However, plant bug levels have increased in the past few years. Although we had averaged treating 6.3 percent of our consultants’ clients’ acreage for plant bugs from 2004 until 2007, an average of 16.3 percent was treated in 2011-12.

Is this a trend?

As a general rule, a warm winter with adequate moisture will favor the early development of weeds and other host vegetation and increase plant bug populations, resulting in higher levels moving into cotton when these hosts begin to dry down.

(You might also be interested in Consultant survey offers realistic look into North Carolina insect picture).

In North Carolina, whether generally favored by more generous early season rainfall or additional suitable hosts, plant bug levels are typically higher in our eastern counties.

The potential for stink bug damageappears to have a strong correlation with moisture throughout the bloom period, with dry years often resulting in low stink bug damage to the less attractive and less susceptible cotton plants.

However, late sub-freezing weather following a warm winter when brown and green stink bugs are active, though not common, can have a devastating impact on their levels and potential damage. This was the case in 2007 when a hard Easter Freeze reduced stink bugs to sub-economic levels for the entire growing season in most areas of the state.  

Dry weather also negatively influences early wild and cultivated stink bug hosts resulting in fewer stink bugs and damage. As a general rule, higher moisture levels are correlated with higher stink bug levels and boll damage, but also higher cotton yields in our dryland region.

Successful corn earworm (cotton bollworm) moth emergence from the soil, primarily in May here, is influenced both by the number and quality of bollworms going into the soil in the fall and their over-wintering pupal mortality which in turn is influenced winter weather and its impact on pupal cell integrity in the ground.

In general, wetter winters result in higher bollworm pupal mortality.

However, bollworms undergo two generations, first on whorl stage and then ear stage corn, before invading cotton and most other agronomic crops. 

The corn earworm generation that feeds on field corn ears can account for significant buildups in the subsequent generation.

On the practical side, bollworm damage to cotton has been low since the introduction of 2-gene Bt cotton in 2006.

Our highest damage levels often result from a combination of one or more of the following factors: late cotton planting, wet conditions favoring rank cotton growth, a disruptive foliar spray(s) for stink bugs, and a large late bollworm moth flight.

In recent years, as a result of the introduction of BGII and WideStrike cotton, our producers experienced only minimal damage from other caterpillars, such as fall and beet armyworms, European corn borers, and soybean loopers.

Unlike conventional and Bollgard cotton, Bollgard II and Widestrike varieties show high resistance to both armyworm species and loopers.

The early appearance and high abundance of migratory species such as loopers and beet and fall armyworms at our latitude is very much favored by hot dry spring and summer conditions.

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