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Caterpillars Threaten Southern Crops

07:59AM May 09, 2012

In this weekly Pest Watch update, learn why southern growers should keep a close eye on their crops in the coming weeks.

fall armyworm late instar MER copy
The fall armyworm can grow to about 1½" long and can be identified by an inverted white "Y" on its head. These caterpillars can pose a major threat to young soybean plants.

Based on the number of moths that have been sighted recently, farmers in the South may be calling 2012 the year of the caterpillar.

An unseasonably warm spring in the region has sparked a chain reaction that has led to some major caterpillar outbreaks in crops. Gus Lorenz, University of Arkansas Extension entomologist, says the warmer temperatures have allowed weeds to flourish—weeds that play host to numerous damaging crop pests.

"The pest situation is about a month ahead of schedule from where it usually is this time of year," Lorenz says, adding that many insects may produce an extra generation this growing season.

He says that during scouting trips, he and his team have found unusually high numbers of armyworms, fall armyworms and bollworms. These pests can damage wheat, corn and cotton crops, but are a particular threat to the region's soybean crop, which is in the seedling to V3 stages right now.

Listen in as Lorenz describes the pest situation in Arkansas, and offers scouting and management tips:

Scout Early, Scout Now

Lorenz urges growers to get out in the fields and scout for these pests immediately.

"Don't think that seedling soybeans are safe from damage, particularly from these kinds of caterpillar pests," he says. "They can actually cause 100% defoliation."

Armyworms and fall armyworms are primarily leaf feeders, but can also damage stems in young soybeans and clip heads in wheat. Bollworms mainly cause damage to cotton squares and bolls, but can also migrate to corn and seedling soybeans.

Check the AgWeb Online Field Guide to find economic thresholds for these pests.


More information:

View: Arkansas Scouting Guide

Read: Warm Winter Calls for Earlier Pest Scouting