Insect monitoring in soybean: what to look for during pod fill

At this point in the season, most of our insect monitoring efforts are focused on soybean. There are several pests that can damage soybean during pod fill, and proper scouting is necessary to identify and, occasionally, control these insects. While not an exhaustive list, these are some of the insects and insect relatives to be on the lookout for as the growing season winds down.

Stink bugs. Stink bug (Fig. 1) feeding during pod fill (particularly R5- R6) can reduce soybean yield and quality. These insects feed directly on the developing seeds, resulting in wrinkling, shriveling, and discoloration in addition to reductions in yield. This damage can be compounded by pathogens and weather; note also that pathogen and weather-related quality issues can sometimes be confused for stink bug damage. Unfortunately, many fields in Illinois are not thoroughly scouted for insects during pod fill, and infestations sometimes go unnoticed until the crop is graded at the elevator.

Image of brown marmorated stink bug adult in soybean

Fig. 1. While not the most common stink bug in soybean, the invasive brown marmorated stink bug has been found more frequently in Illinois over the last several years.

Image of sweep net sampling in soybean

Fig. 2. Using a sweep net to sample insects in soybean

The most effective way to scout for these insects is with a sweep net (my personal favorite) or a drop cloth. (Both of these methods are also effective for many other soybean pests). A sweep net (Fig. 2) is swung through the canopy perpendicular to the rows a set number of times (usually 25 “sweeps” per sample). With a drop cloth, a small section of row (usually 3 feet) is shaken vigorously over a cloth, and the insects that are dislodged from the soybean canopy are counted. An insecticide application is warranted if you meet or exceed the economic threshold, which is 9 per 25 sweeps with a sweep net or 1 per row foot using a drop cloth. Note that the window of residual activity provided by insecticides for stink bug control is short (generally < 1 week); therefore, preventative applications targeted to a certain growth stage are unlikely to be effective. The most effective applications are those that are made only when (and if) a damaging population occurs –a rare event in Illinois.

Spider mites. Unfortunately, we have struggled with drought stress in parts of Illinois in recent weeks. While not a problem every year (and not an insect), spider mites often become an issue when soybeans are drought stressed. Spider mite feeding causes yellow to brown discoloration of soybean foliage (Fig. 3), and can result in severe stress to the plant. The infestations often (but not always) begin at field edges. Closely examining infested foliage will reveal the mites and the webbing that they produce. Shaking the mites onto a white piece of paper and/or using a hand lens might be necessary, as they are quite small.

Image of spider mite damage in a field with close-up

Fig. 3. Soybean foliage discolored from spider mite damage; inset shows a close-up of the underside of a damaged leaf, which has a “sandblasted” appearance.

Dectes stem borer. This insect caused some unexpected damage in southern Illinois in 2018. The stem borer larva feeds on the pith inside the soybean stem. As the plant matures, the larvae can girdle stems which leads to lodging, especially in situations where harvest is delayed. While we do not have an economic threshold for this insect (or a reliable way to control the larvae with insecticides), infested fields can be identified and, where possible, prioritized for earlier harvest to reduce their potential for lodging. Adult dectes stem borers are gray, long horned beetles that can be found using a sweep net or drop cloth. The first sign of infestation by the larvae is usually “flagging” of petioles in which a dectes larva has been feeding (Fig. 4). The larvae themselves can be observed by slicing the stem in half (Fig. 5).

Image of damage to soybean petiole from dectes stem borer

Fig. 4. “Flagging” of a dying petiole that has been fed on by a dectes stem borer larva (image: Scott Stewart, University of Tennessee).

Image of dectes stem borer larva inside of a soybean stem

Fig. 5. A dectes stem borer larva inside of a soybean stem.

Bean leaf beetle. Bean leaf beetle adults (Fig. 6) tend to be both the first and the last defoliating pest to enter soybean fields. As with other defoliating insects, the decision of whether or not to treat should be made based on (1) the level of defoliation in the field (the economic threshold post-bloom in Illinois is 20% defoliation) and (2) the continued presence of the pest within the field. Estimate the overall percent defoliation by collecting individual leaflets throughout the field. There are now several smarphone apps available that can help you to “calibrate” your defoliation estimation skills (e.g., BioLeaf Foliar Analysis for Android) (Fig. 7).

Image of a bean leaf beetle adult

Fig. 6. A bean leaf beetle feeding on seedling soybean foliage.

Image of defoliated soybean leaf

Fig. 7. A partially defoliated soybean leaflet measured by a smartphone app; approximately 25% of the leaf area has been removed by insect feeding.

As always, if you have any questions or are seeing anything unusual in the field, don’t hesitate to contact me. Happy scouting!

Author contact:

Nick Seiter | nseiter@illinois.edu | 217.300.7199


Scouting for Early Season Pests in Corn and Soybean After a Late Start

It goes without saying that this spring has been a challenge. With extreme planting delays throughout the state, crop development is well behind normal expectations, while insect pest populations have continued to progress. In addition, the tight schedule we have faced has forced planting into less than ideal conditions in terms of both soil moisture and weed control, which can have consequences for insect pest management. There are a few pests in particular to target during early season scouting this season:

 

True armyworm, black cutworm, variegated cutworm

 

These insect pests are more likely to be a problem in later planted fields, especially where late burndown herbicide applications allowed weed cover to build up (unfortunately, an all too common occurrence this season). All three usually develop on weedy plant species, then move to corn or soybean when their weedy hosts mature or are killed with a herbicide; armyworms are more of a concern where there are dense populations of grasses, while black and variegated cutworms have a wider host range that includes legumes and other broadleaf plants in addition to grasses. While all of these can cause defoliation, the cutworm species can reduce stand directly when their feeding “cuts” the plant close to the ground. (Note: be sure to follow Kelly Estes on Twitter [@ILPestSurvey] for periodical updates on moth flights for true armyworm, black cutworm, and other pests).

 

Image of two variegated cutworm larvae

Fig. 1. Variegated cutworm larvae from a heavily damaged soybean field. The overall color varies quite a bit from brown to blue or gray, but look for yellow or white markings along the back (Photo: Victoria Kleczewski, Growmark)

 

image of a true armyworm larva

Fig. 2. A true armyworm larvae. Note the light colored bands on the side, the net-like pattern on the head, and the dark bands on the prolegs. Photo: Frank Peairs, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

True armyworm larvae in wheat

Fig. 3. Several different developmental stages of true armyworm larvae in wheat. (Photo: Robert Bellm)

Slugs

 

Slugs are primarily an issue in no-till or conservation tillage fields which have a lot of residue and moisture. The wet conditions that favor slug damage can also lead to problems with seed slot closure, which exacerbates slug damage by allowing them to feed on the developing plant as the seed germinates. Unfortunately we do not have a good rescue treatment for slugs in soybean in Illinois. The best management strategy is to plant into a warm, dry seedbed (not always an option this season), and tillage is the best control we have available.

Slug in an open seed slot

Fig. 4. A slug in a seed slot left open due to wet planting conditions. (Photo: Nick Seiter)

Slug damage to a soybean cotyledon

Fig. 5. Slug damage to a soybean cotyledon (Photo: Jennifer Woodyard, University of Illinois Extension)

 

Bean leaf beetle

 

Bean leaf beetle feeding is often noticed on soybean fields that are among the earliest planted in the state; when there are relatively few acres that have emerged, the highly mobile beetles are concentrated in those few fields. Usually this damage is mostly cosmetic, as soybeans are excellent at overcoming early defoliation. The economic threshold for defoliation of soybeans prior to bloom in Illinois is an average of 30% of leaf tissue removed with the defoliator still present in the field.

Bean leaf beetle on seedling soybean

Fig. 6. A bean leaf beetle and its feeding damage on a young soybean plant (Photo: Nick Seiter)

 

Scouting is necessary to determine both the necessity and timing of an insecticide application for these insect pests. We want to avoid “revenge sprays” that occur after the insect has either progressed through its life cycle (in the case of the caterpillar pests) or moved along to another field (bean leaf beetles) and is no longer damaging the crop. As always, feel free to contact me if you are seeing anything unusual in the field related to insect management. Here is hoping for improved conditions as the season moves forward.

 

Contact: Nick Seiter nseiter@illinois.edu Twitter: @nick_seiter

Research Assistant Professor, Field Crop Entomology

 


And the Survey Says…

Figure 1. What pests were most prevalent in Illinois corn and soybeans in 2018? The survey says…

 

For those that attended Agronomy Day this past August, the title and above graphic may look familiar. As field and research season winds down, we’re able to finish collecting and summarizing data. One of our biggest summer projects is the annual corn and soybean survey. While some of that information was shared at Agronomy Day, the complete results are summarized below.

As a recap, this survey has been carried out across the state for several years (2011, 2013–2018). In 2018, 40 counties representing all nine crop reporting districts were surveyed, with five corn and five soybean fields surveyed in each county. These surveys have been conducted with the goal of estimating densities of common insect pests. The estimates provided in this article should not be considered a substitute for scouting individual fields and making informed pest management decisions—even areas of the state that appear to be at low risk could have contained fields with high densities of a given insect pest.

Figure 2. Average number of Japanese beetles per 100 sweeps.

As I’ve talked with growers throughout the summer, in their opinion, the top insect pest of 2018 is the Japanese beetle. And both the survey results and I agree.

Within the soybean fields surveyed, 100 sweeps were performed on both the exterior of the field (outer 2 rows) and interior (at least 12 rows beyond the field edge) using a 38-cm diameter sweep net. The insects collected in sweep samples were identified and counted to provide an estimate of the number of insects per 100 sweeps (Tables 1 and 2).

Japanese beetle populations were higher statewide compared to 2017. Western Illinois saw record numbers last year and populations stayed high in 2018. The highest Japanese beetle populations remained in western Illinois, but numbers increased dramatically in the northwest as well (from 54 beetles per 100 sweeps to 175).

Table 1. Average number of insects per 100 sweeps on the edge of the field.

 

Table 2. Average number of insects per 100 sweeps on the interior of the field.

Western corn rootworms are always a concern, but populations have been very low in recent years. In addition to sweep samples in soybeans, cornfields were sampled for western corn rootworm by counting the number of beetles on 20 consecutive plants beyond the end rows of a given field—a beetle per plant average was calculated for each field. A mild winter followed by favorable conditions at egg hatch and adult emergence helped the small populations from 2016 gain some traction in 2017 (Table 3). However, per plant averages were lower in all districts again in 2018. Populations were variable. Many fields had low to nonexistent populations, but there were fields with higher numbers. It is important to remember, fields are randomly selected. We have no knowledge of insect management strategies that are used – soil insecticides, transgenics, or foliar applications.

Table 3 Mean number of western corn rootworm beetles per plant in corn by crop reporting district and year.

As we’ve seen repeatedly, grape colaspis populations are highly variable. Despite having reports of sporadic larval injury in the spring, adult populations were lower in 2018 compared to last year. We did see more stinkbugs as well as green cloverworms and soybean loopers statewide. While the majority of the stink bugs are green and brown, we did not pick up any of the southern species like red banded and redshouldered stink bugs in the survey. Brown marmorated stink bug was found for the first time in soybean field sweeps in several counties, though.

 

Funding for survey activities was provided by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This survey would not be possible without the hard work and contributions of many people. I would like to thank Illinois Cooperative Agriculture Pest Survey Program interns Evan Cropek, Hannah Hires, Calli Robinson, and Cale Sementi as well as Department of Crop Science intern Matt Mote.


A Mixed Bag of Insect Densities in 2016 Corn and Soybean Surveys

Once again, statewide surveys of insects in corn and soybean fields were conducted during the summer of 2016.  A total of 33 counties were surveyed this year. The surveys were performed during the first week of August by sampling five corn and five soybean fields per county. For the past several years (2011, 2013–2016), surveys in corn and soybean fields have been conducted with the goal of estimating densities of common insect pests. Densities are reported for the various USDA crop reporting districts of Illinois to highlight portions of the state where the risk of economic insect damage is greatest. The estimates provided in this article should not be considered a substitute for scouting individual fields and making informed pest management decisions—even areas of the state that appear to be at low risk could have contained fields with high densities of a given insect pest.

Western corn rootworm beetles were sampled in cornfields by counting the number of beetles on 20 consecutive plants beyond the end rows of a given field—a beetle per plant average was calculated for each field. Much like 2015, the number of western corn rootworm adults in corn was very low throughout the state (Table 1).

Table 1  ∙  Mean number of western corn rootworm beetles per plant in corn by crop reporting district and year
District 2011 2013 2014 2015 2016
Northwest 0.26 0.33 0.05 0.02 0.02
Northeast 0.15 0.20 0.02 0.00 0.02
West 0.01 0.10 0.01 0.01 0.00
Central 0.35 0.37 0.74 0.02 0.05
East 0.31 0.81 0.51 0.01 0.01
West-southwest 0.01 0.20 0.06 0.00 0.01
East-southeast 0.02 0.01 0.00 0.00 0.00
Southwest 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.01
Southeast 0.00 0.03 0.01 0.00 0.02
Means were determined by counting the number of beetles on 20 consecutive plants for between 15 and 50 fields per district.

 

Within an adjacent soybean field, 50 or 100 sweeps were performed at least 12 rows beyond the field edge using a 38-cm diameter sweep net. The insects collected in sweep samples were identified and counted to provide an estimate of the number of insects per 100 sweeps. Depending on the year, five or ten pairs of corn and soybean fields were sampled at random in each county visited. The number of western corn rootworm adults in soybean fields throughout the state was very low as well. The greatest number of beetles in soybeans occurred in McLean County, 8.00 beetles per 100 sweeps. All other counties sampled had fewer than 5 beetles per 100 sweeps (range of 0 to 2.4 per 100 sweeps.)

Table 2  ∙  Mean number of various insect pests per 100 sweeps in soybean by crop reporting district and year

District

Year Bean leafbeetles Japanesebeetles Western cornrootworm beetles Grasshoppers Greencloverworms Soybeanloopers

Stink bugs

Northwest 2011 0.0 31.7 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.0 0.2
2013 0.3 28.3 1.0 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.1
2014 0.3 14.5 1.0 0.7 0.9 0.2 0.5
2015 1.1 13.4 0.0 1.6 1.9 0.1 0.5
2016 1.1 21.8 0 3.2 2.0 0.0 0.8
Northeast 2011 1.4 13.0 0.3 0.1 0.1 0.0 0.1
2013 0.5 13.8 10.0 0.5 0.2 0.1 0.0
2014 0.2 18.3 3.0 0.3 0.6 0.1 0.6
2015 0.7 12.9 0.1 1.7 2.3 0.0 0.6
2016 8.3 1.3 0.0 5.9 2.9 0.0 0.0
West 2011 0.7 9.5 0.1 0.6 0.7 0.0 0.2
2013 1.0 5.0 0.4 0.3 0.3 0.0 0.2
2014 11.7 2.1 0.2 1.2 0.4 0.2 1.5
2015 1.6 17.5 0.0 2.8 1.3 0.1 0.5
2016 0.9 89.4 0.7 1.5 6.6 1.4 0.2
Central 2011 3.3 24.1 0.9 0.5 0.1 0.0 0.1
2013 0.5 0.9 6.4 0.3 0.4 0.1 0.2
2014 2.4 0.7 18.9 0.6 2.6 0.3 0.7
2015 5.8 2.7 0.2 4.0 0.5 0.0 0.7
2016 16.8 2.0 5.2 4.0 10.0 0.0 0.0
East 2011 17.0 5.3 7.0 1.1 5.4 0.0 0.3
2013 1.4 2.2 9.8 1.0 1.4 0.0 0.1
2014 1.9 0.4 10.2 0.7 3.0 0.0 0.7
2015 5.5 2.0 0.1 3.8 2.3 0.0 0.8
2016 13.4 0.8 0.13 2.3 11.3 0 0.0
West-southwest 2011 1.4 7.0 0.0 1.3 6.1 0.0 0.5
2013 1.3 2.4 1.5 0.5 1.4 0.0 0.1
2014 1.8 7.3 0.4 0.4 0.9 0.3 1.9
2015 5.4 22.2 0.0 5.8 1.5 0.1 1.7
2016 4.0 10.5 0.3 5.2 12.8 0 0.6
East-southeast 2011 4.1 2.0 0.4 1.3 23.8 0.0 0.1
2013 1.1 0.5 0.1 0.4 1.6 0.0 0.0
2014 1.7 0.4 0.0 0.5 2.7 0.0 0.7
2015 0.9 2.7 0.0 1.7 3.4 0.5 2.1
2016 0.8 2.0 0.0 2.2 7.0 0.0 0.1
Southwest 2011 2.6 2.7 0.0 1.0 4.4 0.0 0.4
2013 1.2 0.4 0.1 0.3 3.4 0.0 0.2
2014 8.4 0.2 0.0 0.6 6.1 0.1 1.3
2015 0.8 2.1 0.0 1.1 2.7 0.0 0.3
2016 1.2 12.0 0.0 4.0 13.2 0.0 0.1
Southeast 2011 1.9 2.5 0.0 0.9 9.7 0.0 0.3
2013 0.5 0.5 1.5 0.1 2.4 0.2 0.3
2014 2.4 0.8 0.1 0.4 2.2 0.2 1.2
2015 0.2 2.5 0.0 1.1 3.3 0.1 0.3
2016 1.9 7.7 0.53 1.1 6.1 0 0.6
Means were determined by counting the number of insects in a 50- or 100-sweep sample for between 15 and 50 fields per district. The stink bug species reported here are the green stink bug and the brown stink bug.

 

Increased densities of some of the defoliating insect species were observed in several districts. Samples were screened for bean leaf beetles, Japanese beetles, grasshoppers, green cloverworm, soybean loopers, and stink bugs. As with many years, Japanese beetles “hot spots” were observed around the state. The western part of the state yielded the most impressive numbers (89.4 per 100 sweep average), with 240 per 100 sweeps and 108 per 100 sweeps recorded in Pike and Warren counties, respectively.  Interestingly, we had higher numbers across the board for green cloverworm in 2016. A few counties had noticeable bean leaf beetles in the samples (Central – 16.8 bean leaf beetles per 100 sweeps and East 13.4 bean leaf beetles per 100 sweeps). No brown marmorated stink bugs were detected in any of the soybean or cornfields that were sampled, though this species has been confirmed in many Illinois counties (Figure 1).

BMSB August 2016

Funding for survey activities was provided by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Illinois Soybean Association. This survey would not be possible without the hard work and contributions of many people. I would like to thank Illinois Cooperative Agriculture Pest Survey Program interns Evan Cropek, Colleen Musson, Ryan Pavolka, Emma Sementi, and Jacob Styan as well as Department of Crop Science interns Lacie Butler and Sarah Luce.