Scouting for Aphids in Small Grains

Phillip Sylvester, Kent Co., Ag Agent;, Bill Cissel, Extension Agent – Integrated Pest Management; and David Owens, Extension Entomologist,

Invariably I get asked, “What do you do this time of year?” or “Are the bugs dead yet?” The answers last week would’ve been: counting aphids in small grain plots, and not quite. Aphid populations coming out of winter are pretty low in research plots at Carvel in Georgetown, DE and at the Wye in Queenstown, MD. This is consistent with reports coming from other folks in the field. It may be tempting to tank-mix a pyrethroid with the initial nitrogen application for small grains in the next few weeks (assuming things dry out), but in the vast majority of cases, you will help your bottom line by leaving out an early insecticide. These low aphid populations also serve as important food for beneficial insects, and an insecticide will take them out, releasing spring migrants from predation. In fact, there are only two situations where we are concerned with the physical feeding injury caused by aphids, 1) infestations of Greenbug aphids and 2) English grain aphids feeding on small grain heads. However, aphids are important because of the role they play as vectors of Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV). At this point in the growing season, an insecticide application may be warranted if you find ten or more aphids per row-foot. Remember, you may hit a small colony in one sample that has 10 or 15, but then go several samples without any. The only way to know how many and what species of aphid you have in your field is to scout it.

Read this fact sheet for more information about Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus:

Click here for a photo library of common aphid species in DE:

Click here for a photo library of Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus Symptoms:

Guess the Pest! Week #6 Answer: True Armyworm

Bill Cissel, Extension Agent – Integrated Pest Management;

Congratulations to John Swaine, III for correctly identifying the moths as true armyworms and for being selected to be entered into the end of season raffle for $100 not once but five times. Everyone else who guessed correctly will also have their name entered into the raffle. Click on the Guess the Pest logo to participate in this week’s Guess the Pest challenge!

Guess the Pest Week #6 Answers: True Armyworm
By Bill Cissel, Extension Agent, IPM and David Owens, Extension Entomologist

The correct answer to this past week’s Guess the Pest is True Armyworm (TAW). Adult TAW moths do not cause any direct injury to small grains; however, they can be seen in your fields making sure there is another generation. True armyworm (TAW) larvae damage small grains by clipping flag leaves and small grain heads. It is important to be able to accurately identify true armyworms because there is another “worm” that is also considered a pest of small grains, the grass sawfly. The grass sawfly is in the Order Hymenoptera, meaning it is more closely related to bees and wasps than moths, which are in the Order Lepidoptera. Even though grass sawflies cause similar damage to small grains, management differs between these two species of insects.

There are several reasons why it is important to be able to distinguish between grass sawflies and true armyworms:

1) Grass sawflies are more damaging than true armyworms because they prefer to feed on small grain stems as opposed to true armyworms that typically will feed on leaves before clipping heads. Also, grass sawfly damage usually occurs before the peak of armyworm damage.

2) The threshold for grass sawflies (wheat and barley – 0.4 linear ft of row) is lower than the threshold for true armyworms (barley – 1 per linear ft of row/ wheat-1- 2 –per linear ft of row).

3) Not all products that are labeled for true armyworm control will provide control of grass sawflies.

4) Insecticide rates also differ between the two species for some products.

There are several features that can be used to distinguish grass sawflies from true armyworm.

Grass sawflies larvae are active during the day and can often be found on the plants so “shaking” plants to dislodge larvae is necessary when sampling. They can be identified by their green color, large amber head, and 5-7 pairs of fleshy prolegs legs. Counting the number of prolegs is the most reliable way to determine if the “worm” is a grass sawfly or true armyworm.

Grass Sawfly Larva

True armyworms are active at night and can often be found curled around the base of plants or under crop residue during the day. Larvae have four pairs of fleshy abdominal prolegs not including the pair of legs at the very end of the abdomen. There also appears to be a large gap between the 3 pairs of true legs and the start of the fleshy prolegs.

True Armyworm Larva

If your field is at threshold for grass sawflies or armyworms, there are several things to keep in when selecting which product to apply. Is the insecticide labeled for the correct pest, i.e. if you have grass sawflies, make sure you are using a product labeled for grass sawfly control? What is the days to harvest restriction (this varies among products)? Is the insecticide labeled for the crop (not all products are labeled for all small grains)?

Here is a link with sampling guidelines, thresholds, and insecticide recommendations for true armyworm and grass sawfly:

Insecticide Recommendations Updated for the 2018 Season, AGAIN

Bill Cissel, Extension Agent – Integrated Pest Management;; David Owens, Extension Entomologist,

It never fails. The second you share the link to the insecticide recommendations, you realize the recs need to be updated which ultimately breaks the link. To help solve this, we have created crop specific “pages” where sampling guidelines, action thresholds, fact sheets and insecticide recommendations can be found in one place. If you book mark this page, you can easily access the insecticide recommendations and other scouting guidelines. This will also allow us to update the insecticide recommendations as needed without having to continually share a new link. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused and hopefully the creation of these new “crop specific” pages will solve this problem in the future.

Field Corn Insect Management:

Small Grain Insect Management:

Alfalfa Insect Management:

Soybean Insect Management:

Insecticide Recommendations Updated for the 2018 Growing Season

Bill Cissel, Extension Agent – Integrated Pest Management; and David Owens, Extension Entomologist,

Below are links to our Insecticide Recommendations updated for the 2018 season.

Alfalfa Insecticide Recommendations:

Field Corn Insecticide Recommendations:

Soybean Insecticide Recommendations:

Small Grain Insecticide Recommendations:

The label is the law. Be sure to read the label for use rates, correct placement, days before harvest after application, and other restrictions.

Small Grain Insect Update

David Owens, Extension Entomologist,

The cold March weather has kept insect activity in small grains to a minimum. Aphids are very difficult to find and are almost all English grain aphids. Winter grain mite, though present in some fields, rarely causes issues, and only in dry, stressful years. Kentucky has also been seeing very low insect pressure and Kentucky Pest News has an excellent post on insect control and automatic insecticides, which you can find here: