begin this growing season where most of us have not had appreciable rain in over 200 days, it might be useful to review what things look like on the pest insect front. Of course there is no way to know what will happen and I don’t have a crystal ball. Here is what it looks like through the bottom of a Dr. Pepper bottle. 


Our winter was fairly mild, so we did not get high insect mortality from deep and sudden cold. Winter insect kill is greater when there is rain or melted snow and we had neither. Both things taken together mean that more insects successfully overwintered than in a “normal” year (whatever that is).

Early season host plants

Entomologists think in terms of early season “non-crop host plants”, meaning anything in the system that can support pests until the crop hosts become available. A common example would be tansy mustard that serves as an excellent false chinch bug host. Years with rain and lots of tansy mustard almost always mean we will have more false chinch bugs. Of course the lack of rain has meant a lack of early season hosts, so many of the insects emerging from overwintering will have little to no food. Populations of pests that overwinter here will start the growing season at lower overall levels than in wetter years. 

Fewer insects but fewer crop acres

Starting at lower pest levels is good, but fewer crop acres mean mobile insects will concentrate on those acres. If we cut the number of restaurants in Lubbock by 1/3, then those restaurants still in business would have around 1/3 more customers. Most overwintered insects that find themselves with no food or poor food host plants will leave, either by using their wings or catching a ride on the wind. They are able to detect healthy plants either by color or odor or both, so they will navigate to healthy crops. 

Immigrant pests

Crop conditions in the southern part of Texas are not as bad as ours here, so it is reasonable to expect a somewhat typical northern movement of cotton bollworm (corn earworm), fall armyworm and other migrants. These too will seek out, and concentrate on, the reduced number of healthy crop acres. Moth eggs are fairly susceptible to drying out and dying before they hatch, so high temperatures with low humidities will reduce the next generation to some extent. Those same conditions will affect the health of their crop hosts, especially dryland crops, which might in turn also mean less survival of their larvae. We can expect higher concentrations of migrant pests on our reduced acres, but how well their offspring survive is a tossup. 

Biological control

Most of our beneficial insects overwinter here and build up on our pests slowly at first, then faster as we get more pests. Given that we are starting with fewer pests, it is likely that our beneficial insects will get a much slower start this year. There will be fewer of them around to deal with any large influx of immigrant pests arriving from the south. 


Insects have many ways to survive hard times, and some of them are really good at it. When one species is heavily favored by some climate/host plant condition, it is common that other species that would normally compete with the favored species will be at a big disadvantage. Any insect that is wildly successful on the few weeds and non-crop vegetation that we have in our system can be expected to be at higher levels this year than in a “normal” year. 

Future years

What is happening now will likely affect our insect situation in future years. A good example might be Mozena obtusa, one of those wildcard pests. This big true bug hit us hard in 2013, but in fact its populations started building up in the drought of 2011. Mozena thrives on mesquite, which, all things considered, was not as heavily affected by the drought. Mozena has tough skin and is relatively free from biological control agents, so it got way ahead in 2011, those populations kept getting bigger and bigger on mesquite in 2012, and then they overflowed to our crops in 2013.  

That is what things look like through the bottom of a Dr. Pepper bottle. Field scouting will be very important this year; our overwintered pests might concentrate on the healthy crop acres, and the immigrant pests might be worse than normal.