There are more Japanese beetles than usual feeding on Missouri crops, vegetables and flowers. The insect’s varied food preferences make scouting necessary. The bugs like soft fruits, such as peaches and grapes as well as row crops, according to Wayne Bailey, entomologist at the University of Missouri.
“They can be a severe threat to corn if they are present during the time of pollination,” Bailey told Brownfield Ag News Tuesday. “They will feed on the silks and if they eat the silks short enough, less than a half an inch from the husk, we can really get very little pollination taking place and we basically have a bare ear or an ear with just a few kernels on it.”
Because the beetles are early this year, Bailey says they’re out of synch with silking, so corn is not threatened like it would be under other circumstances. It’s a different story for soybeans.
“They like to foliage feed on the top of the [soybean] plant,” said Bailey, “and if we get over about 20 percent defoliation we do need to treat them. We have fields in Missouri at the moment, especially in southwest Missouri, that are much higher than that with damage.”
Bailey calls the insects gregarious feeders, so if one is eating, many more will respond to chemical signals that the food is good in an area.
Although they’re early, Bailey says some of the highest numbers of Japanese beetles are being recorded this year. Some traps have 50,000 to 60,000 beetles in them.
Japanese beetles are most common, according to Bailey, south of Interstate 70.
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