Alabama Cotton: Be on Lookout for Bollworms, Stink Bugs, Plant Bugs

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

Bollworm Flight is On in South and Central AL

We have been monitoring bollworm (corn earworm) moth traps in various locations across the state this summer. Last week (July 10-17) moth counts really took off in south and central Alabama.

Entomologists can’t quite pin down why, but trap location is key for collection. In other words, Trap A may catch 5 moths while Trap B catches 500 moths and the traps are less than a mile apart.

I say this to make the point that even though moth counts may be low in the Wiregrass area, but are high in the Southwest, that doesn’t necessarily mean the flight isn’t on in the Wiregrass.

We talked about scouting for escaped worms in a recent video.

Bug Complex

In some areas of Alabama, we are approaching the beginning of the critical window for stink bug management – the third week of bloom through the seventh week. Stink bugs may feed on any boll soft enough to puncture, but thumb and quarter sized bolls give the best indication of what the population in the field is doing now.

AgFax Weed Solutions


Sample at least 25 quarter sized (0.9-1.1” in diameter) bolls in a field looking for internal injury from stink bug feeding (i.e., warts, stained lint, puncture holes) and record the number of damaged vs undamaged.

We use a dynamic threshold to determine when to make insecticide applications for stink bugs based on the week of bloom:

  1. 50%
  2. 30%
  3. 10%
  4. 10%
  5. 10%
  6. 10%
  7. 20%
  8. 50%.

In other areas of Alabama, tarnished and clouded plant bugs are still the main pest of concern for now. As the crop begins to bloom, we need to start sampling with drop cloths and focusing in on immature plant bugs.

Tarnished plant bugs may feed on squares, blooms or small bolls; however, we currently do not have thresholds based on plant injury once the crop begins to bloom. Insecticide applications should be made when an average of 3 plant bugs (adults + immatures) are found per 1 drop cloth sample.

Keep in mind flaring and/or controlling secondary pests when making insecticide applications to avoid issues later down the road. Current recommended thresholds, insecticides and rates can be found in the Alabama Cotton IPM Guide.




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