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Blueberry Spanworm, Itame argillacearia Packard was first reported as a pest on blueberries in New Hampshire. Early season larvae feed on flower buds and blossoms, while later season larvae feed on the foliage. Larvae feed at night and drop to the ground to find shelter in the leaf litter during the day.
Blueberry spanwormâ€™s eggs overwinter on the soil surface. Egg hatch occurs in early spring during blueberry bud break. Larvae develop into four instars. Larvae range from 3-20 mm long. First instar larvae are tan or grey with black spots. Mature instar larvae are yellow-orange with a series of black spots along the body. Larvae usually migrate into the leaf litter to pupate. Approximately two weeks later the adult will emerge. Adult blueberry spanworms are moths with grey-brown wings. Females have dark spots on the wings, whereas the males are mostly uniform in color. Wingspan is about 23-29 mm. There is only one generation per year.
Life Cycle: The blueberry spanworm spends the winter as an egg in the litter near the base of blueberry plants. Eggs may begin to hatch and larvae start feeding on developing buds as early as April and continue to feed on blueberry leaves, buds, and blossoms until late June or early July. Fully grown larvae move into the litter, where they remain as pupae. At this stage and time, they do not feed. Moths begin to emerge in about two weeks.
Adults can first be seen in the field in early to mid-June. Some moths may still be present until late July. Eggs laid by the moths do not hatch until the following spring.
Blueberry Spanworm Larvae
Damage: Infestations of blueberry spanworm may be confined to isolated areas or damage may be widespread. Largenumbers of spanworm larvae may completely defoliate areas in both crop and pruned fields. Early in theseason, the larvae damage the berry crop by eating flower buds and blossoms. Later larvae chew outnotches on developing leaves. Crop fields may be dotted with areas that appear burned. The first sign of a severe infestation in a pruned field is an area devoid of or with slower developing plants; look for signs of feeding on developing shoots at ground level or below the soil surface.
Controls: Although spanworms can sometimes be found by examining buds or flower clusters in early spring, they are cryptically colored and very hard to see. Cutworms hide under debris or in the soil during the day and are found on the plant only at night. Infestations are usually recognized by the characteristic feeding damage to buds and flowers. Neither species is usually numerous enough to warrant control measures. However, severe infestations can be controlled with a single application of a short-residual contact insecticide just before bloom. To avoid killing pollinators, do not apply any insecticides during bloom.
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