Scouting at key times in the seasonal development of insect pest populations, as guided by degree-day accumulation, is important for minimizing unwarranted insecticide application. Fields of small grains in northern Utah were censused weekly from 2001 to 2011, to assess infestation by the cereal leaf beetle, Oulema melanopus (L.) (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), and develop degree-day guidelines for measuring cereal leaf beetle abundance at peak egg and larval densities in any given year. Even in years of high overall numbers of cereal leaf beetle, relatively few fields were heavily infested (with 20 or more cereal leaf beetle eggs larvae per 0.09 m2) at either egg or larval peak density during the growing season. In individual fields, the number of immature cereal leaf beetle (eggs larvae) at peak larval density was positively related to the number of immature cereal leaf beetles present earlier at peak egg density. Although there was large variation among years in when cereal leaf beetle egg and larval numbers peaked during the season as measured by degree-day accumulation from 1 January, much of this variation was accounted for by the warmth of the early spring before significant egg laying occurred. Hence, degree-day estimates that account for early spring warmth can guide growers in scouting grain fields at peak egg densities to identify fields at high risk of subsequent economic damage from cereal leaf beetle larval feeding. The relatively low incidence of fields heavily infested by cereal leaf beetle in northern Utah emphasizes the benefit that growers can gain by scouting early before applying insecticide treatments.
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