Minor Pests = Minor Problems!

The three major pests of Northeastern hopyards—potato leafhoppers, two-spotted spider mites and hop aphids—can cause significant economic losses. For that reason, we keep a close eye on their populations in our research yard by scouting weekly.

Hop looper.
Hop looper.

From time to time, other pests pop up in our hopyard, but because they don’t seem to affect yields, we consider them to be minor pests. We have been seeing greater-than-normal numbers of hop loopers chewing their way through hopyards in Vermont this season. These lime green caterpillars with characteristic “racing stripes” appear to only inch along, but they can defoliate bines at pretty good clip. However, because they don’t cause economic injury, nobody should be losing any sleep.

Another minor pest that we usually find in Northeastern hopyards is, fellow defoliator, the eastern comma caterpillar. Covered with ominous looking spikes, these caterpillars are harmless to the touch and are seemingly harmless to hop grower’s bottom line. In some years, they can easily be found chewing up our bines, but this year it seems they have taken a back seat to the loopers.

Eastern comma caterpillar.
Eastern comma caterpillar.

An additional minor pest poking tiny holes in our hop leaves is the hop flea beetle. The characteristic shot-hole damage of these jumpy little fellas is never found above knee height, and doesn’t seem to affect mature plants.

We have also spotted a variety of other pests that are present at very low numbers in our yards—other caterpillars, thrips, froghoppers, etc.—but like all minor pests, they are of relatively minor concern.

In case you were wondering, there is one pest commonly found in Northeastern hopyards that is conspicuously absent from this blog post–the Japanese beetle! Depending on where you are located and who you talk to, these little ninjas may strike fear into the hearts of growers of many crops (including hops) or merely evoke a passing thought. Regardless, expect to see the skeletonized leaves in the wake of their feeding in your hopyard over the course of the next few weeks.

And of course always remember, keep calm and hop on…

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