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Control of Corn Earworm

Posted by ChickenCoupe 7a (seobonbon@gmail.com) on
Wed, Jun 25, 14 at 23:46

Golden Bantam Corn

I'm learning so much. It's so much fun that crop loss would be disheartening for Little Miss who has spotted the ears forming, but I could certainly live with it. I like to jiggle the plant and watch the puff of pollen in the air.

I'm still killing the occasional brown marmorated stink bug. Forget the corn. I don't want an infestation of those.

By now, the silks are forming and I've probably picked off five light green corn earworms (some caterpillar, anyway) in the last ten days. These remind me of the fall army worm but are very light green. I worry that there are some that I cannot see? What I find is, mostly, located on the silks. I see some silks that are chewed down (shorter) but nothing that would indicate burrowing into the silks. When the tassles were coming up I carefully inspected inside this area and found one dark worm with messy frass some other bug was enjoying. I killed it. have not seen a return of this kind nor the other bug. Now, most corn is at full tassle. Some not receiving as much light inside the patch is just now putting on tassles.

I treated once with spinosad before the last rain. Should it be applied directly to the plant and the soil beneath? That's what I did at the time.

Is there anything else I can do to protect the ears?

They look GREAT. Planted too close for Bantam growth but most are satisfied even without supplemental feeding in well amended soil. The only real problem is my inability to reach in for pest control. I didn't know Bantam grows three stalks with one seed. I've seen pictures of dent, I guess, and thought all corn was punier. And all those stalks have, at least, one ear. Yay!

I see many different spiders including some dead ones that lost a battle, lots of different flies that look like cluster or house flies, tachinid flies, some grasshoppers hiding in there, not really any frass, some holes indicating corn earworm (for a couple weeks now which is why I'm scouting), some stink bug damage on leaves, browning at the bottom of the stalks and on the outer edges of the lower leaves, lady bugs and the occasional flea beetle.

Thanks

bon


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

I remember shucking corn in Arkansas as a child. I had no idea where the corn came from, how it was grown or why there was damage, I just did what I was told. We just broke off or cut off that portion and went on. To this day, I just break off bad portions of corn I buy from the store and go on. Fascinating.


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

Bon,

It might not be disheartening. It might be a great learning experience. Part of gardening means learning that there are "others" who will eat your crops and that is just a part of the process as are the occasional total crop failures. Kids are pretty resilient and learning that sometimes you don't get the harvest you wanted because of a specific issue (pests, disease, adverse weather, etc.) helps kids understand that gardening doesn't come with any guarantees. Growing up in a gardening family and a gardening neighborhood, I learned about plant death and harvest disappointment early on,but it wasn't a crushing experience---it was an empowering one. Knowing what is normal in the natural world is great preparation for life out in the cold, cruel world of garden pests and garden diseases.

Are you sure you're seeing brown marmorated stink bugs? Oklahoma still shows up on all the maps as not being an infested area yet, and when I looked for info on these pests in OK a few months ago to see if I could find any official reports on them being here, what I found was a request from some folks at OSU that, if anyone in OK should find marmorated stink bugs, that they catch them and turn them over to their local ag extension agent so there would be proof/a record of them being found in Oklahoma.

Several kinds of worms plague corn. You may or may not see them. While tiny corn earworms usually make entry through the cornsilk area, the European corn borers will bore right through the husks into the corn, and they can do it at any point on the ear. It is not unusual to find worms in several different colors, from green to brownish to black when harvesting corn and cutting out the part of the ear where the earworm or corn borer is found.

If you are going to use Spinosad, you need to read your product label to see how often it can be reapplied on a given crop. If your label doesn't tell you, you can Google and find the Product Label for whatever brand of spinosad you're using. It should tell you how often you can reapply as well as how many days you have to wait to harvest/eat anything edible that was sprayed with Spinosad. Because Spinosad is more of a broad-spectrum pesticide, I don't use it on corn. If I feel the need to spray corn with anything, and I seldom do, I use Bt 'kurstaki' because it targets the earworms and corn borers but doesn't hurt the beneficial insects. I don't like using it even for that, though, because my garden is full of butterflies and I'd like for it to stay that way.

Dropping a few drops of mineral oil (especially if you add Bt to it) into the cornsilk every few days is an organic control long used for earworms. I usually don't even do that. I just accept that some ears will have earworms in them and I cut those out when harvesting the corn. I'd rather have a garden where little to no pesticides are used than have corn that looks perfect. If you plant your corn as early in spring as you can, you often can get your corn harvested before the corn earworms show up. That works well for me most years. If you plant it later, you're more likely to have earworms and European corn borers. I use the granular spinosad fire ant control product when I see a fire ant mound in a raised bed, but otherwise try to keep the spinosad in the garden shed. I always have been careful about not using it except as a last resort because it is too broad-spectrum for my taste, and because it is too similar in the way it works to some of the synthetic pesticides being linked to Colony Collapse Disorder. Just because a pesticide originated from an organic microorganism doesn't necessarily make it any safer than a synthetic pesticide. I try to avoid all pesticides as much as possible.

You don't have to reach in for pest control. I plant my corn, I water it, and I harvest it. In between the planting and the harvesting, I leave it alone and just let it grow.

Most of what we grow in our gardens will grow just fine with no assistance from us as long as we have planted the plants into fertile soil and try to ensure they get at least some irrigation when rain is not falling. Everything else we do in the garden is more about us, not them. They are just fine without excessive attention. Sometimes gardeners want to fix a lot of things they observe in the garden when, in fact, in most cases, the garden's ecosystem will solve those problems themselves.

Dawn


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

I got one stink bug late yesterday and noticed the under belly was green. According to one of the originally linked sites, this means it's just a brown stink bug. That's good! They really look very similar.

Corn is really a spectacular plant!


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

For fun, when you have the space to do so, try the different kinds of corn. Blue Jade corn is a dwarf with plants just the right size for a child to enjoy. The plants get about 3' tall, the corn kernels are dark blue until you cook them and then they turn jade green, and each plant can produce 3 to 6 ears. Ruby Queen is an SE corn with red kernels and I really liked it when I grew it, though I haven't grown it lately. If you discover you're plagued with corn earworms, there are some varieties that have very tight husks which make it difficult for the earworms to make entry at the corn silks. My favorite one in this group is Texas Honey June. It is fun to grow Red Stalker for its red stalks for autumn decorations and some years I grow the striped Japanese maize as an ornamental plant. Broomcorn plants can get 12-14' tall and the seed heads are gorgeous. It would take hundreds of the plants, though, to get enough seed heads to make your own broom. There's lots of decorative corns with kernels in many different colors, and popcorn is a great thing to grow for kids. When I was your daughter's age, I thought my grandfather could grow anything because he grew popcorn. I knew lots of kids whose families grew regular sweet corn or roasting ears or even flour corn, but my grandfather was the only person I knew who grew popcorn. The corn family is huge and diverse. One of the most interesting corns you can grow is gourdseed corn. It is an entirely different "look".

Any and every type of plant you grow will be amazing because they all are special in their own way, and bugs always will be drawn to them. I just shrug off the bugs as much as possible because there are more of them here on this earth than there are people, so I am under no illusion that I can control them. Whether we like it or not, they all have a place in the ecosystem and if we wipe out a specific insect or bug, we are messing up the Food Web for somebody. I have found that a healthy garden is full of insects, both good and bad, and only a very tiny percentage of them do enough damage to be an issue. Is it easy to just look at the bugs and hope they don't do too much damage? Nope, but I have learned my lesson. When I was a younger gardener, I tried to control the pests---to drive them away, to do anything within reason to make them go away, and guess what I learned? It is a phrase I repeat fairly often: nature abhors a vacuum. If you totally eliminate a pest insect that makes you crazy, guess what happens? Something else shows up to fill that void, and sometimes that something else is worse than the original pest was. Mother Nature will fill bare soil with weeds and bare garden ecosystems with bugs, so I try to live with them as much as possible because I'm never going to defeat them. I still hand-pick the most damaging pests, but that is most effective on only a few kinds of pests---like squash bugs on squash plants or harlequin bugs on broccoli or potato bugs on potato, tomato or pepper plants. I never have squished an aphid in my life and don't intend to start, and I rarely have aphids. I believe the lady bugs take care of the aphids for me, and if I start squishing aphids, maybe there won't be enough food for the ladybugs. Those few pests I do bother to try to control often do so much damage because so many of them are there. While 5 or 10 of them might not be an issue, maybe 100 or 200 of them would be. I just handpick all I can to keep the population from getting large enough to do massive damage. I never really get them all and I know that. With grasshoppers, I barely notice them in an average year. In a bad year, though, what are you doing to do? They migrate in, so even if there was a heavy-duty registered pesticide that would kill them all, guess what would happen? As soon as you wipe out the ones you have, more fly in. So, what's the point? I just try to live and let live. Lots of relatively normal friends of mine who are not control freaks in 95% of their life suddenly turn into control freaks during that 5% of their time that they are in the garden. They have a really hard time letting nature function the way it was designed to function.

With stink bugs, I try to kill what I see, generally by flicking them into a bowl of soapy water that I keep inthe garden all the time. Realistically, though, I know there's probably 100 more for every 1 that I kill. If I kill all of a given pest, then the beneficial insect that preys upon it won't show up because there's nothing there for it to eat. We never had a single Colorado potato beetle this year and, while I didn't mind their absence, the little turtles who live in my garden and eat CPBs were pretty distraught over it. They'd follow me around the garden as if I might lead them to the CPBs. What could I say? "Sorry guys." I don't know what the turtles are eating, but they are in the garden every day so they must be finding something they like to eat.

Sometimes when I worry that a particular pest is doing too much damage (blister beetles are an example of a pest that can show up en mass and do massive damage almost before you even realize they are there), I literally have to take a deep breath and ban myself from the garden for a day or two so I can fight the urge to go ballistic and spray some broad-spectrum pesticide all over the garden. There are times I look longingly at a bottle of Malathion on a shelf in a store and think to myself that the solution to all my garden's pest issues is right there in front of me. Do I buy it and use it? Nope. Never have and hoping that I never will. It isn't easy being green, but it is worth it.


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

Strawberry corn and some green corn came in trade for some of my Reid's dent. I'm anticipating the colors next spring. As you say, it'll be a special treat. For now, mouths are watering at the growing ears on the stalks of Bantam. And I think we're going to "try" some Reid's Yellow Dent corn for fall. Temps are very weird and we're running cooler than most. I don't want to risk the colored corn because I haven't a large quantity. When discussing growing any corn, Bill and I bantered for a while until we threw up our hands realizing 1) We have the room and 2) What difference does it make? Plant! What will be... will be. I'm enjoying just watching stuff grow and learning how to care for them. Whatever I learn this fall will add to next spring's success.

While hunting for worms yesterday I picked off a small caterpillar with needle-nosed pliers. It seemed listless. Odd. I got rid of it and looked back for more. Then I saw the crab spider. I had stolen his breakfast! I have garden friends as you suggest. :D


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

Spiders are my favorite garden helper. Our place is heavily populated with spiders. I did some research on spiders not long after we moved here, and learned that in rural areas like ours, spider populations can go as high as a million per acre. Well, that certainly explained all the spiders in the fields and forests here. I don't think we have a million spider per acre but we sure do have a lot. It likely would be impossible to garden here without them. I use glue traps in the corners of closets indoors to catch brown recluse spiders that come indoors and we use a spider spray pesticide in a can to kill black widows in the garage and shed. Other than that, we live peaceably with all our spiders, and all the other insects and arachnids that live here. I saw an estimate once that there's up to 300 lbs of insects/arachnids on this earth for every 1 lb of human beings. I think that explains why our gardens are teeming with wildlife.....tiny, tiny wildlife.


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

Dawn, please elaborate on the spider glue traps. My daughter is terrified of spiders, though what I see are mostly not poisonous. Where do you get them?


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

I read you can smear some mineral oil just inside the tips of the corn to kill or deter the worms.


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

Thank you, Zackey!


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

Amy, I just buy the glue traps that are made for mice. I've used both kinds---the ones that are just a flat sheet and the ones that are sort of a partially enclosed box type thing. Big box stores have them and so do farm supply stores. Brown recluse spiders that get into our house usually go into the closets, or at least that is where I find them....so if you put the glue traps in the corners of the closets, they'll catch the spiders. They'll also catch scorpions, which were a problem in our house for the first couple of years after we built it, and they'll catch an occasional kitty who's sticking its nose (and paws) into the corner of the closet to see what it going on with the glue trap.

Dawn


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

LOL, Dawn, I caught a beagle in one once. Couldn't figure out the flop flop flop noise as he ran across the kitchen.


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

LOL


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

That is too funny.

We have a big problem at the fire station with black widows and brown recluse spiders coming inside and climbing into the firefighters' boots, which are lined up on the floor beneath a long bench. I've thought about putting glue traps behind the boots or between them in an effort to catch the spiders, but always worried that we'd see a firefighter on a truck with a glue trap stuck to his boot.

I know that spiders are very beneficial and never would harm any of them....except for the black widows and brown recluse spiders. In our early years here, I had black widows in the garden. Their favorite place to hang out was in caged tomato plants. It made me very nervous when I was picking tomatoes. That lasted about three years, and we haven't had them there since. It was so strange. I still see them in the garden shed, the garage and sometimes near the outdoor water faucet.


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

Gosh, have any of the firefighters been bitten? I'm thinking plastic shower caps over the tops of the boots?


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

Corn earworm is all but devastating the corn crop. Not sweating it, though. Little miss was up to her ears in ears. So, we're good. The rest is just learning. I found some very good information that I wanted to post here. Zackey was onto the solution. Great details on what to use as pesticide and details of mix and application:

Corn Earworm Control


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

Sorry, I should add that it confirms Dawn's advice with the BT + mineral oil and goes into further details.


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

Also try pickeling lime I put it in an old salt shaker and apply to the base of the silks I have also had luck with companion planting radishes with the corn you can harvest some young ones but I let quite a few mature and bloom also helps with beatles in my beans


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

That is awesome. Thank you. I need all the help I can get. We'll be plant a bunch more in spring.

Does it matter what kind of radishes?

bon


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

no any kind will do. a little known treat of radishes when they start producing seed pods (they look like little rat tails) pick some off and add to stir fry and try some raw some might be a little peppery but I think their great , just another treat from the garden


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

And good eats. Can't beat that. I LOVE stir-fry.


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

Amy, No firefighter has ever been bitten by a venomous spider at the station. They know to shake their boots and knock them together to shake loose any spiders that might have climbed in to them.

I bet the beagle was surprised!

Bon,

I grow a type of radish called rat-tail radish and the pods are good stir-fried. The flowers are very pretty and attract a lot of beneficial insects that attack caterpillars. Mine generally reseed for me most years so I just watch and see if any sprout, and then if they don't, I sow the seeds. I've been surprised how well the tolerate the ridiculous summer heat and just keep blooming their heads off and setting seeds.

I imagine any radish, if left in the ground, would flower and set seeds, but rat-tail is the one I grow as a companion plant because wherever it was that I first learned about planting radishes with squash, it was rat-tail radishes that was recommended.

Dawn

Here is a link that might be useful: Rat-tail Radish Seed at BCHS


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

Nice. I've heard rat tail mentioned before. I supposed I just need to try a bunch of different varieties.


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

I planted icicle radishes all over the garden. I don't like radish, so no problem letting them go to seed. Some are bigger around than my arm, pushing up out of beds and 4 or 5 feet tall. Some new sprouts in the beds, too. I tasted one of the seed pods today. Really not bad, considering I don't care for radish. Kind of sweet. It didn't keep the SVBs away, but something has kept squash bugs down. I've only seen them where there were no radishes (or the other companions I've planted.) Of course, since I've said that, I will go out tonight and find an infestation.


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RE: Control of Corn Earworm

I've read about the icicle radishes. Considered them as a cover crop, at one point. Might still do it in some spots.


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