A warm winter, an exceptionally warm March, heavy and early thrips flights — all the elements seem to be coming together for the perfect storm of damage to cotton for 2012.

North Carolina and Virginia have a well-earned reputation as being ‘thrips central.’ Even under the best of weather conditions, thrips can be a handful to manage. All early indications are that 2012 won’t be among the best set of weather variable growers have had to face in recent years — at least not in terms of managing thrips.

Virginia Tech Entomologist Ames Herbert says his years of data indicate the difference in controlling thrips versus no control ranges from $400 to $700 an acre in cotton. The major variable on how much damage thrips cause is largely dependent on the weather and the size and timing of thrips flights into cotton fields.

In terms of yield differential, Herbert says over the past 10 years thrips-related yield loss in Virginia has averaged about 380 pounds of lint per acre.

In North Carolina, average losses are about half that amount.

Cotton prices have stabilized in recent months, but continued good prices mean these little pests can cost big dollars.

Add to the seeming perfect storm for thrips, a two week or more head start on planting all crops in the Upper Southeast, and the potential for thrips damage is significantly greater than in what are usually called ‘normal’ years.

Aldicarb, sold under the tradename Temik has been a proven thrips killer since its introduction to the marketplace more than 30 years ago. Last year growers had to fight thrips without their primary weapon, and it appears they will have to do t again in 2012.

Temik manufacture was halted in 2010 and only a small supply was left for 2011 and only what remains in storage houses will be available in 2012.