The problem with peanut insects is that if you’re not paying attention, you might not see them, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Or, you might not see them in time to a stop a yield-threatening outbreak. Or, you might apply an insecticide when it really isn’t needed. It’s tricky.

“There are a lot of insects in a typical peanut field,” says Mark Abney, University of Georgia Extension entomologist. “But most of those insects are not economically important – most of them are just hanging out because a peanut field is a great place to live, and that’s good because we don’t have to worry about those insects.”

Some of the insects are beneficial, and they’re eating the bad insects, he explained during the recent Georgia Peanut Farm Show held in Tifton, Ga. “Some of them will be pests, and some of them we just don’t know either way. We see them, but we really don’t know if they’re causing us economic damage,” he says.

There’s a long list of insects that feed on peanuts, says Abney. “In any given field in any given year, we’re not going to see most of those. In some years, we’ll have outbreaks and see lots of them. Insect pest are also sporadic – we might see them in one field but not in another one nearby. It’s good for growers that we don’t have pests in every field every year, but it’s bad because it makes it more difficult to plan.”

There aren’t valid economic thresholds for most insect pests in peanuts, he adds. “For most crop pests in most major commodities, we have economic thresholds. Also, for most of our peanut insects, there are only one or two insecticide options. And on top of that, the products don’t work very well in many cases,” he said.