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Alfalfa Weevil Activity Prediction Update: May 5, 2022

Originally Submitted: May 5, 2022

One of the insects we monitor for using degree day accumulation is the alfalfa weevil. It was another cool week without a lot of degree day accumulations. With warmer temperatures in the upcoming forecast, the need to scout for alfalfa weevil activity will increase. Most of the state is still having low temperatures that are close to or below 32°F, which will slow down alfalfa weevil activity and development. However, some parts of South Dakota may already have alfalfa weevil activity and fields should be scouted.

Calculating Degree Days for Alfalfa Weevils

To monitor for alfalfa weevils, we can estimate activity based on degree day accumulation. The equation for degree days is:

(Maximum daily temperature + Minimum daily temperature) ÷ 2 - The Developmental Threshold

For the alfalfa weevil, the developmental threshold is 48 degrees Fahrenheit. This equation is used for days during which the maximum temperature exceeds 48 degrees Fahrenheit. In cases where the minimum temperature is lower than 48 degrees Fahrenheit, the actual temperature is substituted by the 48 degrees Fahrenheit developmental threshold since no development is occurring below it. Degree day accumulation begins on Jan. 1. First overwintering adult alfalfa weevil activity is generally observed around 200-degree days and larvae hatch is generally around 300-degree days (Table 1).

The alfalfa weevil has four larval instars, with the first being the smallest larvae and the fourth being the largest larvae. The later instar larvae will consume additional leaf tissue, which results in increased defoliation. As a result, management would ideally be done while larvae are still in the first and second instar growth stages.

Table 1. Alfalfa weevil life stages based on degree days.

Degree Days
Alfalfa Weevil Activity
(Overwintering as Adults)
Limited to no activity of alfalfa weevils.
Overwintering adult activity is observed in alfalfa fields (begin scouting fields).
Spring laid eggs hatch.
First instar larvae begin feeding.
Second instar larvae feeding.
Third instar larvae feeding.
Fourth instar larvae feeding.
(Period when greatest damage will occur)
Adult emergence (will overwinter).

Current Estimate on Alfalfa Weevil Activity in South Dakota

Figure showing the current degree day accumulations of alfalfa weevils for several South Dakota locations. For assistance
Figure 1. Alfalfa weevil degree day accumulations for various South Dakota locations as of May 5, 2022.

Based on current degree day accumulations, overwintering alfalfa weevil adult activity within the next will be likely throughout most of South Dakota.

In the areas around Rapid City, Hot Springs, Cottonwood, Mission, Pierre, Winner and Tyndall, it is possible that larvae activity and early feeding may be observed in alfalfa fields (Figure 1). Scouting should be conducted in fields around those locations to monitor for weevil larvae activity.

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