Russian wheat aphids pose a significant risk to wheat farmers, particularly in northern Utah, and they must understand how to detect and control the pests.
"It scares me to death when I see what the Russian wheat aphid can do," said Rulon Albrechtsen, Utah State University plant breeder. A recent small grains production meeting at the school attracted almost 120 people interested in learning more about the pest."I saw fields a couple of years ago in the Fort Collins, Colo., area where the Russian wheat aphid had totally destroyed every single plant in the field," he said.
Since that time, the bug has spread through 14 states and into Canada. On Oct. 27, 1988, it was officially identified in Box Elder County. As a result of the information put out by the Extension Service, there were approximately 8,000 acres sprayed during the month of November.
Jay Karren, USU entomologist, said that while other aphids in great numbers can be devastating and carry viruses, the Russian wheat aphid in very low numbers can be devastating. "For every one percent infestation, you can count on .5 percent yield reduction."
According to the Extension Service, three main characteristics separate the Russian wheat aphid (RWA) from other aphids. They stressed the importance of knowing which aphids a farmer has, since mixed colonies can be found.
The Russian wheat aphid has extremely short antennae, two tails, and no prominent cornicles (tubes or tailpipes) on the abdominal section of the aphid.
One of the best ways to identify the small, spindle-shaped pale yellow-green or gray-green dust-ed with white waxy powder aphid is the damage it leaves in a field.
Howell farmer and rancher Arthur Douglas thought his 250 acre Faust Valley wheat crop was showing effects of the drought last October. Then in November, "You could walk out there and see them flying." It cost him $7.75 an acre to spray the field with Di-Syston.
Albrechtsen said the aphid can become active at -10 degree weather.
Karren recommended using a systemic pesticide to control the pest.