Later on in the season, when plants start to tiller, you may see a thin stand. “It stunts the growth of various parts, killing tillers and plants. Some of your tillers may start turning brown.”

Recently, a pheromone was developed for these small flies so they can be trapped and monitored, she says.

“We started putting out traps last year, to see if we could see when the adults were out flying. If we can, we might be able to spray an insecticide and kill them, preventing any further generations of the pest in the springtime.”

Last year, she says, they came in from around the end of February to about March 14. “We can kill the adult Hessian fly, but once those adults get down behind the leaf sheaths, there’s nothing we can do about them.”

Growers don’t have an effective seed treatment for Hessian fly, says Flanders, and the insecticides give only 50 to 60 percent control.

“We don’t have a really good preventative, so we try and plant resistant varieties, though the Hessian fly has gained resistance to some of these varieties.

“Our lines of defense for Hessian fly are to plant a resistant variety if you can and rotate. If you’re more than a quarter mile away from a field that had Hessian fly, it probably won’t cause you much of a problem.

“The more wheat that is planted, the easier it is for the Hessian fly to spread. I think it’s worth looking at your fields this year to help prevent damage.”

Flanders advises that growers go into their fields a couple of times each week, pull up the plants that look infected or stunted, and squeeze the flaxseeds. “If they come up juicy and creamy or green-colored, it means they’re still in the larval or maggot stage. As they transform into the pupae stage, it’ll be pink as you squeeze them. That means they’re almost ready to pop out. That’s when you need to spray a residual.”

It’s always a good management practice to scout wheat fields for damaging infestations of insects, she says. At a minimum, check grain fields in the fall, in late winter before applying nitrogen, and during the boot and heading stages.

“Scouting during the first 20 to 50 days after planting is especially critical because this is when insect control with a foliar spray can provide greatest economic returns.

“Check fields as often as possible after this time, particularly before applying fertilizer, herbicides or fungicides. If insect populations exceed thresholds, it may be possible to apply an insecticide as a tank-mix with another chemical.”

More specifically, says Flanders, check five to 10 spots in the field, examining at least one row-foot at each location. Be sure to include at least two samples near the field edges and check closely because insects, particularly aphids and pupae of the Hessian fly, can sometimes be found at the base of the plant below ground level.

“For larger plants, slap the plants to jar insects to the ground for counting.

Other insects also can cause problems in wheat, she says.

“Grasshoppers sometimes invade wheat in the spring. They are particularly common in dry weather. The economic threshold for grasshoppers is three to five per square yard. Scout in the field, not just on the field borders where populations may be higher.

Chinch bugs and stink bugs may occasionally invade wheat in the spring, she adds.

phollis@farmpress.com