Insect Pests: Black cutworm and Cereal Leaf Beetle

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Source: John Tooker, Entomology Specialist, Penn State University

As the spring progresses slowly, insect issues are starting to accumulate. Black cutworm and cereal leaf beetle are two pests that are worth a moment of consideration. Ignoring either pest can result in significant damage that could have been avoided with a little early season attention.

Black cutworm: For each of the past two years, the Department of Entomology and a team of Penn State Extension county educators have been managing a series of pheromone traps across Pennsylvania that compose Penn State's Black Cutworm Monitoring Network. We are up and running again in 2011. The purpose of this network is to detect populations of black cutworm moths as they migrate into the state. Once they arrive in significant numbers, we can use degree-day accumulations to predict when larvae will be actively cutting seedlings in fields. Well-timed scouting and spot rescue treatments are usually the most economical tactic for managing black cutworm.

We have already detected a significant flight of black cutworm moths in Berks County near Kutztown. Other traps around Pennsylvania have had only minor levels of activity. A significant flight occurs when we capture eight moths over the course of two nights in an individual trap, we can then predict that a significant population may develop and that cutting larvae will be active in that area in approximately 300 degree days. We will give regular updates on degree-day accumulations, activity in other traps, and warnings on when and where black cutworm larvae may be a threat. For more details on black cutworm, its biology and management options see our fact sheet.

Cereal leaf beetle: We have reported on cereal leaf beetle already this spring, but keep in mind that this pest of small grains is most easily controlled when larvae are young, and young larvae are most easily detected with frequent scouting. Larvae should be expected to be active in the southern half of Pennsylvania. See our new phenology model on the Pennsylvania PIPE (Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education) system, depicting when larvae should be active in your area of Pennsylvania. A recently published fact sheet provides more details on their lifecycle and some images of adults, larvae, and their damage. For insecticide options, please consult Penn State's Agronomy Guide.

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