South Carolina Cotton: Insect Pressure on the Rise – Scout Your Fields

Tarnished Plant Bug. ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

Well, we have insects in cotton now, don’t we? Aphids, spider mites, plant bugs, early stink bugs, etc., are out there, especially in the earliest planted fields.

Spider mites could be an issue in your early planted cotton that missed rains and looks a little droughty. I would definitely check those fields for spider mites.

Reports of plant bugs continue to come in, so keep scouting for tarnished plant bug (TPB) using square retention counts and sweep nets until you get to the first week of bloom. Square retention should be at or above 80% and TPB numbers below 8 per 100 sweeps. You will likely see numbers of adults decline as we move into flowering cotton.

You will want to use a black drop cloth to check for immature TPB in flowering cotton. The smaller nymphs will look like very fast green aphids on the drop cloth. If you missed the earlier newsletters, check those out for more photos of plant bugs, but here are a couple of photos of an adult and immature TPB.

Also, stink bugs are still numerous in corn, and they will be moving to cotton soon, as blooms turn into bolls. Get ready to check boll injury and look for stink bugs. Also, bollworm moths will be emerging from pupae in the ground in corn fields soon. So, keep an eye out for moths as you flush them walking cotton, and start checking for eggs.

Finally, we have been seeing some fall armyworms in corn, and that is early for this migratory species. We might need to keep a close watch on this species this season. At least for now, get a good handle on where you are with aphids and plant bugs, checking also for spider mites, and know that more species diversity is heading your way in cotton soon.

Around The State

Chris Talley, county agent covering many of the Upstate counties (Anderson, Abbeville, Cherokee, Greenville, Oconee, Pickens, and Spartanburg), reported that he found some sugarcane aphids on some early grain sorghum in Anderson County this week.

Charles Davis, county agent covering Calhoun and Richland Counties, reported that “all is relatively quiet in Calhoun County cotton with the exception of a growing aphid population. “I have heard reports of a few spider mites, but the showers seem to be keeping the lid on them for now. Square retention looks good and older cotton is blooming.”

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Drake Perrow, a producer and consultant in Cameron, reported “aphids getting high in a good many fields. Also, spider mites are showing their ugly heads in droughty cotton. We are picking up some plant bugs but square retention is still good. We sure don’t want to put out anything to flare spider mites more.”

Carl Sanders, a local producer reported today that some of his cotton in the second week of bloom has flared squares and fruit on the ground from stink bugs and plant bugs. He admitted that he should have probably looked more closely at his cotton before now, and he said to tell everyone to get out there and scout your crops.

Scouting Workshops

Your ag-focused county agents and I will be offering three in-field scouting workshops for cotton and soybean insects this summer. The interactive workshops will be held:

The trainings will be free. Sessions will start in the morning and end with lunch. More details be sent out as each training date approaches.


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