Insect Management for Newly Planted Trees: European Corn Borer and Oriental Fruit Moth. June 11th 2018

ECB Adult Flight, Egg Laying and Hatch Continuing
ECB Adult Flight Begins This Week

Brief: Newly planted trees will require irrigation this week as total accumulations of rainfall in the mid Hudson Valley were 1.0 inch from May 19th to the 11th of June. Drought conditions will often drive insect pests like stink bug and European corn borer (ECB) Ostrinia nubilalis into apple plantings. For ECB, succulent new growth provides ideal resources for developing larva. Egg laying of ECB has already begun. Hatch and management should begin at 800 DD base 50F. Hatch of Oriental Fruit Moth (OFM) have also been observed moving into apple shoots early this season continuing to cause flagged and dying shoots in unmanaged tree fruit.

The second generation of OFM historically emerges in June with larva emergence beginning in July. Terminal growth in newly planted apple is essential to develop fruit buds and laterial branching for next season. The loss of tree architecture in the first year will significantly reduce fruiting potential and subsequent economic returns. Scout across the block along the leaf stem nodes for frass and in shoots for flagging. Management should begin at first signs of injury. Materials used for management to control codling moth and obliquebanded leafroller should reduce ECB and OFM when applied to new plantings over the next few weeks.

ECB larva on apple
ECB larva on apple

In-Depth: When it comes to apple production we typically don’t concern ourselves with the likes of European corn borer. However, this insect, especially in years of drought can cause considerable damage to newly planted trees. Populations of ECB began in relatively low numbers throughout NY State this season but will likely continue to climb over the next few weeks. In new plantings we have seen ECB begin to burrow into the growing shoots in mid-late June so scouting should begin in newly planted trees this weekend.

ECB Frass, Infestation of Young Apple
ECB Frass, Infestation of Young Apple

Female ECB moths have begun laying egg masses on the underside of apple leaves with larva hatch observed. If ECB is present, larval feeding should become evident in newly developing apple shoots over the next few days. You will see brown frass and ooze where the leaf petiole and stem join. It is likely that fruit trees with ECB injury will have higher damage levels along the perimeter, especially where tall grasses and woody stemmed broad leaf weeds are present.

The Eastern strain of European corn borer (New York / Eastern Z strain) has a wide host range, attacking robust herbaceous plants with a stem large enough for the larvae to enter.

Some of the common weeds infested include barnyardgrass, Echinochoa crus-galli; beggarticks, Bidens spp.; cocklebur, Xanthium spp.; dock, Rumex spp.; jimsonweed, Datura spp.; panic grass, Panicum spp.; pigweed, Amaranthus spp.; smartweed, Polygonum spp.; and others.

There are reports that weather influences European corn borer survival. Heavy precipitation during egg hatch is sometimes an important mortality factor. Low humidity, low nighttime temperatures, and heavy rain and wind are detrimental to moth survival and oviposition. However, like most insect pests, they seem to thrive during unlikely weather scenarios in years past. Drought seems to favor development and generational success.

Typical examples of ECB feeding on apple is similar to that of Oriental Fruit Moth on apple with frass and entry under petiole or side of new shoots.

From prior observations, the larva reside within the upper most part of the shoot, 8-10 inches from the tip. Frass is visible at the base of the petiole and leaves are browning from the tip back toward the stem of infected stem portions (see images below).

Trap sites across NYS show very low early season adult flight. Later into the season we are now finding increasing ECB adults in pheromone traps across the state that will likely require intensive management on sweet corn.

Newly planted apple should be scouted frequently, especially if drought conditions continue during the latter part of the summer.

Irrigated apple become very attractive to ECB adults as they move out from low moisture weed hosts along orchard borders. Pheromone trap placement for ECB in newly established orchards should be along the edge where know weed host plants reside.

Efficacy of pyrethroids on ECB
Efficacy of pyrethroids on ECB

Applications of most insecticides will do little to manage the larva within the tree. However, management at the early onset of hatch will reduce further infestations in blocks that already show the beginnings of ECB boring and larval feeding.

Pyrethroids become less effective to ECB populations as temperatures increase, as this class of insecticides is more readily detoxified by insects when temperatures exceed 70F.

Delegate 25WG is labeled for use on apple in NY and is very effective at controlling ECB on newly planted trees. Delegate and generally the spinosad class of insecticides are not as negatively effected by increased temperature. Bt formulations are also labeled for ECB, and may require tight intervals for acceptable management during periods of intense sunlight and heavy weathering.

Temp. Effect on ECB Efficacy (Tony Shelton, NYSAES)
Temp. Effect on ECB Efficacy (Tony Shelton, NYSAES)

Insecticides used against codling moth at this time will likely impact ECB, however, newly planted trees that have no marketable crop are often ignored as mature trees with fruit near harvest, and concerns over CM and apple maggot infestations to the crop distract growers from attending to new plantings. Management of ECB to reduce shoot injury to newly planted trees will require a specific management plan and no less then bi-weekly applications of effective insecticides to maintain terminal shoot growth during ECB hatch.

About Peter J Jentsch

Peter J. Jentsch serves the mid-Hudson Valley pome fruit, grape and vegetable growers as the Senior Extension Associate in the Department of Entomology for Cornell University’s Hudson Valley Laboratory located in Highland, NY. He provides regional farmers with information on insect related research conducted on the laboratory’s 20-acre research farm for use in commercial and organic fruit and vegetable production. Peter is a graduate of the University of Nebraska with a Masters degree in Entomology. He is presently focusing on invasive insect species, monitoring in the urban environment and commercial agricultural production systems throughout the state
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