So far this Spring and early Summer, we have been blessed with adequate rainfall to grow forages on our permanent and improved pastures. With adequate amounts of rain and forage, producers need to keep a close eye out for forage pests. Grasshoppers, Fall Armyworms, and Imported Fire Ants are the major insect pests of pastures in East Texas. Producers need to constantly check for population outbreaks of these damaging insects in their pastures and hayfields.
Grasshoppers can develop into a problem in East Texas pastures. Grasshopper populations need to be watched closely to insure the development of large numbers of damaging infestations in spring and early summer. Grasshoppers can easily be controlled with insecticides approved for pasture use when they are small and still in the juvenile stage. Grasshopper populations are usually heaviest during dry periods. A link to grasshoppers can be found at the following web site: http://insects.tamu.edu/fieldguide/#orthoptera .
Chemical control of grasshoppers include Dimilin 25W® or Dimilin 2L®, Mustang Max®, Carbaryl products such as Sevin 80 WP®, Sevin 4F®, and Sevin XLR®, and Malathion 57 EC®. Be sure to check the label on application rates for grasshoppers and grazing and harvesting restrictions on the livestock species you have on this pasture.
Fall armyworms are the major pests of permanent and improved pastures in most of Texas. Fall armyworm populations typically become a problem in rainy periods in late summer to early fall. Fall armyworms can be very devastating to pastures. Noctuid moths lay the eggs in the grass and thus the process begins. The eggs hatch and the armyworm larvae begin eating forages growing in size each day. The fall armyworm in large numbers appear to march across a field like an army eating the grass leaving nothing but a stem.
Fall armyworms range in color from pale green to brown to black. They are also striped with white to yellowish lines from the head to their tail. Fall armyworms have a distinguishing "Y" or "V" shape on the head area where the stripes join. Photos and information concerning fall armyworms can be found at the following web site: http://insects.tamu.edu/fieldguide/cimg321.html .
Producers should check their hayfields and pastures regularly during late summer and early fall to make sure their do not have large infestations of these devastating pests. One way to check for fall armyworms is to wear rubber boots and walk through your pastures in the early morning hours while the grass is still wet with dew. If you have an outbreak of fall armyworms, you will see small, immature worms on your boots. The number seen will determine the need to spray for control. Producers should also look for large numbers of cattle egrets or cow birds in your pasture as well.
There are several products you can use to control fall armyworm infestations. Chemical applications such as Malathion 57 EC®, Sevin 80 WP®, Tracer®, and Mustang Max® are approved for pasture use. Make sure that you read and follow the label when applying any pesticide checking for application rates as well as grazing and harvest restrictions for the livestock species you have on this pasture or hayfield.
With the recent rains, fire ant colonies are popping up all over the place. The Imported Fire Ant cause an estimated $1.2 billion annually in Texas alone. Fire ants affect livestock, equipment, crops, etc. causing damage to our Agriculture Industry. Imported fire ant information and control methods can be found at http://fireant.tamu.edu .
What fire ant control methods are out there for my farm or ranch? There are several baits that can be broadcast for imported fire ant control in pastures. Amdro Pro®, Esteem/Distance®, Extinguish®, and Extinguish® + Amdro Pro® Hopper Blend are currently labeled for pasture use. Always be sure to read the label and follow label instructions when applying one of these products. These products can be purchased and spread using a fertilizer spreader. In some cases, these products can be incorporated into your fertilize applications making one pass across the field.
No matter which of these pests becomes a problem, keeping a close watch on your pastures to insure outbreaks do not occur is key to preventing losses of forage. These pests can get into hayfields and grazing pastures alike. Monitor pest levels and decide if infestations are at levels in which treatment options are warranted. Minor outbreaks occur from time to time and natural controls, such as other beneficial insects and animals, usually can handle these outbreaks. Fact sheets and publications on these forage pests can be found at the following web site http://nacogdoches-tx.tamu.edu . Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.