Although largely determined by weather patterns, our predictive capabilities for insect outbreaks, like weather, are poor more than a week or two in advance.

However a few observations may be in order as we approach planting.

Thrips have consistently caused major headaches for North Carolina’s and Virginia’s cotton producers, particularly in early planted cotton.

The North Carolina/Virginia region leads the Southeast and other parts of the Cotton Belt in high thrips levels and potential damage.

Our slow seedling grow-off conditions (extending the period of seedling susceptibility to thrips damage) and high amount of surrounding thrips host vegetation that serve to funnel thrips adults into relatively small cotton fields often result in a rough start for cotton seedlings.

Even though hot, dry spring weather may result in quicker grow-off conditions and a narrower window of thrips vulnerability for cotton seedlings, the rapid drying of alternative thrips hosts (weed hosts, wheat, etc.) helps create high levels of migrating adult thrips.

Dry soil may also limit the uptake of seed treatment insecticides and at-planting foliar insecticides.

Unfortunately, thrips headaches are more often the rule than the exception for most North Carolina cotton producers.  

Following the seed treatments Aeris/Poncho/VOTiVO, Avicta Complete or Acceleron, unless cotton is scouted religiously every 5 days, a foliar spray targeted at the first true leaf stage or at 3 weeks after planting (whichever comes first) is often the rule here in the Upper Southeast.

However, if cotton is planted after about May 20, the typically faster grow-off conditions often mean that a seed treatment alone may control thrips.

At our latitude and throughout most of the Southeast, plant bug damage is usually surprisingly low during the pre-bloom period and beyond.