By: Jake Evans
Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica Newman) are a concern every year in West/Central Illinois and other areas. The insect can be a pest in both corn and soybean. The adult beetles can interfere with corn embryo fertilization when they feed heavily on silks during pollination. In soybean, their feeding on flowers can lead to loss of potential pods and extensive leaf feeding can interfere with photosynthesis and plant energy production.
The metallic green- and bronze-colored beetle (Figure 1) starts life as a white grub. When spring soil temperatures reach 50 degrees, the larval grubs move up to the soil surface to feed on developing plant roots. Near the soil surface they will feed, pupate, then emerge as adults. Adults start emerging around late May with peak emergence occurring about four to five weeks later.
Adult beetles feed on leaves, silks, tassels and pollen. Beetles may leave corn leaves skeletonized or “lacey,” but leaf feeding rarely has an economic impact on yield. Real damage comes from the interruption of pollination and partially pollinated ears from silk clipping (Figure 2). To check for embryo fertilization, carefully remove husks and shake the ear; unfertilized embryos still have silks attached (Figure 3).
Silk clipping after pollination does not affect yield potential or pollination. However, there is some consideration that beetle feeding may leave an “infection point” for ear molds. When scouting for Japanese beetle, a representative portion of an entire field should be scouted as populations of the Japanese beetle are usually higher on the field edges. An insecticide treatment should be considered in corn when the following conditions exist:
Soybean scouting and thresholds:
For additional information, please see Channel® Agronomy ADVICE, Control of Japanese Beetle in Corn and Soybean .