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UC Pest Management Guidelines


Beet armyworm larva.

Tomato

Beet Armyworm

Scientific name: Spodoptera exigua

(Reviewed 1/08, updated 1/08)

In this Guideline:


DESCRIPTION OF THE PEST

Beet armyworms are a widespread pest found in tomato fields every year. In some areas beet armyworm may be the most important caterpillar attacking tomato. Eggs are laid on leaves in clusters covered with hairlike scales left by the female moth; there may be more than 100 eggs per cluster, but usually there are fewer. Newly hatched larvae feed together on foliage near the egg cluster and gradually disperse as they grow. Older larvae feed on leaves and fruit. Larvae usually are dull green with many fine, wavy, light-colored stripes down the back and a broader stripe along each side; they usually have a dark spot on the side of the thorax above the second true leg. The color varies, however, and the spot is absent in a proportion of some populations. The pupa is similar to that of the tomato fruitworm; it is formed in a cell on or just below the soil surface. The adult moth has a wingspan of about 1 inch. The life cycle takes about a month in warm weather, and there are three to five generations a year.

DAMAGE

The beet armyworm attacks both foliage and fruit, creating single or closely grouped circular or irregular holes. In processing tomatoes, feeding is often shallow and superficial as most wounds eventually dry. Little loss would result when the processing pack is for paste or juice uses if not for decay organisms that sometimes enter wounds and rot the fruit or when feces or the caterpillar remain in the fruit. Damage is problematic for whole pack or diced uses. Check with the processor for acceptable levels of armyworm-scarred fruit. In fresh market tomatoes, the presence of such holes results in unmarketable fruit. The caterpillars occasionally develop inside the fruit, causing damage similar to that of the tomato fruitworm.

MANAGEMENT

Beet armyworms are sometimes kept under control by natural enemies and a polyhedrosis virus. Use the UC fruit sampling procedure below to determine need for treatment.

Biological Control
A nuclear polyhedrosis virus often reduces populations in fall and winter. Hyposoter exiguae, a small wasp, is the most important parasite of beet armyworm. General predators such as bigeyed bugs and minute pirate bugs feed on eggs.

Organically Acceptable Methods
Biological control and sprays of the Entrust formulation of spinosad and Bacillus thuringiensis ssp. aizawai are acceptable for use in an organically certified crop.

Monitoring and Treatment Decisions
In processing tomatoes, begin sampling fruit when it has reached 1 inch or more in diameter. Treatment is not necessary prior to this size as the damaged fruit will fall from the plant and little yield loss will occur. Pick at least 100 fruit at random while walking through the field, being careful not to select red fruit when the majority of fruit are green. If damaged fruit are found, determine the amount of damage present and the size and species of the worms. Count fruit as damaged if it has any hole deeper than 0.1 inch (2.5 mm), if the hole is contaminated with feces, or if any larvae are present in the fruit. The treatment threshold is 3.25% damaged fruit. A sequential sampling technique is available (100 KB, PDF) to help reduce the number of samples required to reach a treatment decision.

In fresh market tomatoes, begin sampling when fruit appears. Pheromone traps are useful for determining when major flights occur, but not for predicting damage. A 5-minute timed search is useful in determining the need for treatment. On average, if one or more larvae or egg masses are found in 5 minutes, treatments may be justified. Picking large numbers of fruit each week and assessing percent damage may not be economically feasible. Ground applications provide maximum effectiveness of the pesticide.

Common name Amount/Acre** R.E.I.+ P.H.I.+
(trade name)   (hours) (days)

  Calculate impact of pesticide on air quality
 
The following materials are listed in order of usefulness in an IPM program, taking into account efficacy and impact on natural enemies and honey bees. When choosing a pesticide, also consider information relating to environmental impact. Not all registered pesticides are listed. Always read label of product being used.
 
A. INDOXACARB
  (Avaunt) 3.5 oz 12 3
  MODE OF ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 22
 
B. METHOXYFENOZIDE
  (Intrepid) 2F 8–16 fl oz 4 1
  MODE OF ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 18A
  COMMENTS: Low toxicity to beneficials. Apply at the beginning of egg hatch. When traps indicate moth flights have begun, sample leaves for eggs. Treat when eggs are first detected. Do not apply more than 64 fl oz/acre/season.
 
C. SPINOSAD
  (Entrust)# 1.25–2.5 fl oz 4 1
  (Success) 4–8 fl oz 4 1
  MODE OF ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 5
  COMMENTS: Use higher rate for larger worms and heavy infestations. Best control is achieved when aimed at newly hatched larvae and coverage is thorough. Less toxic to natural enemies than many other choices. For resistance management, do not apply more than 0.45 lb a.i./acre/season.
 
D. BACILLUS THURINGIENSIS spp. AIZAWAI#
  (various products) Label rates 4 0
  MODE OF ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 11.B1
  COMMENTS: This material is most effective against newly hatched larvae, so proper treatment timing is essential. This material is also somewhat effective on other worm pests.
 
E. METHOMYL*^
  (Lannate) 90WSP 0.5–1 lb 48 1
  MODE OF ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 1A
  COMMENTS: Will also control fruitworm, yellowstriped armyworm, cutworms, and cabbage looper. Primary use of methomyl should be if older larvae, which are difficult to control with other insecticides, are present. Some resistance has been documented. Do not use if psyllids are in the field as carbamates tend to promote development of their populations; also if leafminers are present, it may cause outbreaks by destroying their natural enemies.
 
F. ESFENVALERATE*^
  (Asana XL) 0.66EC 5.8–9.6 fl oz 12 1
  MODE OF ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 3
  COMMENTS: Some resistance has been documented. May cause outbreaks of Liriomyza spp. leafminers. In some areas where tomatoes are grown, resistance to this material is a problem. Do not exceed 0.5 lb a.i./acre/season.
 
G. FENPROPATHRIN*
  (Danitol) 2.4EC 10.66 fl oz 24 3
  MODE OF ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 3
  COMMENTS: May cause outbreaks of Liriomyza spp. leafminers.
 
**  See label for dilution rates.
+ Restricted entry interval (R.E.I.) is the number of hours (unless otherwise noted) from treatment until the treated area can be safely entered without protective clothing. Preharvest interval (P.H.I.) is the number of days from treatment until harvest can take place. In some cases the R.E.I. exceeds the P.H.I. The longer of these two intervals is the minimum time that must elapse before harvest may take place.
* Permit required from county agricultural commissioner for purchase or use.
^ Do not apply when bees are present.
# Acceptable for use on organically grown produce.
1 Rotate chemicals with a different mode-of-action Group number, and do not use products with the same mode-of-action Group number more than twice per season to help prevent the development of resistance. For example, the organophosphates have a Group number of 1B; chemicals with a 1B Group number should be alternated with chemicals that have a Group number other than 1B. Mode of action Group numbers are assigned by IRAC (Insecticide Resistance Action Committee). For additional information, see their Web site at http://www.irac-online.org/.

IMPORTANT LINKS

[Precautions]

PUBLICATION

[UC Peer Reviewed]

UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines: Tomato
UC ANR Publication 3470
Insects and Mites
F. G. Zalom, Entomology, UC Davis
J. T. Trumble, Entomology, UC Riverside
C. F. Fouche, UC Cooperative Extension, San Joaquin County
C. G. Summers, Entomology, UC Davis/Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier
Acknowledgments for contributions to the insects and mites section:
N. C. Toscano, Entomology, UC Riverside

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