Virginia Cotton: Tarnished Plant Bugs – Don’t Panic Yet, but Keep Scouting Your Fields

Photo: Mississippi State University

Articles about tarnished plant bugs are showing up earlier than normal, and some of it sounds like folks are already sounding off the alarm.  But I don’t see it… yet, so I thought I would give a little input. 

There is an increased effort in Virginia to understanding TPB better. We have researchers looking earlier and a little bit of what we are hearing in the media is related to this. We have questions about whether or not they are increasing, when do we have a higher risk of yield losses, and which products are most effective.

  • Historically, they have been more important after cotton begins blooming compared to prebloom.
  • It is typical for us to maintain high square retention in Virginia without treating.
  • In addition, the plant easily compensates for square loss in June and the first half of July, so even if they get a few, it is no big deal. Still, we need to look.
  • In my opinion, this is one of the easiest pests to scout for as you can detect them as fast as you can walk. Small shot holes in the top leaves are a great clue, along with the insect itself flying around. Once they are detected, just check to see if they are removing more than 20% of your squares, easy-peasy.
  • So far this year, I haven’t found any fields loosing squares, but I know it is going to eventually increase.
  • So I don’t want to pour cold water on the importance of this insect and the possibility that they are more important prior to bloom than we think.
  • I do know that once cotton begins to bloom, and once we get into the second half of July, cotton cannot compensate for damage and this pest is as important as worms or stinkbugs.
  • Beneficial insects are also an important prior consideration prior to spraying, and even the neonics will kill some of the good guys so right now.
  • Since the risk is currently low for economic damage I would not automatically add insecticides yet, but would definitely check some areas of interest.
  • Use AdmirePro or other neonics prior to bloom only if you find threshold, but not as an automatic.
  • Once we get further into July and after blooming, risk will increase. After blooming begins, discontinue use of neonics and use pyrethroids and/or OP’s.
  • Our new Entomologist, Dr. Sally Taylor and her team are putting new focus on this pest to continue to help us effectively and economically optimize our cotton success.



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