For more than 50 years, the University of California has placed the lygus bug squarely in prevention crosshairs with research aimed to help producers reduce yield loss in cotton and keep greenbacks in their wallets.

This effort is tied to the California birth of the integrated pest management program in 1959 where four UC entomologists adamantly agreed that effective pest control strategies should include reduced insecticide use or none at all when possible.

The journey to control lygus in Western cotton fields has created opportunities for producers. A variety of pest management tools ranging from natural predators to strategic crop placement are reducing the lygus march into cotton.

The bottom line is each producer in a cotton-growing community should work together to reduce the factors which spur lygus development and movement into cotton.

“It takes a village to manage lygus,” says Pete Goodell, UC IPM Cooperative Extension advisor with the UC Statewide IPM Program. “Effective lygus management involves landowners, producers, pest control advisers, those with an expertise in biological and physiological issues, and others.”

“Working together across the local landscape is an effective way to effectively manage lygus to reduce its impact in cotton.”

Goodell shared this village mantra during his keynote address at the 3rd International Lygus Symposium held in Scottsdale, Ariz., in late November. He shared California’s success stories on lygus strategies with the 80-plus attendees from 12 states and five countries.

Two species of lygus are found in California’s San Joaquin Valley — Lygus hesperus and Lygus elisus. Hesperus represents about 90 percent of the lygus. Immatures and adults of both species can damage cotton.

Lygus Hesperus is a native insect with a wide host range. The bug overwinters as an immature adult, produces five generations per year, and reaches maturity in 21 days during the summer months.

Lygus typically emerge in late December to feed and begin the reproductive process.

Lygus is a pre-floral feeder and removes the cotton plant’s developing floral bud usually around June. The plant works to replace the bud loss which in turn slows plant development and reduces yield.

The worse outbreak of lygus in California cotton dates back to 1978.

“The outbreak was an absolute disaster,” Goodell told the group. “It was one of the few times where you could see yield reductions directly attributed to lygus.”

Professor Vernon Stern of UC, Riverside, one of the four fathers of the integrated control concept, learned that most cotton arthropod populations must rebuild each year. Surrounding cropping systems determine the degree of pest build up.

Some crops and weeds serve as a source or sink for lygus, or both. The primary hosts for lygus include cotton, safflower, alfalfa, alfalfa seed, and weeds.