Texas Upper Coast Cotton: Attention Shifts to Stink Bugs, Bollworms

Stink bug in cotton. Photo: Kate Harrell, County Extension Agent- Integrated Pest Management

Most of the cotton in the upper gulf coast is blooming now, and all but one field in my program is blooming. Once cotton begins blooming, we can shift concern from fleahoppers to stink bugs and bollworms.

I’ve found multiple species of stink bugs in cotton this week. I’ve seen green, brown, conchuela, and even had questions on predatory species. It has been a buggy year so far. To scout for stink bugs pull 10 to 20 bolls about an inch in diameter from four places in the field. Check the inside of the bolls for warts, lesions, and stained lint. Texas economic threshold for stink bugs is 20% or more of the bolls with internal damage and stink bugs present. Some of the brown stink bug populations in our area have also been shown to have some resistance to pyrethroids.

Bollworms, Helicoverpa zea, are caterpillars that feed on multiple crops and vegetables. In cotton they feed on squares and bolls, causing fruit loss. These past few years we have had high numbers of this insect in our Bt cotton as well.

To scout for cotton bollworms I use the terminal and square inspection method, as well as making some full plant checks. I make about four stops in a field, more if the field is larger than 100 acres. At each stop, I look at 25 plant terminals, checking the upper third of the plant for caterpillars and eggs. I also pull 25 half grown or larger green squares to bolls and look for bollworm damage.

This week I was finding moths flying in almost every field I was in. Egg lay has been fairly light most of this week with an increase in the last two days. I would like to note that while egg lay in the upper third of the cotton plant is typical, I have seen and have talked to consultants finding egg lay near the bottom of the plants.

When documenting egg lay, if I find more than one on a leaf, I only count it as one. This caterpillar is highly cannibalistic, and generally only one caterpillar will result from eggs too near each other. The few caterpillars I have seen were very small, likely had only molted once, and were in the crescent area of Wharton county.

The economic threshold for bollworms is 6% damaged bolls with live caterpillars present. In areas like ours on the upper gulf coast with documented Bt failures, the threshold for eggs on single and dual gene cotton is 20% (20 plants out of 100 with at least one egg).

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The current A&M recommendation is to use pyrethroids with caution. In areas needing residual control Prevathon at 18-20 fl oz or Besiege at 9-10 fl oz works well. If you don’t need residual control you can get by with Prevathon at 14 fl oz or Besiege at 7-8 fl oz.

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