Pasture and Forage Minute: Alfalfa Weevil Scouting, Dealing with Stress

Alfalfa weevil larvae and plant damage on alfalfa
Alfalfa weevil larvae (pictured at left) spend nearly all their time feeding on fresh leaf tissue, causing alfalfa plants to wilt and turn brown (at right), which can look similar to the effects of drought and cold injury. (CropWatch file photos)

Pasture and Forage Minute: Alfalfa Weevil Scouting, Dealing with Stress

Alfalfa Weevil Prep

By Samantha Daniel

As spring approaches, it is a good idea to start thinking about the insects that will be emerging and subsequently feeding on alfalfa, particularly alfalfa weevil.

Alfalfa weevils are beetles that overwinter primarily as adults and emerge as temperatures warm and begin to lay eggs. Plant injury from feeding damage initially appears as pinholes in the terminal leaves, with leaves becoming skeletonized as feeding severity increases. It is important to note that in previous years, areas of the Panhandle and northern counties have seen two flushes of weevil larvae. This may lead to increased feeding damage to alfalfa regrowth after the first cutting.

Scouting for alfalfa weevil is critical for preventing economic losses to alfalfa fields and should begin in early May. You will be looking for a beetle roughly five millimeters in length with a blunt snout, a body covered in golden hairs and a brown stripe running lengthwise down the center of the back. Larvae are around eight millimeters long with a black head, wrinkled green body and white stripe running lengthwise along the top. Economic thresholds for alfalfa weevil can vary greatly from an average of one to seven larvae per stem, depending on a variety of factors.

Natural enemies of alfalfa weevil, including ladybeetles and parasitoid wasps, have the potential to keep weevil densities below economic levels. For this reason, it is recommended that insecticides be used only when necessary. 

Farm and Ranch Stress

By Shannon Sand

Farming and ranching occupations are among the most stressful jobs in America, based on factors that affect a producer’s financial, physical and mental health.

Price volatility, inflation, wildfires, calving and drought — all of these and more are factors that contribute to stress that producers deal with. Stress can also be positive, giving us a competitive edge. However, when that stress turns into negative distress, it is no longer healthy for our well-being. In rural areas, many people are impacted by the negative aspects of stress and chronic distress, resulting from challenges unique to the agricultural industry.

When somebody shows symptoms of stress, such as moodiness, anger, irritability, loneliness, anxiety, lack of energy, sleep deprivation, low self-esteem, constant worrying, forgetfulness, overeating, or increased use of alcohol or drugs, don’t be afraid to talk with them about it. Listen to the person about whom you are concerned. It is important not to pass judgement on what the person is sharing. Instead, offer hope and let them know you care.

One resource for people dealing with stress is the Nebraska Rural Response Hotline, 800-464-0258. This is a program offers no cost vouchers for confidential mental health services as well as help with legal issues, financial and disaster relief.

Another is Rural Wellness, which promotes the health and wellness of all Nebraskans with workshops and programs related to dealing with stress, drought, and communication within farming and ranching families.

It is also important to find a sense of community and reach out for support. Being part of a community can provide a sense of belonging, feeling supported during difficult times, and can provide a sense of purpose. It is important to find people they can connect with, which can be very helpful for dealing with stress.

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