Category Archives: Insects

EPA Requests Comments on Organophosphate Cancellation Petition

The EPA is soliciting public comment on a petition from several organizations to cancel remaining organophosphate (OP’s) insecticide registrations. OP’s are widely utilized in Tennessee row crop agriculture and are critical components of IPM programs. Cancelling an important crop protection product would place increased pressure on a limited number of control options available to producers.  We are encouraging agricultural professionals to comment to the EPA on the impacts OP’s have on your production systems. If you need assistance with comments please contact your UT extension specialist. The link to comment is below. Deadline for comments is August 11, 2022.

Organophosphate registrations



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Bollworm/Budworm Moth Trap Catches (8/5)

Weekly Moth Trap Data
Date: 8/5
Location Bollworm Tobacco Budworm
Hardeman (Bolivar) 1 1
Fayette (Whiteville) 10 0
Fayette (Somerville) 1 0
Shelby (Millington) 12 15
Tipton (Covington) 2 0
Tipton (North) 1 0
Lauderdale (Goldust) 40 20
Haywood (West) 6 0
Haywood (Brownsville) 0 0
Madison (WTREC) 50 2
Madison (North) 3 1
Crockett (Alamo) 0 0
Crockett (Maury City) 6 10
Dyer (Kings Rd) 35 1
Dyer (Newbern) 2 0
Lake (Ridgely) 19 15
Gibson (Kenton) 30 1
Gibson (Milan REC) 0 1
Carroll (Atwood) 23 2
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Bollworm/Budworm Moth Trap Catches (7/28)

Weekly Moth Trap Data
Date: 7/28
Location Bollworm Tobacco Budworm
Hardeman (Bolivar) 5 0
Fayette (Whiteville) 5 0
Fayette (Somerville) 0 0
Shelby (Millington) 9 0
Tipton (Covington) 0 0
Tipton (North) 0 0
Lauderdale (Goldust) 43 0
Haywood (West) 0 0
Haywood (Brownsville) 0 0
Madison (WTREC) 45 0
Madison (North) 0 0
Crockett (Alamo) 3 0
Crockett (Maury City) 2 3
Dyer (Kings Rd) 20 0
Dyer (Newbern) 0 1
Lake (Ridgely) 10 0
Gibson (Kenton) 19 0
Gibson (Milan REC) 5 0
Carroll (Atwood) 15 0
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Bollworm Trap Catches

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I’ve gotten a few phone calls inquiring about our bollworm moth trap catches and what the populations are doing. To date, we’ve only had one trap catch that was in the double digits and that was on the WTREC research station. Our trapping runs began in May and will continue through August across West TN.  We are still on the early side for bollworms to appear in cotton and once we begin to see consistent numbers across our catches, I’ll update our numbers on the blog. Keep a look out for eggs and kicking up moths as you scout cotton and soybeans. The drought situation and overall poor condition of corn may have an impact on the bollworm generation migrating out of corn, we’ll see the results of that in the coming weeks.

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Spider Mites Infesting Soybeans

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I’ve received a few calls about twospotted spider mite infestations in soybeans in West Tennessee. Spider mites usually are a minor issue in soybeans and  I’ve only seen two instances in 10 years that warranted treatments for mites in beans, both were in severe droughts. Spider mite infestations in soybeans, like cotton, often start from the edge of fields. Unlike cotton, infestations don’t result in reddening leaves but a gradual transition from green to light green to yellow to brown. In a normal year, soybeans have the ability to compensate for spider mite injury and most infestations often go unnoticed or mites never gain a foothold  due to ample rainfall, predators or entomopathogens that control them before they become a problem. In drought years, when alternative weed hosts have been killed with herbicides or desiccated by lack of water, soybeans become an attractive host for spider mites.

Spider Mite Hotspots in Soybeans (Photo byT. Baute)
Spider Mite Hotspots in Soybeans (Photo by T. Baute OMAFRA)

Mite populations, in soybeans, often reach very large numbers before they are discovered. This is, in part, due to people not looking and assuming that desiccated brown leaves are a bad spot in the field, charcoal rot or generally poor area that beans are struggling in. Under West Tennessee’s current conditions, brown/yellow patches of soybeans should be investigated for presence of mites and not just assumed its from drought. Thresholds for spider mites are not well established in soybean. Consider treatment when spider mites are present on the majority of plants and premature defoliation is occurring. The decision to treat mites in beans is often difficult but mites can absolutely defoliate infested plants and move on to others. Ignoring spider mites in beans, especially during a drought, can be a costly mistake.

Fortunately we have a few dedicated miticides that are now labelled for control of mites in beans, several years ago this what not the case.  Abamectin (Agri-Mek SC 0.7) at 1.75 fl oz/a and etoxazole (Zeal SC, Stifle SC) at 2.0 fl oz/a are both excellent products for spider mite control in beans. Etoxazole is mite growth regulator that will have significantly longer residual control than abamectin; however, a well timed application of abamectin is often enough to get mite populations under control in soybeans. If recurring  or severe populations become apparent, etoxazole may be the better choice.

Severe Spider Mite Infestation (Photo by MSU)
Severe Spider Mite Infestation (Photo by MSU)

Insects/arachnids do weird things during  severe drought. Major pests we always assume will be there don’t always appear and secondary pests we never see can sneak in and cause crop injury.  The take home is check your soybeans.  Don’t just assume that the brown patch by the tree line or yellowing is caused by a sand blow or the beans are just burning up.


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Insect Control Severely Drought Stressed Cotton

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Over the past few days, I’ve received several calls from growers and consultants at a crossroads about continuing to spend money on insect control in cotton. Much of the cotton in West Tennessee is not irrigated and the unseasonable dry growing conditions experienced since May have forced several fields into early cutout and halted growth. With rain chances as of 7/15/2022 continuing to be few and far between, what considerations should be made when spending money on insect control in severely drought stressed cotton?

Tarnished plant bugs are an insect that must be kept under control no matter the growing conditions. Stunted, poorly growing cotton is not as attractive to plant bugs as lush, rank cotton and numbers will often be lower in drought stressed cotton. Management styles at this point can go a couple of different ways: decrease your thresholds, increase your thresholds or keep the same established thresholds.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            UT’s established plant bug threshold is 3 bugs per drop or 15+ per 100 sweeps. In severely drought stressed cotton, those thresholds can be lowered to 2 plant bugs per drop or 10 per 100 sweeps. This approach assumes that the plant will be slow to set anymore fruit and what is on the plant needs to aggressively protected.  If we don’t receive any substantial rain, or you believe we won’t have time to set more fruit, this is an option that may best suit your farm.

Increasing your thresholds to 5 bugs per drop or roughly 20+ per 100 sweeps is another option. This approach should decrease the amount of applications thus decreasing the amount spent on insect control. This option may sacrifice some positions on the plant; however, money saved on the front end or bottom crop could be used to protect fruiting structures on the back end or top crop. This approach may also benefit growers if a cloudy, rain-soaked period sets in and cotton plants begin to shed squares that money was invested in to protect from plant bugs.

Keeping established thresholds essentially operates as status quo and may work best for irrigated or dry land cotton that is growing well and doesn’t require an adjustment for plant bug control.

In these situations, the use of tier 1 products such as Transform may not be warranted when Orthene can be utilized at a lower price point without sacrificing efficacy. Keep in mind that drought stressed cotton will be shorter and insecticide coverage will be better, which will help increase efficacy.  Beware, Orthene does carry a risk of flaring spider mites in hot, dry weather. Diamond is another option that will provide extended residual control of immature plant bugs that will easily pay for itself as plant bug numbers increase after bloom.

Spider mite control is a much more manageable when populations are caught early. Producers have several options at their disposal but it’s hard to beat a solid application of abamectin for the efficacy and affordability. We run into issues when repeated applications of low rates, < 6.0 fl oz/a of 0.15 EC or < 1.0 fl oz/a of 0.7 SC) create resistant populations. Abamectin has failed in the Midsouth, in previous years, and almost every failure was caused by repeated applications of low rates.  Abamectin rates of 10.0 fl oz/a or 2.0 fl oz/a cost roughly $6 per acre and should provide excellent control of spider mites. Another option is etoxazole (Zeal, Intervene etc.). While not as cheap as abamectin, etoxazole is a mite growth regulator that will provide extended residual control the surpasses abamectin. If mites are a recurring issue, I would highly recommend this option, appropriate rates of etoxazole run roughly $8 per acre.

So far, our bollworm moth trap numbers continue to be in the single digits across all of our trap locations in West TN but we are still a little ways out on peak moth flights. UT’s threshold for dual gene cottons (Bollgard 2) is 20% of plants have eggs present. This threshold, under drought stressed conditions, won’t change. Bollworm resistance to Cry proteins is present and increasing across much of the Midsouth and the egg threshold doesn’t give dual gene cottons an opportunity to fail. Triple gene cottons (Bollgard 3, Widestrike 3, Twinlink Plus) have a much more robust insect package that is centered on the Vip3a toxin that does most, if not all, of the heavy lifting in controlling bollworms. The threshold for 3 gene cotton is 4 or more larvae are present per 100 plants or 6% or more fruit injury is occurring. So far, the 3 gene cottons are holding up well in West TN; however, I have experienced break through infestations in triple gene cottons under severe drought stress. Bt expression is often negatively affected by environmental stressors and heavy worm infestations coupled with poorly expressing Bt cotton can equal unexpected damage. The takeaway here is scout your fields closely whether dual gene or triple gene. We still don’t need to spray on egg lay in triple gene cottons but if worms are surviving past a day or so in severely stressed 3 gene cotton, make an application. Diamides (Vantacor, Besiege, Elevest) are still the best options for worm control. Orthene plus a pyrethroid is an option but residual efficacy is limited to 5-7 days and the potential for worms to rebound is a real risk.

Insect number, crop condition and yield potential should dictate what insect control decisions are made for this crop. Growers and consultants should be realistic in terms of what is an acceptable expense on a cotton crop that may only yield a bale if weather conditions don’t improve. If we don’t receive any more rainfall in the coming weeks, the positions on the plant now may be the only lint that makes it into the basket. Finally, once your insecticide budget is exhausted, you may have to walk away.

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2022 UT Soybean Scout Schools

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UT’s Soybean Scout Schools will be held in July (see details below). These field-side programs cover the basics of soybean growth, scouting, pest identification, and general management. Pesticide recertification and CCA CEU points will be available. Scout Schools are offered free of charge with sponsorship from the Tennessee Soybean Promotion Board. Registration is not required. Participants will receive a scouting notebook and a sweep net while supplies last.

West TN – Madison County, July 11th, 9:00 AM – 11:30 AM. This school will be at the West TN Research and Education Center, 605 Airways Blvd. Jackson TN, 38301. Signs will be up at the station to direct you to the field.

West TN – Henry County, July 12th, 9:00 AM – 11:30 AM. This school will be at Norwood Farms, 645 Norwood Rd, Mansfield, TN.

Middle TN –  Lincoln County, July 13th, 9:30 AM – Noon. This school will be at H&R Agri-Power, 11 Highland Rim Road, Fayetteville, TN 37334.  Lunch will be provided courtesy of H&R Agri-Power. A head count is required for the meal,  please contact Bruce Steelman of the UT Lincoln County Extension Office at (office) 931-433-1582 or (cell) 615-542-1364 if you plan to attend.

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Spider Mite Numbers Increasing in Cotton

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I’ve received several phone calls about spider mites increasing in cotton around West Tennessee. Spider mites favor hot, dry weather and will often become an issue after plant bug applications are initiated. UT recommends treatment when 30-50% of plants are showing signs of injury and spider mites are still present.  This may be too aggressive under low stress conditions, but most of the crop is currently under substantial heat and drought stress. Treatment options are fairly limited and most are mite specific. Abamectin based products are typically the first option because they are economical and effective. There are a couple different formulations of abamectin that are different lb/ai per gallon products.  Below is a rate conversion of 0.15 lb ai/gallon formulations (Willowood Abamectin 0.15 EC, etc)  to 0.7 lb ai/gallon formulations (Agri-mek SC 0.7, Willowood 0.7 SC, etc).

5.0 fl oz/a = 1.0 fl oz/a

7.0 fl oz/a = 1.5 fl oz/a 

8.0 fl oz/a =1.75 fl oz/a

10.0 fl oz/a = 2.0 fl oz/a

Abamectin rates below 7.0 fl oz/a or 1.5 fl oz/a should be avoided due to potential resistance issues and the increased likely hood of retreatment.

Other mite products such as etoxazole (Zeal, Stifle) are mite growth regulators that work very well but are more expensive and somewhat slower than traditional miticides.  Fenpyroximate (Portal) is a contact miticide that has a shorter residual than abamectin or etoxazole but  works very well. Bifenthrin alone is not an adequate miticide and should be avoided.

Products used for controlling plant bugs, bollworms and stink bugs (OPs, pyrethroids) exacerbate mite populations and their use, especially during hot dry conditions, should be delayed until after bloom if possible. Mite populations can rebound quickly after miticide applications so diligent scouting is critical to slowing the spread of mites across a field.



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