Early identification of pests enhances management options

The first step in a good pest management program is accurate identification of pests. Early identification provides time to monitor the pest and determine the best plan of action. MSU Diagnostic Services can help with identifying pests.

The warm weather in March set in motion weeds, insects and some crops. This unusual timing may impact when we see pests this year and how we manage them. Recent MSU Extension News articles, “Early rapid wheat growth may alter your weed management plans” by Christy Sprague and “More black cutworm or soybean aphids this spring?” by Chris DiFonzo, both published March 30, highlight the pest challenges at hand.

Scouting fields regularly and accurately identifying the pest that is causing damage is the first step in management. MSU Diagnostic Services is a good way to assure correct identification.

Accurate identification begins with a quality sample. Here are three easy steps for submitting a quality sample.

1. Collect

  • Samples containing the entire plant are ideal: roots, stems, foliage and soil or media. When submitting plant roots and all, make sure the soil is contained so it does not make contact with the foliage.
  • Submit several plants so there is plenty of material to work with.
  • Collect samples that show a progression of the symptoms: healthy, marginal and severely affected.
  • A picture is worth 1,000 words! Digital images show symptoms in the field and pattern of damage. Wide angle and close-up shots can give both big picture and detailed perspectives. You can also e-mail digital photos directly to the lab at pestid@msu.edu for a diagnosis.

2. Package

  • Quality samples yield quality results. Package and handle to assure samples arrive at the lab in good shape.
  • There is no specific requirement for container; just be sure it will survive the trip and is properly labeled. Avoid using envelopes to ship samples.
  • Insect samples should include the insect in a leak-proof vial of alcohol or vinegar and a sample of the damage.
  • Larval stages should be lightly boiled then placed in alcohol (need to be alive when boiled), or submitted alive.
  • Moths or butterflies should be frozen for 30 minutes then shipped in a vial with tissue paper.
  • When submitting nematode samples, collect both soil and roots, place in a plastic bag and label. Samples should contain a pint to a quart of soil and should not be exposed to high temperatures.

3. Submit

Each year brings a new set of challenges with pests. Keeping an eye on the fields and early identification is the best defense.

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