March 13, 2002 | By: Haven Miller

Warmer than usual winter temperatures have made a more pleasant environment for Kentuckians this year. Unfortunately, the milder winter has also created a better environment for insects as well.

"For corn producers this could be a warning to watch for insect pests that could do some real damage to their crop this season," said Ric Bessin, Extension entomologist in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

One insect pest that is well known for causing damage following a mild winter is the corn flea beetle. Bessin said this insect can scar plants giving them a whitish appearance, and can also transmit the bacteria that causes Stewart's Wilt disease.

"Indications are that this will be another severe year for corn flea beetle," Bessin said. "Fortunately, most field corn varieties are resistant to Stewart's Wilt, but many of the sweet corn varieties are susceptible to it and will need to be monitored closely."

Another insect pest of corn that has had good survival this winter is the southwestern corn borer. Surveys in recent years have shown high survival rates for the corn borer, but this does not automatically mean increased crop losses due to the pest. Bessin said corn planted before May 1 is more likely to escape late season damage by southwestern corn borer.

"Corn planted after May 1 in the western part of the state will need to be monitored regularly," said Bessin. "Producers may want to consider using Bt corn with late plantings."

Bessin said warm southerly winds in late winter may bring another corn pest from the south. Black cutworm attacks seedlings less than 12 to 18 inches tall. The later the corn is planted, the greater the chances of cutworm losses.

"Corn producers need to have an effective strategy in place for dealing with insect pests this season, and we recommend regular scouting as the most economical practice," he said. Information on controlling insect pests of corn is available at your county Cooperative Extension office.


Ric Bessin, 859-257-7456