Corn Earworms Showing Up in Soybeans

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I’ve received a few calls this week on corn earworms (bollworm/podworm) showing up in fields across Tennessee.  UT’s threshold for earworms, in beans, is based on sweep net sampling, crop value and control costs. The table below outlines the threshold based on the above factors.

Corn Earworm Threshold in Soybeans
Corn Earworm Threshold in Soybeans

Crop value is on the left-hand side, control costs are the 3rd row from the top and numbers beneath control costs are earworm numbers per 25 sweeps. The spot price of beans for (8/31) is $13.75 and control costs can vary from $10 to $16, depending on product choice, so the threshold in 25 sweeps would be 5 to 6 earworms per 25 sweeps. As crop price and control cost changes so does the number of earworms in our threshold.

Moths are typically attracted to later planted, more open canopy fields. However, earworms can be found in any stage beans. Insecticide choice depends on a few factors. If earworms are at or near threshold, acephate (0.75 lb/a) plus a pyrethroid is a cheaper option that provides acceptable control. This option runs the risk of flaring other pests (loopers, mites) and fields need to be rechecked 4-5 days after application to makes sure adequate control was achieved. If worms are above threshold safer choices would be Vantacor (1.2 fl oz), Elevest (5.0 fl oz), Besiege (7.0 fl oz), Intrepid Edge (4.0 fl oz) or Blackhawk (2.0 oz). The diamides (Vantacor, Besiege, Elevest) will have the longest residual control but many earworm issues in TN beans are solved after one application.

Another, more nonconvention option is Heligen (1.0 – 1.5 fl oz). Heligen is earworm specific and doesn’t have a fit on every acre. Applications should be initiated on small larvae at half a threshold (typically 2 – 4 larvae in 25 sweeps). Heligen is a virus that spreads throughout the field via infected larvae and requires some patience and knowledge of infection symptomology.

One final note, this product should almost be looked at as a preventative not a curative product. However, worms have to be in the field for the virus to infect the target and replicate causing an epizootic.  Large populations of earworms, at or above threshold, need a conventional insecticide.

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