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Inspection Report Week of September 4, 2017

damages plant.png damage.jpg

The pictures above show damage done to the bark at the base of a 'Sunshine' ligustrum by European pepper moth.  Plant symptoms are often similar to frost cracking of bark.  The plant may live for a long time after the damage is done and the caterpillar is gone.  The left stem above was injured months ago and is not dying back, while the right one has much more extensive bark removal and has the brown leaves.  A caterpillar was found in a very tough cocoon in the bark at the surface.  Compacta and 'Soft Touch' hollies are susceptible to this pest as well.  Conditions favoring rhizoctonia (jammed plants) also favor this pest.  This looks like a bad one.  Literature below says that under greenhouse conditions they can have 8-9 generations per year.

More info here.  

Striped mealybug, verified by Charles Ray at the Auburn Plant Lab, was found scattered across a nursery on a number ofstripedmealybug.jpg azaleas and loropetalums. They were found feeding near the tips and were fairly easy to spot from a low angle.  Predators such as lady bugs help pinpoint mealybugs as well. If ants are seen in a plant, aphids, mealybugs, or honeydew-producing scale are usually present.

More info can be found here.

Florida wax scale (cameo stage) seen at the State Docks.  Perfect stage for a pesticide application…which ain't gonna happen because it's at the State Docks…..



Albert Van Hoogmoed

AL Dept of Agriculture

Mobile and Baldwin Counties


This report is an update regarding the high tunnel pest exclusion (HTPE) system. This research was started in 2014 with USDA SARE program funds. The HTPE system uses woven black shade-cloth of various grades installed under the sidewalls and at end-walls as permanent pest exclusion system aimed at reducing several large moths and leaffooted bugs. Currently, we have seven on-farm HTPE demonstration locations that utilize a 40 or a 50 percent woven shade cloth from Poly-Tex (MN) or FarmTek (IA). Rapid laboratory-based behavior studies using high tunnel models enabled the quick transfer of information and sharing of interest with producers across Alabama. 2016 and 2017 have been notable years to compare the effectiveness of the HTPE system, especially considering the fact that 2016 was a drought year and 2017 was the exact opposite! Below is a summary of HTPE system based on experience from on-farm studies.


Overall benefits of HTPE based on multi-year study:

  • There are remarkable differences between pest exclusion potential of a 40 or 50 percent fabric between a drought year (2016) and cool wet year (2017); refer to the data in the illustration below. Overall, we had great success stopping cabbage and soybean loopers (range 40 to 97 percent) with no outbreaks in the field studies. Armyworms, major pests in open field crop in drought years, were reduced 43 to 70 percent. There have been no tomato hornworm issues inside the tunnels since the moths are very big and cannot go past the fabric. This system makes tomato production very profitable inside a netted tunnel.
  • Producers interested in growing squash and other cucurbits inside the tunnel will be delighted to know that squash vine borers can be reduced 80 to 90 percent inside a netted high tunnel. A 40 percent shade cloth allowed honey bees to pollinate the crop. For higher grades of shade cloth, producers may use a bumblebee box inside the high tunnel to pollinate cucurbit crops.
  • The shade cloth must be tightly installed and clamped on the sides to prevent insects from sneaking in. Many insects like leaffooted bugs and armyworms appear to be very good at exploiting any weakness in the fabric. We have seen them lay eggs on the fabric and small caterpillars migrating to crops by crawling in. If you see egg masses then remove them immediately!
  • There is a tremendous improvement in crop quality as a result of reduced caterpillar and sucking insect pest numbers by using a 40 or 50 percent shade cloth around the side and end walls. In a drought year, when insect outbreaks may occur early and pest pressures may be high (as seen in 2016), it is a good idea to use 50 percent woven shade cloth with wide openings to maximize pest exclusion. In a cool wet year, when the pest lifecycles are delayed and pest pressures are moderate, a 40 percent shade cloth may be sufficient to stop large moths and leaffooted bugs.
  • Since aphids and whiteflies remain a problem in netted tunnels (they are too small to stop), producers can use other light insect exclusion materials like Super Light Insect Barrier or AgroFabric Pro19 to prevent colonization.
  • We have only evaluated black shade cloths in present studies, since it is very commonly used for shading materials and readily available from many vendors. We have been purchasing custom-cut and finished woven fabric at 26 to 50 cent per square foot cost from Poly-Tex, MN. Producers can check with their local vendors for material availability.

HTPE study data2016-2017.jpg

We are working with additional producers statewide for IPM training and on-farm research, so stay connected with ACES for future updates regarding HTPE. If you want more information immediately, then contact the authors or checkout the HTPE webpage on Alabama Vegetable IPM. Producers can also refer to two HTPE bulletins on Southern SARE where preliminary research data was reported along with basic information on IPM tactics. 

Ayanava Majumdar, Extension Entomologist 

Doug Chapman, Regional Extension Agent

Rhonda Britton, Regional Extension Agent

AUBURN, Ala.--Scientists say nurseries in both north and south Alabama are battling the European pepper moth, Duponchelia fovealis. The moth (EPM),a relatively new pest in Alabama,  comes originally from both salt and fresh water marshlands of southern Europe. First reported in the United States in 2004, the pest's range began expanding in Europe in the early 1980's.

Alabama Extension horticulture specialist Dr. Jeremy Pickens said that damage from larvae may be responsible for crop loss between 10 to 20 percent.

Adult moths are mostly nocturnal and grayish brown in color with a wingspan of about 0.75 inches (Figure 1). Larvae are small, segmented caterpillars. At hatching, they measure just under 0.1 inch in length with a dark colored head and salmon body. As they mature, they darken and eventually reach 0.7 to 1.25 inches long (Figure 2).

Fig 1.European pepper moth adult (credit John Olive).jpgFigure 2.  European Pepper Moth larvae (Credit Doug Chapman).jpg

"In northern states, 7 to 8 generations have been observed within a year; however, warmer temperatures can mean shorter lifecycles," Pickens said.  Research results from Bethke (2017) show that EPM can complete development from egg to adult in as as little as 20 days when temperatures stay at or above 90°F.

European pepper moth feeds on all parts of a wide variety of host plants.  In chrysanthemums, noticeable symptoms may first appear as flagging or a slight wilting of new growth (Figure 3).  Eventually, the entire plant will succumb to the damage, wilt and die.  Wilting is a result of feeding damage by stem girdling at the plant base. Also, webbing and frass can be observed in the same area (Figure 3).

Figure 3.  Symptomatic plant. (Credit John Olive).jpg

Be aware damage from EPM on chrysanthemum is easily misdiagnosed as Fusarium.  As growers space plants outdoors, heat stress and excessive moisture can dramatically increase the disease pressure for Fusarium.  The symptoms of Fusarium may include partial wilting of a plant and brown streaking on the outside of stems or in the vascular system of the plant (Figure 5 and 6).  White- or salmon-colored structures may also be present on advanced infections (Figure 7). More information on Fusarium on garden mums can be found at Greenhouse Management and University of Kentucky.  In some cases, both EPM and Fusarium have been confirmed infecting the same plant.

Literature in other states have listed that neonicotinoid, pyrethroid, spinosid and BT products as being effective.  Little control with these products have been observed in south Alabama when these products were applied with high-pressure airblast sprayers.  The dense canopy associated with chrysanthemum may inhibit contact with larvae present at the base of the plant.

Figure 5. Example of necrotic stem from Fusarium (credit John Olive).jpgFigure 6. Brown streaking in tissue. (credit John Olive).jpgFigure 7.  Salmon and white reproductive structures on advanced infection.jpg

In addition, chemical treatments may be more effective if low-pressure nozzles are inserted into the canopy of the plant about 1.5 inches from the soil line where chemicals are more likely to make contact with the pest.  Current recommendations include targeted sprays of contact insecticides such as acephate or bifenthrin.  Acephate seems to be the most effective chemical for use  as a spray or drench.  A study in Florida showed that Enfold (emamectin benzoate) can provide residual control; however, spinosad (Conserve) was not very effective (Bethke et al. 2017).  Regular broadcast applications of Bacillus thuringiensis (XenTari®/DiPel®) may provide some suppression of young larvae.

Pheromone lures are available for monitoring purposes at BIOBEST USA

More information about the European Pepper Moth can be found at the following links:

University of Florida IFAS Featured Creatures

University of Kentucky Entomology

University of Maryland IPM Alert

Bethke, J., A. Hara, L. Osborne, C, McKenzie, and C, Palmer, 2017. Developing sustainable methods for controlling invasive pests pre- and post invasion on ornamental cuttings and plants. IR-4 Research Project Report

ArthropodShippingandDuponchelia_USDA-APHIS_ProjectSummary.pdf last accessed 8/29/17.

If you have questions please contact your Alabama Extension regional commercial horticulture agent.

Find your Alabama Extension Commercial Horticulture Agent


Doug Chapman, Extension Agent

Jeremy Pickens, Extension Specialist, Greenhouse Nurseries

John Olive, Ornamental Horticultural Research Station

David Held, Associate Professor, Department of Entomology




On Tuesday, October 24th, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System will have a walking tour of fruit and vegetable production at Holmstead Farm in Clay County. This farm is located in Clay County, but it does have a Talladega address of 6582 County Road 7, Talladega, Alabama. Alabama Cooperative Extension Agents Chip East and Dani Carroll will be leading this tour. The topics discussed at this tour include planting, pruning, and proper management of crops such blueberries, muscadines, blackberries, peaches, apples, and strawberries along with vegetable crops. Please call the Clay County Extension office at 256-354-5976 by Friday, October 20th, to register. There is no registration fee, but it helps to know how many will be attending. This will be a very educational meeting for commercial producers as well as home fruit and vegetable growers. If you have any questions about this meeting, please call Chip East at the Clay County Extension office or Bobby Ray Holmes at 256-404-4316. Click here for the event flyer.

On Thursday, November 2nd, a fruit production class will be taught at Founders Station at 4902 Pike Road in Montgomery County. The topics discussed at this meeting include site selection, variety selection, proper planting, mulching, irrigation, pruning, fertilization, and pest management. Crops to be discussed are apples, pears, peaches, persimmons, blueberries, and blackberries. The fruit class will begin at 9:00 a.m. and will last until noon. There is no registration fee, but seating is limited and pre-registration is required. Please pre-register by calling the Montgomery County Extension Office at 334-270-4133 by Wednesday, November 1. If you have any questions about this meeting or to pre-register, please call the Montgomery County Extension Office. 

Chip East, Regional Extension Agent

Week of August 21, 2017

Second-generation Florida Wax Scale crawlers should be out now or very soon.  I saw the cameo stage on some plants, ideal for spraying, and saw not-yet-hatched eggs under other adult scale.  These require a bit more time before spraying.  Monitoring of individual sites will determine the best time to spray.

The Ornamental Horticulture Research Center posted this on Facebook:  Same symptom; two causes, European Pepper Moth (tenative ID) showing up in north and south Alabama.   Symptoms are similar to Fusarium which is also common on mums. If it is the caterpillar, look for webbing and frass at the base of the plant and feeding on the lower stem. With Fusarium, one side of the plant often wilts and dies and you can find vascular discoloration and sometimes white or salmon spore masses on the stem.

Pepper Moth Symptoms on AzaleaEuropeanPepperMoth.png

I had another state hold up a shipment of azaleas a few years ago due to fear of this pest.  At that time I did not know of any down here in Mobile.  Tropical webworm was thought to be the pest living at the base of the plants.  Apparently now we need to be on the lookout for the pepper moth.

More info here.

Some redbanded thrips were seen on autumn and holly ferns in the same house.  Damage looked fairly old, with white leaves on a number of plants, especially along the aisles.   The grower had thought that the plants got too hot.  I didn't find very many adults and nymphs, but they were present.  Characteristic black spots similar to lace bugs were seen.


Albert Van Hoogmoed

AL Dept of Agriculture

Mobile and Baldwin Counties

We get many questions at the Extension office all year long about pecan trees. Leaves having bumps on them, limbs falling, pre-mature nut drop, leaves and shuck turning black, etc. I will try to describe a few of the pests associated with pecans and maybe this will help you understand what is happening to your trees.

One of the first pecan calls I get in the spring is pecan phylloxera. This is a tiny insect that feeds on the young new growth including shoots, shucks, and leaves. As the leaves and new growth mature you will notice many knot like structures. There are different species of pecan phylloxera; some will only feed on the leaflet which is not a major problem. The ones that feed on the shuck and leaf petiole are the bad ones. When they feed, the plant forms a gall in reaction to the feeding of the insect. The insect continues to feed and lays eggs when they are mature. If galls are on the petiole the leaf may drop, if galls are on nutlets, they may not mature.     

Fall webworm builds the web structures on ends of pecan branches as well as other trees. These insects are not a major pest that is hurting your pecan production. It is possible for high numbers to decrease pecan production, but it is not a pest a home pecan grower would be able to manage.  A pecan farmer who maintains a spray program may not have this problem, but it is not something that should concern a home producer. Please do not try to burn these out of trees. They look bad, but management is not recommended to a small grower.  

Green Pecan Nuts.jpg

Twig girdlers are a very interesting pest. These insects will lay eggs on a branch about pencil size or a little larger, and then girdle the branch. The branch will eventually break off during a wind and fall to the ground.  Other insects can girdle the branch, but the twig girdler makes a clean beveled edge and is very common. A good management practice would be to pick up the fallen branches and destroy them.   

Other insects that damage the shuck or nut include hickory shuckworm, stink bug, nut curculio, pecan nut casebearer, and pecan weevil.  Black and yellow pecan aphids can be found feeding on the foliage along with several other insects that I can provide information about if anyone is interested.

Pecan scab is the biggest pest of pecan trees in the southeast. This is a fungal problem that causes spots on the leaf, leaf petiole, and pecan shuck that causes early nut and leaf drop. A pecan farmer would have a spray program designed to manage this pest, but I do not recommend a home gardener try to spray. The pecan farmer has an air blast sprayer capable of reaching the top of the tree and will spray multiple times each year. If you are planting new trees, I can recommend some trees that are showing resistance to scab. For older plantings, I would suggest using cultural practices to make the tree as healthy as possible. Pecan trees can have other disease problems, but scab is the most common. Scab will be worse during rainy seasons compared to drought years. Although difficult to accomplish, it will help if all the leaves, stems, and undeveloped nuts that fall from the tree were hauled off site and destroyed.      

Since I do not recommend a home gardener spray a pecan tree, what could a small home gardener do to increase production? The answer is maintain healthy foliage to increase carbohydrate reserves. What that means is keeping the leaves as healthy as possible will increase production. Pecan trees that consistently drops their leaves early in the fall would not be as productive as other pecan trees that hold leaves until much later in the season. The best ways to maintain healthy foliage include weed control, mulch, irrigation, and proper fertilization. I would start a pecan fertilization program in April, and the Extension System can provide information on fertilizer.

The weed control, mulch, and irrigation should be done at any time of year that it is needed. Irrigation may be needed many times of year when the tree is actively growing; however, it is most important during the months of August and September. If you are planning to plant pecan trees in the future, I would plant them no closer than 60 feet apart and I prefer 70 or 80 feet for good sunlight and air circulation when they become mature trees.

If you have any questions about pecan trees or most anything else, give us a call at your local County Extension Office.

Chip East

Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Pesticide spray1.JPGRecently, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) tested and found pesticide contamination in several popular neem-based products. Below are direct links to the recalls on ODA website. As a result of this, a stop-sale has been issued for those neem products. As a researcher working on these products for many years, my goal is to provide you an alert regarding the complex situation and provide some recommendations for commercial organic crop producers in Alabama. Ultimately, producers should decide the best course of action according to their priority and resource availability.

ODA Pesticide advisories:

The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension has also developed a factsheet summarizing the misbranded/adulterated neem products that may be of help.

Recommendations for organic crop producers in Alabama:

  • URGENT: Check with your organic certifier and talk to your inspector regarding the past and future use of neem products. Neem-based insecticides are available by themselves or as premix. Make sure to keep records of all insecticide usage and check back on the status of recall on above websites.
  • Alabama IPM recommendations regarding neem have been directed for small caterpillar and sucking insect control in the early season. Neem-based products have struggled in the hot/humid weather and high pest pressure conditions generally seen in Alabama. Producers should understand that there are several other organic-approved products available for small caterpillar control, namely, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt, Xentari or DiPel), natural pyrethrum (PyGanic), and spinosad (Entrust, Monterey Garden Insect Spray). Never depend exclusively on one organic product – always rotate different insecticides and modes of action.
  • For aphid and whitefly control, the best products in IPM test plots include paraffinic oils (Suffoil-X, JMS Stylet Oil), microbial-based insecticide (Grandevo), insecticidal soap (M-Pede), and a fungal bioinsecticide (Mycotrol-O). These products only work when used at low populations immediately after detection. Complete coverage and repeated applications may be necessary for adequate pest management. Adult insects are typically more difficult to control than nymphs that hide under the leaves.  
  • As a reminder, organic producers and gardeners should utilize other alternative pest management systems such as trap crops, sanitation, and pest exclusion to prevent pest establishment. For more information, see Alabama Vegetable IPM videos and publications.

This article will not be able to provide all answers to your pest management questions, so please do not hesitate to contact a commercial horticulture regional extension agent in your county or call 251-331-8416 for discussing options with this author.

Ayanava Majumdar

Extension Entomologist

bitter rot in fruits.jpgAs apple crop is growing well and sizing sweet and juicy fruit, small, sunken brown lesions, sometimes surrounded by a red halo can appear and are easily spotted on green or yellow fruit.  These are the symptoms of bitter rot disease. Bitter rot is the most important summer fruit rot disease in the Southeast. In some seasons, it can cause losses approaching 100 percent in a few days. Bitter rot on apple and pear fruit is caused by the pathogenic fungi Colletrotrichum gloeosporioides and C. acutatum. All apple cultivars grown in the Southeast are susceptible to bitter rot disease. The same causal pathogens are also responsible for anthracnose disease on peach, anthracnose fruit rot on blueberry and strawberry, ripe rot on grape, anthracnose on pepper, and blossom-end rot of green burrs on chestnuts. The discussion below is limited to the disease as it affects apple and pear trees.

Disease symptoms:

Bitter rot occurs on fruit. Cankers can form on twigs, but they are rare. The fungus is one of the few fruit rot organisms that can penetrate the unbroken skin of the fruit. Maturity of the fruit, temperature, humidity, and presence of disease are factors that determine when the disease manifests. Bitter rot typically manifests in July and August and fruit susceptibility increases as it begins to mature. The fungus does not require fruit wounding to establish an infection and can directly penetrate the fruit skin.  Fruit infections can occur soon after bloom and appear as small, gray to brown flecks that may not enlarge until later in the summer. The most damaging fruit infections occur more than a month after petal fall. Rot spots usually appear on the side of the apple directly exposed to the sun (see picture above). The disease is noticed first as a small, light brown, circular spot. One or many spots may appear; if temperature and humidity are high, they enlarge quite rapidly and soon change to a dark brown. By the time the spots are 1/8 to ¼ inch in diameter, they are distinctly sunken or saucer shaped. When they reach ½ inch in diameter, small black dots, the fruiting bodies of the fungus, appear in the sunken lesion. These may be arranged in concentric rings. Later, they ooze a gelatinous, salmon-pink mass of spores, washed by rains to other fruit. As the fruit ripens, it decays rapidly and finally shrivels into a mummy.

Disease cycle

Bitter rot spores overwinter in mummified fruit, cracks and crevices in the bark, and cankers produced by either the bitter rot fungus or other diseases. Spores are produced during rainy periods in the spring and summer. Often the first infections appear as a cone-shaped area on the tree and can be traced to a source of spores at the tip of the cone. The optimal conditions for the disease to develop are rainfall, relative humidity of 80 to 100 percent, and a temperature of 80 to 90°F.

Disease management

To manage and control bitter rot in your orchard, remove old fire blight cankers and dead wood from your orchard. Alternatively, mulching the brush so it decays over the year also promotes sanitation. Remove apple mummies remaining on the tree from the previous season since the mummies serve as an inoculum source. Low areas of the orchard where drying is slower are susceptible areas. Bitter rot disease management is most effective by applying fungicides on a 10- to 14-day interval schedule through harvest and more frequently under favorable conditions. See Extension publication for a list of recommended fungicides and spray schedules.

Elina Coneva, Extension Fruit Crops Specialist, ACES

Cotton bollworm (CBW) moth trap catches increased from the last week of July to the first week of August at the 4 sites available for comparison. However, CBW trap catches tended to be much higher a year earlier at 3 sites. Tobacco budworm (TBW) moth trap catches increased also from the last week of July to the first week of August. Substantial numbers of soybean looper (SBL)  moths  continued to be trapped during the first week of August but the numbers were generally lower than during 2016.


Reports of cotton bollworms infesting Bollgard 2 and regular Widestrike (not Widestrike 3) cotton fields continue in NW AL. Based on the size of the largest CBW larvae in fields it is likely that the current CBW flight began about July 24. The number of CBW moths trapped at the Belle Mina station in Limestone county for the 7 day period ending July 24 was 41. To date a low percentage (less than 5%) of the cotton fields in NW AL  have been treated for CBW's but the number could increase. We have had  very few reports of regular Widestrike fields being treated for CBW in other parts of the state. Inspection of fields treated earlier with an insecticide  indicated less than desired control. It is extremely difficult to get chemicals to the worms that have moved down from the terminal into squares, bloom tags and bolls. Economic thresholds are necessary to help farmers make wise investment decisions when deciding if they will get a return on money spent for an insecticide.  The current recommended treatment threshold for CBW's in cotton is 4% infested plants or 2% damaged bolls with worms present. This is a conservative threshold. If someone comes to a farmer and tells them that they have "worms" in their cotton or soybeans and they need to spend $14 per acre for the insecticide and $7 per acre for application costs this amounts to $2100 per 100 acres sprayed or 32.3 pounds of lint per acre at 65 cents per pound and 2 bushels of soybeans/acre at $10/bushel. Every cotton field and every soybean field will have some worms present this time of year. However, this does not mean that spraying will save more money than it costs to spray. If the farmer does not know the density of the "worms" and the farmer makes the application without knowing what percentage of his cotton plants  are infested or the percentage of bolls that have a worm feeding on them then they could be wasting money. Likewise in soybeans the farmer needs to know how many caterpillars of each species are present per sweepnet sweep or groundcloth sample to make a knowledgeable treatment decision. It is also critical to know the level of defoliation that the soybeans have undergone and the number of each species of worm present before a prudent decision can be made. If the number of soybean loopers is low and much of the soybean defoliation is being  done by green clover worms and velvetbean caterpillars then less expensive chemistry may be used to prevent yield loss.


Moth trap catch numbers indicate CBW moths are still active. Large numbers of CBW moths were reported in peanut fields recently in Monroe county. Wheat beans have been found to have close to 5 pod worms (CBW) per sweep in south Limestone county and will require treatment. . Since tobacco budworm moths are also active then some of the eggs found on cotton plants could be TBW eggs and the larvae that hatch from these eggs will die. This is one drawback to using an egg threshold in cotton. One option for scouting for newly hatched worms is to look in the terminal and try to spot frass and live  worms. Detection of these small worms could be of value in making a decision to treat a cotton field.  The drawback to using this approach is that the first instar larva could die soon after feeding on the Bt cotton. The bottom line is that when the dual gene Bt cotton technology fails and worms survive it is very difficult to keep the numbers of CBW larvae below the economic threshold.  You cannot get the insecticide to the worms that are coming from eggs laid on blooms, bracts and leaves within the plant canopy.

Soybean loopers (1 per sweep in spots) were found to be increasing along with green clover worms and velvetbean caterpillars in south Pickens county last Thursday (8/3) in R5 soybeans. However defoliation was still close to 5% and the grower and consultant were wisely going to wait and see if defoliation increased before treating. The defoliation threshold is 20% for soybeans from bloom through R6.  A  report from Tuscaloosa county on 8/4 indicated that looper numbers  were still very low  and stink bugs were the main concern. Stink bugs are increasing in test plots at the Prattville research station where untreated  R5 soybeans had 3 brown marmorated and 5 southern green stink bug adults per 15 sweeps across two rows  on 8/2. Total immatures for these two stink bugs numbered 5 per 15 sweeps. The economic threshold for stink bugs is 2 per 15 sweeps from bloom to mid-pod fill.  Bifenthrin at 6.4 ounces per acre gave near 100% control of these two species of stink bugs. There are now silverleaf whiteflies present in at least one field in each of 3 Wiregrass counties. This pest has also been found in at least one peanut and one soybean field in southeast AL.

Tim Reed, Extension Entomologist

Ron Smith, Professor Emeritus, Auburn University, and Contract Entomologist, ACES

Alana Jacobson, Assistant Professor, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, Auburn University

 Barry Freeman, ACES

This article is based on research observations with a new product; mention of names should not be considered as product endorsement.

Vegetable crops are affected by many insect pests during the production season. Caterpillars can cause severe crop failure and contamination in high value crops grown in open field or closed environments. Pest monitoring and identification are critical early steps to implement integrated pest management (IPM) on the farm. Various pest monitoring systems are currently available in the market. Note that producers must check the crop directly for caterpillar feeding since pheromone traps only capture the migratory adult moths.


Pest monitoring for moths is usually a labor-intensive process with daily or weekly checks required to record data. Now that may change with the availability of Z-traps developed by Spensa Technologies, IN. Z-traps are perhaps the first widely available automatic traps that include cellular communication, a long battery life for field use, and bioimpedance sensor rods to accurately detect pests. Z-traps have to be fitted with pheromone lures for particular pest species and the metal zapper rods inside the plastic hut shock the moths killing them in the process. Moths fall into the collection jar at the bottom. The sensor detects the change in electric current and records it in the memory. In 2017, the Alabama Vegetable IPM program procured two Z-Traps for research and demonstration. Our collaboration with Spensa Technologies started when the IPM program started using 'MyTraps' in early 2000 and then the 'OpenScout' software for statewide monitoring of eight major moth species. OpenScout is a useful decision-making tool for recording insect pest monitoring/scouting information. In other words, OpenScout is cloud-based software that integrates very well with Z-traps.

 Z trap description.JPG

Despite weather-related challenges this year, we have tested Z-traps for seven weeks to monitor beet armyworm (BAW) and fall armyworm (FAW) moth activity. This is the first phase of our research and data presented here is preliminary. We compared Z-trap catches with sticky wing pheromone traps (a conventional trapping method) that were located several hundred feet away. Plants in the vicinity included row and horticultural crops grown for research and demonstration. Overall results indicated Z-traps with 2.5 times more moths that the conventional wing traps (see graph below); moth counts were accurate as long as we kept them free of debris blown in by storms. The daily (mid-night) update of trap data via OpenScout phone app was very useful with no issues downloading detailed records from the Cloud to a computer. The OpenScout software also shows additional information about Z-traps such as battery life, communication strength, and other data (basically the health of your trap!). Based on several months of trap data, there is evidence that the excessive rainfall in June (11+ inches in three weeks) caused a sharp decline in BAW/FAW moth activity; that low armyworm activity is now changing as rains have reduced. We are continuing research on the Z-traps to measure their durability and accuracy for detecting other major insect pests in Alabama, so stay tuned for more updates!

z trap data for baw and faw.JPG

For further details about pest monitoring, please read previous blog article or visit the Alabama Vegetable IPM website ( If you are beginning farmer, then contact your commercial horticulture regional extension agent for developing an IPM plan suitable for your farm.

Ayanava Majumdar

Extension Entomologist, Alabama Extension

(251) 331-8416,

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