Manitoba Insect & Disease Update: July 14, 2015

Some localized higher populations of armyworms and grasshoppers are present. So scouting is encouraged, although in many cases populations are noticeable but not economical.
Cereal Crops

 Armyworms: Armyworms continue to be found in many cereal fields. In many fields they are noticeable but not economical, however some fields have had levels greater than the 4 or more larvae/ft2 threshold and have been sprayed for armyworms. A few things to consider when finding armyworms:

     How patchy are levels in a field: Economic thresholds are usually based on levels on average over the whole field. Armyworms can be very patchy in a field, and are usually much more abundant in lodged areas of the field. So if finding high levels in a lodged patch of crop, don't assume the whole field has those levels.

     How close are they to finishing their crop feeding (larval) stage. The length of time spent as larvae varies with temperature. In studies where larvae were kept at a  constant temperature, larval stages lasted 16 days at 29 degrees Celsius, 26 days at 21 degrees Celsius, and 40 days at 17 degrees Celsius. Based on our current weather, they should be going through their larval stages in somewhere around 3 weeks. Mature larvae are 3 to 3.5 cm long. Once larvae are nearing the end of their larval period, insecticide applications to above threshold populations would become less economical. In samples of armyworms collected in the Carman area, some of the larvae are now turning to pupae. The photo below shows various stages of armyworms. The pupae (on the right in the photo) would normally be in the soil, but were exposed to show them next to the larvae. The smaller larva at the top of the photo is actually at a more advanced stage than the larvae below it. The armyworm caterpillars feed for the first part of their last larval stage, then stop feeding, become quite inactive and will shrink somewhat before turning in to a pupa. You may come across some of these and note that they move very little and don't curl up when you disturb them.

  Figure 1. Various stages of armyworms.

   Are their parasitoids of armyworms present. Quite a few people over the past week have sent in photos (as in Figure 2 below) asking what are these "eggs" on the cereal heads, and noticing that they can be quite abundant in some fields. These are not eggs, but are the pupal cases of parasitic wasps. These are being found in fields that contained armyworms, and it is likely that armyworms were hosts for the parasitoids. For some parasitoids it is common for dozens of parasitoid larvae to emerge at the same time from an individual armyworm, killing it in the process. This is because an initial egg laid in the armyworm starts dividing and can become dozens or at times hundreds of eggs, that results in multiple parasitoid larvae of the same general age feeding in the armyworm. When the parasitoids emerge form the armyworm, they all emerge at approximately the same time, and very soon after form these clusters of pupal case, which are together in a cluster on the plants. So each cluster would have been parasitoids form a single armyworm, and will result in multiple wasps looking for more caterpillars to parasitize.

Figure 2. Pupal cases of a wasp parasitic to armyworms.
Photo from Dean McCowan, Agree Ag Services.


Insect Monitoring Programs
Bertha Armyworm: Pheromone-baited traps are used to monitor adult moths of bertha armyworm, and forecast areas that potentially could have higher levels of larvae later in the summer. Traps were set up in early-June, and currently only levels suggesting low risk of damage form the larvae have been detected. Anything under a cumulative count of 300 moths in the trapping period is considered lower risk. Once counts get over 300 risk moves into an unpredictable risk zone, and much higher counts are needed to be in moderate and high risk categories. The highest count currently in Manitoba is 192 moths. Cumulative counts will increase over the next couple of weeks, so it remains to be seen whether any counts move above the low risk category.
Table 1. Highest Cumulative Counts of Adult Moths of Bertha Armyworm in Manitoba as of July 14, 2015
Location Region Trap Count
Darlingford Pembina 192
Alexander Southwest 173
Inglis South Parkland 170
Douglas Southwest 136
Somerset Pembina 120
Baldur Pembina 103
Tourond Eastman 99
Carberry Central Plains 92
 Please note that counts from these traps are not economic threshold counts. They suggest potential risk and are meant to help prioritize scouting activities. Counts to determine economic thresholds for bertha armyworm need to be done on the larvae, and can not be done from counts of adult moths. 
Compiled by: 
John Gavloski, Entomologist
Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development
Phone: (204) 745-5668      Fax: (204) 745-5690.
To report observations on insects or plant pathogens that may be of interest or importance to farmers and agronomists in Manitoba, please send messages to the above contact address.
To be placed on an E-mail list so you will be notified immediately when new Manitoba Insect and Disease Updates are posted, please contact John Gavloski at the address or numbers listed above.

Manitoba Insect & Disease Update: July 14, 2015