The lack of prolonged winter weather followed by a spring that broke many high temperature records was bound to have an effect on Mid-South crops. That has certainly proven out with the early arrival of the insect complex.

In mid-April, Gus Lorenz, Arkansas Extension entomologist, began running bollworm traps. At this time of year, 20 to 30 bollworms are normally collected per trap.

“The first week of May, the trap counts were way outside the norm,” said Lorenz. “We’re averaging almost 400 moths per trap. Some of the traps had over 1,000 moths each. We just don’t get those kinds of numbers this time of year.”

Farmers weary of the pest are receiving no break as this season’s early numbers boom follows a bollworm-heavy 2011. The truly worrying thing is that, last year “we didn’t see these populations until June. Farmers certainly remember how bad bollworms were last season. These pests are at least a month ahead of schedule.”

Lorenz, interviewed by Farm Press on Monday (May 7), spoke on the need for producers to begin scouting now, the spike of all sorts of pest populations through the state, input expenses and treatment concerns. Among his comments:

More on bollworms…

“There are a lot of bollworms out there, right now. Question is: where are they going and what are they laying eggs on? There aren’t very many places for them to lay eggs. Seedling soybeans and knee-high corn and wild hosts are available. 

“With these numbers, I’m concerned that we’ll begin seeing some bad defoliation on seedling soybeans. We’ve never had to deal with this situation in whorl-stage corn so we’re not sure what the impact of these worms will be, or the extent of the damage they’ll cause.

“Certainly, though, growers and consultants need to be aware of the threat. They need to be out scouting already because the bollworms will show up somewhere. The bollworm larvae will begin hatching soon. Damage from them will likely pop up in soybeans and corn – particularly refuge corn -- at the tail end of this week and into next.”

On garden webworms and armyworms…

“A couple of years ago, there was a garden webworm outbreak. This year, garden webworm and fall armyworm numbers are pretty high already in the soybeans.

“Usually, those kinds of pests aren’t a concern in seedling soybeans at this time of year. Not this year – the insect activity for this time of year is as high as I’ve seen.

“And we’re coming off a true armyworm population that was in the wheat crop. That population ended up moving into corn and rice. We had a lot of damage from true armyworms in rice. This is one of the worst true armyworm infestations I’ve seen in my career.”

On tarnished plant bugs and budgeting for extra treatments…

“With this warm spring, my concern is not only with the bollworms. Let me tell you about tarnished plant bugs – the Number One pest in cotton. Right now, we can go out almost anywhere in our cotton-growing region, make 10 sweeps in a wild host, and find over 100 plant bugs. That’s happened for the last several weeks. We’ve seen those numbers around Marianna and Pine Bluff.

“All this means the pest pressure will require extra sprayings and it will be expensive for our growers. They need to prepare for at least one or two extra insecticide applications.”