This year there were several first-time-ever’s with insect pests in the Virginia soybean crop.

For the first time ever, we found brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB) in soybean fields in 41 counties, over half of the major soybean growing counties, ranging from the northernmost to the Carolina border.

For the first time we found BMSBs in soybean fields in our Coastal Plain region, and in two counties that grow cotton. And importantly, a BMSB nymph was found in a cotton field, which we think is the first ever reported in the U.S.

Kudzu bug also gave us some first-time-ever’s. Last year (2011) one kudzu bug nymph was found in kudzu late in the season in only one county bordering Carolina.

This year we found our first adults and by mid-season, adults were found in soybean fields in 19 counties. We also found the first kudzu bug nymphs in soybeans, and, for the first time we found both kudzu bugs and BMSBs in the same soybean fields in eight different counties.

I personally do not recall ever seeing this many first-time-ever’s in one season. I feel like we are in an insect pest war zone, now confronted by two relatively new pest species — BMSBs moving down from the north, and kudzu bugs moving rapidly up from the south.

Check me if I am wrong, but I think Virginia is unique in this challenge among all other soybean growing states.

So what are doing about it? We ramped up our statewide surveillance efforts to include three field scouts, one located in the Suffolk area (southeast), one in the mid-central part of the state, and one in the north central area.

Hard work, dedicated people

These dedicated folks have been regularly checking soybean fields, talking with growers, tracking the need for protective insecticide applications, and rechecking treated fields to see how well treatments held. Updates were posted weekly to our Virginia Ag Pest Advisory (, which is hosted and supported by the Southern Region IPM Center in Raleigh, N.C., and goes out to over 300 e-mail recipients across the state and region.

This field surveillance effort has been expensive to operate including wages, fuel, mileage costs, vehicle rental and per diem reimbursements and could not have been done without the support of several sources.

I want to recognize these agencies and let them know their support has been invaluable in allowing us to track the occurrence and extent of these invasive pests in our soybean crop and to provide growers with critical information to help manage these pests to minimize crop losses. Thanks go out to the Virginia Soybean Board, the United Soybean Board, and the USDA-NIFA Extension IPM grants program.

Virginia growers plant between 500,000 and 600,000 acres of soybeans each year netting farm cash receipts exceeding nearly $250 million.

Although maybe not the most important consideration for growers, insect pest management is certainly on their to-do list. In addition to our surveillance program, we are working in collaboration with entomologists at the universities of Delaware and Maryland to develop more information on managing BMSBs in soybean.

Together, we are working on finding better sampling procedures, treatment thresholds, application tactics, and last but not least, what insecticides work best to control them.

This is slow, tedious work, but we are making progress on many fronts. Our hope is that after we ‘crunch’ all our 2012 data and meet to discuss our findings, we will be able to roll out some new management recommendations — that is our goal.

In terms of the kudzu bug, we will look to the south for that information. The entomologists in the kudzu bug epicenter — Georgia, South Carolina and now North Carolina — are working hard to provide the same good information on kudzu bug management in soybean. We won’t need to reinvent that wheel — just bring up their good information to share with our growers.