Mid summer tobacco insect update

Caterpillars Large and Small

So far this year, tobacco budworm numbers of in our research plots at both Kinston and Rocky Mount have remained below threshold (less than 10% of plants infested).  However, this week we’ve noticed lots of egg laying activity at Kinston so more are on their way.   While this is good news for those of us doing research on budworm control, scouting activity should focus on determing if economically signifciant populations of this pest are present.

Notice the small, black specks of caterpillar ‘frass’ (droppings) as a sign of recent feeding by this young budworm at Kinston, NC. Photo: Demetri Tsiolkas

Notice the small, black specks of caterpillar ‘frass’ (droppings) as a sign of recent feeding by this young budworm at Kinston, NC. Photo: Demetri Tsiolkas

Two weeks ago, we found our first hornworms at our plots at Kinston, and last week, we found them at our Rocky Mount plots.  We have found both species of hornworms, tobacco and tomato, in our plots at Kinston, but only tobacco hornworms, so far, at Rocky Mount.  However, we found only a handful of hornworms in each 3 acre research plot, so we are still very much below the 10% threshold level, as is typical at this time of year.

The tobacco hornworm (above) has a red spike, and the tomato hornworm (below) has a blue spike.  Photo: Demetri Tsiolkas

The tomato hornworm (above) has a blue horn on its tail end, and the tobacco hornworm (below) has a red horn. Photos: Demetri Tsiolkas

Tobacco Hornworm

Natural Enemies

While keeping tabs on the pest insects present in our experiments, we did notice some beneficial insects at work as well.

Ladybug larvae hatching at Kinston, NC: in addition to eating aphids, they feed on young caterpillars. Photo: Demetri Tsiolkas

Ladybug larvae hatching at Kinston, NC: in addition to eating aphids, they feed on young caterpillars. Photo: Demetri Tsiolkas

The spined solider bug cal also feed on budworms at Kinston, NC. Photo: Demetri Tsiolkas

The spined solider bug can also feed on budworms at Kinston, NC. Spined soldier bugs are in the same family as pest stink bugs, but they can be distinguished by pronounced “points”  on their shoulders. Photo: Demetri Tsiolkas

Natural enemies of caterpillar and aphid pests are common in southeastern tobacco fields, and they can often reduce or maintain pest populations below threshold on their own.  Therefore, it’s important to continue to monitor insect pests before making management decisions.

Written by Aurora Toennisson, Research Association

Specialty Crops Laboratory, Department of Entomology

Written By

Dr. Hannah BurrackAssoc Professor and Extension Specialist (Berry, Tobacco, and Specialty Crops) (919) 513-4344 Entomology - NC State University

Posted on Jun 19, 2013

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