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Wheat Growers Should be on the Lookout for Hessian Fly

Recently, NC State Extension Entomologist, Dr. Dominic Reisig suggested that wheat growers be on the lookout for Hessian fly. Reisig explains that it’s very difficult to determine a Hessian fly infestation:

“The best thing that you can do is scout for eggs. Unfortunately that is difficult as the eggs are very small and are not easily seen. Most people don’t have the visual ability to see them and need a little training to see them. We do recommend some other management practices but our first preference is scouting for the eggs.

A lot of people will tell me they see tiny flies over their wheat and those are Hessian flies, but there are a lot of little black flies out there. Hessian flies are notoriously difficult to identify and 99% of the flies you see out there are not Hessian.

It is a pest that sneaks up on you. The crop will look great but then the wheat will look like its going backwards. At that point there isn’t much to do about it, so as a grower you need to be proactive. Damage can be severe.

The best thing a grower can do is choose a resistant variety. In NC, varieties are screened every year for resistance and there are some good ones. In other parts of the Southeast they have different variants of the Hessian fly but in those states there probably is some screening going on that they can have help in selecting a variety.

Sometimes the most profitable situation is to plant a susceptible variety and even to do what you shouldn’t do which is to continuously grow wheat followed by beans. Because that is a profitable situation, they have to do other things to mitigate the fly, like using an effective seed treatment and then applying a spray in the fall, early at the 2-3 leaf stage.

If you do find Hessian fly, at this point in the season it’s late to try to spray. I have not scouted wheat and looked for eggs this year. Based on the flight pattern they are probably not here.”

NC State Extension Entomologist Dr. Dominic Reisig. is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.