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The points of contact between Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service and the grower & business communities are the NJ County Agricultural Agents. The agents are a tremendous source of information for both new and experienced growers. Visit your local county extension office.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Update on migratory insect pests

-Joseph Ingerson-Mahar
Caterpillars of both fall armyworm and beet armyworm were found in sweet corn in the Hammonton area on May 25.  This is a much earlier occurrence of these insects than normal.  Farmers should be vigilant for feeding damage in peppers, tomatoes, sweet corn, spinach and other susceptible crops.

Fall armyworm tends to feed on grasses including field and sweet corn and sudan grass.  The caterpillars of FAW can be recognized by the inverted 'Y' marking on the head.  The body is generally brown with light and dark stripes and a yellowish stripe just above the base of the legs extending the whole body.  The head is reddish brown.

Beet armyworm tends to feed on broadleaf crops, especially peppers, tomatoes and spinach.  It can be recognized by its general green color with a pale yellow stripe above the base of the legs extending the length of its body.  Below this stripe the caterpillar is yellow or greenish yellow and above the stripe it is green.  There is a distinct oval black spot on either side of the caterpillar close to the head.

In addition to these insects there has been an increase in the yellow-striped armyworm population in south Jersey.  This caterpillar feeds on a wide range of vegetable crops.  It is usually a secondary pest but at times can be locally abundant.  This caterpillar is black with bright yellow stripes extending the length of the body.  The head is brown.

Controls for these pests are essentially the same now as in later in the season.  What will be the greatest problem is that some farmers may be caught off guard by their early appearance.