Menu

Scouting Advised for Alfalfa Weevil

Alfalfa weevils have been reported damaging alfalfa in north central Kansas. As temperatures warm up, expect to see alfalfa weevil larvae in southern Nebraska and slightly later, in northern Nebraska.

The larvae of Alfalfa weevils feed on first cutting alfalfa as larvae, and adults (and sometimes larvae) feed on the regrowth after the first cutting.

Even with the pressure of planting row crops, it is essential that producers growing high quality alfalfa hay make time to monitor fields for weevils now and over the next few weeks. In the Panhandle and in the northern tier of counties there may be two flushes of weevil larvae this spring, leading to regrowth damage after the first cutting.. Observations indicate the cause may be due to significant survival of both adult and larval weevils.

Adult and small- to medium-sized larvae of the alfalfa weevil
Figure 1. Adult and small- to medium-sized larvae of the alfalfa weevil. (Photo by Julie Peterson)

Alfalfa Weevils

Life Cycle

Most alfalfa weevils overwinter as adults, become active as temperatures increase, and lay eggs. Some may lay eggs in the stem during fall and, if winter is not too severe, will successfully overwinter. These eggs will hatch earlier than those laid in spring. This is most likely to occur in southern counties.

In some areas of Nebraska, alfalfa weevils are not following this seasonal pattern. In the Panhandle and in the northern tier of counties there may be two flushes of weevil larvae in the spring. In the last few years some areas of the state have received damage to regrowth after the first cutting due to a combination of late larval feeding and adult feeding. This is something to be aware of after the first cutting.

While alfalfa weevil damage has been spotty in much of Nebraska over the past few years, the potential for damage always exists. Even with the pressure of planting row crops, it is essential that producers growing high quality alfalfa hay make time to monitor fields for weevils over the next few weeks.

Scouting

Alfalfa weevil damage consists of small holes and interveinal feeding on the newest leaflets near the stem tips. The larvae are small (1/16 to 3/8 inch long) and pale yellowish green, becoming a darker green when larger. These legless worms have black heads and a white stripe the length of the back (Figure 1). The alfalfa weevil larvae spend nearly all their time on the plant. They curl into a C-shape when disturbed.

Once the alfalfa is high enough to use a sweep net, take a sample to establish whether weevils are present. If they are, randomly select at least five sampling sites from across the entire field. At each site, gently pick or cut at least 10 alfalfa stems at ground level. Shake the larvae off the stems by beating the stems into a deep-sided bucket. Count the larvae and determine the average number of larvae per stem. Make sure to check for small larvae that may be enclosed in new, folded leaflets at the tips of the stems. Measure stem lengths and determine the average stem height. Use these averages in Table 1 to determine the appropriate action.

*Pre-harvest interval/Pre-grazing interval
(Source: Integrated Pest Management of Alfalfa Weevil in North Dakota, E1676, Patrick B. Beauzay, et al, North Dakota State University 2013).

Economic Thresholds

Economic thresholds have been developed to aid decision making on alfalfa weevil control (Table 12). These thresholds were derived by North Dakota State University entomologists (Beauzay et al. 2013) from a two-year study conducted at the UNL Eastern Nebraska Research, Extension and Education Center near Mead in 1990 and 1991 (Peterson et al. 1993). These guidelines can fluctuate depending on growing conditions and variety.

Deciding whether to treat or re-sample depends on the average number of weevils per stem, the stem length, treatment costs, and the value of the alfalfa. When alfalfa reaches 50% or more bud stage, it may be more profitable to cut the alfalfa early than treat it.

Insecticides

Because alfalfa weevil natural enemies (e.g., lady beetles and parasitoid wasps) have the potential to keep weevils from reaching economic injury levels, use insecticides only when necessary.

Many insecticides are registered to control alfalfa weevil larvae. See the most recent edition of the Guide for Weed Management in Nebraska with Insecticide and Fungicide Information (EC130) for rates and restrictions of commonly used insecticides for alfalfa weevil larval control. They differ in their modes of action and pre-harvest intervals.

Highly effective insecticides for alfalfa weevil control include those that are pyrethroids (active ingredient ends in “thrin”) and products containing indoxacarb (e.g., Steward).

Pyrethroid insecticides also provide aphid control but can have detrimental effects on beneficial insects. Indoxacarb products are more selective and do not affect most beneficial insects but will not provide aphid control.

Resources

  • Integrated Pest Management of Alfalfa Weevil in North Dakota (E1676), by Patrick B. Beauzay, Janet J. Knodel, G.A.S.M. Ganehiarachchi, 2013. NSDU Extension Service, Fargo, ND.
  • Yield Responses of Alfalfa to Simulated Alfalfa Weevil Injury and Development of Economic Injury Levels by R.K.D. Peterson, S.D. Danielson and L.G. Higley, 1993. Agronomy Journal 85: 595-601; view abstract.

Source: University of Nebraska CropWatch

Recent News

Corn Silage Needs Adequate Moisture to Ferment
9/18/2020

Early season frost is challenging for corn silage producers, according to Karl Hoppe, Extension livestock systems specialist at NDSU’s Carrington Research Extension Center. Frost makes an abrupt end to the corn-growing season. This begins the dry-down period for the corn plants. “Good corn silage fermentation requires adequate moisture to reduce dry-matter loss and spoilage,” Hoppe […]

China-Corn Crop Impacted by Adverse Weather, as U.S. Wheat and Soybean Exports Increase
9/18/2020

Reuters writers Hallie Gu and Gavin Maguire reported on Wednesday that, “China’s corn crop is expected to fall by up to 10 million tonnes, or nearly 4%, from the latest government estimates after heavy wind and rains toppled crops in major production areas in the northeastern cornbelt, analysts said. “Expected production losses have pushed Chinese corn futures to […]

Surface Application of Manure to Newly Planted Wheat Fields
9/18/2020

Several livestock producers have inquired about applying liquid dairy or swine manure to newly planted wheat fields using a drag hose. The thought process is that the fields are firm (dry), there is very little rain in the nearby forecast, and the moisture in the manure could help with wheat germination and emergence. The manure […]

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now