Utah Pest News Spring 2011

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Monitoring for Insect Pests


When monitoring for insects, be aware of insect damage that can help to detect insects that are nocturnal or very small. Don’t just look for damage to leaves and fruits, but look for holes in wood and bark that might be evidence of  boring insects.

Insect traps are used for monitoring, not pest control. Pheromone traps use insect-specific lures and sticky liners that attract and trap a target insect. Do not use white-colored traps because they attract honeybees.

Spring is here, and it’s time to start monitoring for insect pests.  Early and consistent monitoring, will aid in maintaining an integrated pest management program.  It is a lot easier to keep pest populations at low levels using non-chemical methods if they are detected early.  It is best to survey for insect activity at least weekly from spring to mid-summer, and at least every other week later in the season.  

Look for insects in all of their life stages (eggs, larvae, pupae, adults) wherever they might occur, such as the undersides of leaves, under bark, inside fruits, and in soil.  A helpful article on scouting for egg masses was written in the Utah Pests Landscape IPM advisory.  

There are certain tools that are important for successful pest detection.  A 10-30x hand lens can be very helpful for examining eggs, larvae, pupae, and small adults.  Hand lenses can be purchased online and are inexpensive.  There are several places to purchase a hand lens including amazon.com and bioquip.com.  The hand lens should be used to examine plants for difficult-to-see symptoms, tiny insects such as thrips and mites, and to help identify the insects that you find.

Several insects, such as moths and flies, can be monitored using sticky cards or pheromone traps.  Pheromone traps attract target insects using lures and a sticky liner.  More information on using pheromone traps can be found in the Utah Pests Tree Fruit IPM article.  Two companies that carry traps are greatlakesipm.com and contech-inc.com.  

Double-sided tape can be wrapped around tree limbs to monitor for scale crawlers.  Many well-hidden insects can more easily be monitored using a beating tray, which can be purchased online, or homemade.  Instructions for making one may be found on the Utah Pests sampling forms for pear psylla and campylomma bug.

Finding insects is only the first step in monitoring, and accurated identification is important.  Whitney Cranshaw’s Garden Insects of North America, is an excellent resource guide for identification.  Insects that are difficult to diagnose should be collected for later identification.  Tweezers, a small paintbrush, vials of alcohol, and small plastic containers are used for collecting and saving samples.  Use the tweezers or paintbrush to retrieve the insects, placing hard-bodied insects in vials and soft-bodied insects, along with their food source, in plastic containers.  

Photograph the insect, the damage it caused, and the surrounding area.  Send the photos along with the insect to the Utah Plant Pests Diagnostic Lab (UPPDL).  For a small fee ($7), the UPPDL will not only identify the insect, but provide  information about the damage, habits, life cycle, and control options.  In addition to insects, they can also identify spiders, other arthropods, and plant diseases.  For instructions on preparing and submitting samples, go to the UPPDL website.  More useful information can be found on the Utah Pests IPM website, where I recommend that you sign up for the pest advisories that will help keep you informed about pests and their activity in our area.


-Cory Stanley, USU CAPS Coordinator