Tomato, corn pests in town for the 4th of July

As summer moves along, the season is running according to plan for many Arkansas crops—including annual pest issues.

Extension specialists and county agents across Arkansas are seeing an increase in Helicoverpa zea, also known as the corn earworm, cotton bollworm or tomato fruitworm. But specialists say this influx is to be expected this time of year.

“This is what we call the Fourth of July flight,” said Ben Thrash, extension entomologist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “Our moth trap numbers have been up the past couple weeks, and growers should be keeping an eye out.”

With soybeans and cotton still early in the season, the main concern with this flight is corn and tomatoes.

“Tomatoes and sweet corn are a prime target for serious losses due to tomato fruitworm feeding,” said Aaron Cato, horticulture integrated pest management specialist for the Division of Agriculture. “It’s important for growers to get out and scout tomatoes as soon as possible so control can be achieved prior to those larvae moving on to their second, third, or fourth fruit to munch on. Anyone with sweet corn that isn’t Attribute Plus or Attribute II needs to be applying insecticides at two- to three-day intervals, after silks are seen, to prevent significant infestations.”

Although cotton and soybean may not be a worry yet, Thrash said the worms could be moving into those fields soon.

“Bollworms are in cotton fields south of us in Texas and Louisiana,” he said. “The worms we’re seeing now will be coming out of corn into cotton and soybeans in about 28 days, maybe a little earlier. We usually see issues about the third or fourth week of July.”

As the growing season continues, it’s important for producers to be aware of annual insect pest issues. Data from moth traps for Helicoverpa zea and other common Arkansas pests are tracked and uploaded into interactive maps. Find up-to-date data and resources below:

• Horticulture insect pest monitoring, interactive map2023 county trap catches for Arkansas row crop pests; and

• MP144 for insecticide recommendations, also available at county extension offices.

Mention of product names does not imply endorsement by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.