There will always be quality problems in peanuts to some degree due to the dynamics of the crop itself and changing weather conditions. However, those problems were enhanced this past year by exploding populations of burrower bugs.

“I can remember when the peanut disease cylindrocladium black rot (CBR) was almost non-existent in Georgia. The same can be said of the burrower bug — it existed, but we didn’t know anything about it,” says David Adams, University of Georgia Extension entomologist.

It hasn’t been in the picture since 1960, but it has returned with a vengeance, he says.

There are six species of burrower bugs that feed on peanuts, with Pangaeus bilineatus being the most prevalent pest.

“It looks like a stinkbug, smells like a stinkbug, and acts like a stinkbug, but it’s in a totally different family. It is a distant cousin,” says Adams.

Jay Chapin, retired from Clemson University, researched the burrower bug in 2002, he says. “The primary species we’re concerned with is about the size of a small fingernail. It has strong legs for digging, especially in sandy soils.”

The distribution of the insect is very widespread, says Adams. “One research trial from several years ago showed 30 bugs per row inch, which shows how prolific it can be. The first time I ever saw this insect was in 1975, which was the first year I was out of school. I almost never saw this bug for 30 years.”

In Brooks County this past year, peanut producers had severe problems with the burrower bug, resulting in many loads of Seg. 2 peanuts with damage from the pest. “You could go two counties over, and you didn’t find any Seg. 2 peanuts due to burrower bug damage. It’s highly variable and spotty, but for the guys with Seg. 2 peanuts, it’s a serious problem and it may continue to be a serious problem. We don’t know. Insects tend to be cyclical in nature, so we don’t know what can happen next year,” says Adams.

The mouthparts of the burrower bug are inserted into mature kernels, resulting in light yellow or brown feeding spots or pitting. Damage shows itself as a loss in kernel weight and quality, and an increase in aflatoxin.