Cotton Insect Pests Don’t Give Up Easily

Tommy Horton
By Tommy Horton, Editor

At times, it appears that the cotton insect landscape changes more quickly than the Dow Jones Industrial numbers on the stock market each day. We blink our eyes, and a new insect has become a serious threat in a region of the Cotton Belt. Or, in other cases, a pest that was dormant for several years suddenly flares and catches everybody by surprise.

To the outsider, it’s as if Mother Nature won’t let us off the hook. For example, just because the cotton industry eradicated the boll weevil many years ago doesn’t mean farmers are home free. The next pest threat is just around the corner.

That is precisely why Cotton Farming decided to publish an update from each region of the Belt to gain a better understanding of the insects in cotton production. Not surprisingly, our cover story is focused on the stink bug, and how it continues to perplex Georgia cotton producers and other parts of the Southeast.

I had known that the stink bug was always near the top of the insect pest list for Georgia cotton farmers. But, it wasn’t until I talked to three Georgia experts – Extension entomologist Phil Roberts, consultant Jack Royal and producer Jimmy Webb – that I learned why this pest is so different. It clearly marches to its own drumbeat. You’ll find out more from our Georgia experts’ comments in the cover story on pages 8 and 9.

The stink bug – unlike the boll weevil – is elusive and doesn’t confine its activities to one crop. It feeds on nearly everything that is planted in the ground. This is quite different from the boll weevil, which fed on one crop – cotton. In short, the industry was able to eradicate the boll weevil because every cotton field was sprayed. Eventually, this pest was eliminated.

After talking to various insect experts, I also learned other important facts that maybe I had forgotten. Every region has a different environment for cotton production – necessitating a specific strategy. That is one of the facts you’ll learn when reading updates this month from entomologists Scott Stewart (Mid-South) and Megha Parajulee (Texas) as well as Brent Murphree in his Western Report.

We simply can’t make a blanket statement about insect control because other factors enter into the equation. South Georgia is a far cry from the Texas High Plains or the San Joaquin Valley in California. Perhaps our Georgia consultant friend Jack Royal had the best comment about dealing with the dreaded stink bug: “If you have a zero tolerance for this pest, you won’t get burned.” That sums it up pretty well.

When in doubt, be aggressive against bad bugs.



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