We are beginning to observe winged (alate) aphids appearing on desert lettuce and cole crops, but proper identification of winged aphid species found on leafy vegetables in the desert is important for cost-effective pest management. Most of the important aphid species we find on local crops do not over-summer here because of high temperatures and lack of viable hosts. Thus, winged aphids typically begin migrating onto desert crops beginning in late October-early November, often being blown in with the gusting winds. My experience over the past 20 years suggests this is due in part to cooler weather more favorable for their behavior and development, as well as changes in prevailing winds that now begin to blow into the area from the north and west. Consequently, once the aphids reach our desert valleys, they typically move from crop to crop until they find a suitable host to feed and colonize on. It is not uncommon to find winged aphids on lettuce or broccoli that are specific pests of small grains (i.e., corn leaf aphid) or alfalfa (i.e., pea aphid). Because these aphid species will not colonize lettuce, it is important to be able to distinguish them from the key aphid pests commonly found on lettuce that do colonize and require management to prevent problems at harvest (green peach aphid, foxglove aphid, lettuce aphid). Also, you are likely to find cowpea aphid in lettuce as it can be common in alfalfa at this time. However, experience has shown us that although small cowpea aphid colonies may be found on lettuce, the populations rarely increase in lettuce crops. The bottom line: proper aphid identification can save a PCA time and money, and prevent unnecessary insecticide applications. A simple pictorial key provides provides information that can assist PCAs with identifying winged aphids. important in lettuce and other leafy vegetables.
Remember: "When in Doubt…… Scout"
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For questions or comments on any of the topics please contact Marco Pena at the Yuma Agricultural Center.
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