Bird cherry oat aphids in wheat: showing up in large numbers

By Tom Royer, OSU Extension Entomologist

I have received several reports of (and photos, Figure 1) of bird cherry oat aphid (BCOA) numbers in winter wheat that will require treatment with an insecticide

Bird cherry oat aphid

Bird cherry oat aphid


Severe bird cherry oat aphid infestation

Severe bird cherry oat aphid infestation

Bird cherry oat aphids are small (2mm) olive-green aphids with a red-orange patch surrounding the base of each cornicle (Figure 1). Old, wingless, overwintering adult aphids are darker, almost black.  At this time, you may also find winged aphids that have moved in to the field (Figure 2).

Winged bird cherry oat aphid

Winged bird cherry oat aphid

What are my suggestions regarding control of bird cherry oat aphid in winter wheat?

  • Unpublished research provided by Dr. Kris Giles (OSU) and Dr. Norm Elliott (USDA-ARS) along with studies conducted in South Dakota, Minnesota, and North Dakota on spring wheat indicated that BCOA causes yield loss before wheat reaches the boot stage. Approximately 5-9% yield loss occurs when there are 20-40 BCOA per tiller (average 7%).
  • Visible damage from bird cherry-oat aphid is not very noticeable so infestations may go unnoticed. It is very important to check fields for infestations and make treatment decisions only after a field has been checked.

My suggestion for making a treatment decision is as follows:

If greenbugs and bird cherry oat aphids are both present, use Glance n’ Go to scout, which can be accessed at  Published research from Giles and Elliott showed that Glance n’ Go sampling will work with both aphids if they are both present.

If bird cherry-oat aphid is present alone, count the number of aphids present on each of 25 randomly-selected tillers across a zigzag transect of the field. The reason that you can’t use Glance n’ Go is that the most available research suggests that the threshold is too high to effectively use Glance n’ Go.

Look for evidence of parasite activity in the form of mummies (Figure 3).  A rule of thumb is that if 5-10% of the aphids are mummies, more than 90% are already parasitized.  If mummies are not present, use the guidelines below to make a treatment decision.

Parasitized bird cherry oat aphid

Parasitized bird cherry oat aphid

If, after thoroughly scouting your field, you can identify that infestations are spotty, consider spot spraying with a ground rig.

Use the YIELD LOSS TABLE to determine a potential YIELD LOSS from the aphids.  Then estimate your CROP VALUE and calculate your CONTROL COSTS.  Use those numbers to estimate PREVENTABLE LOSS.    If estimated PREVENTABLE LOSS is greater than CONTROL COSTS, Treat; otherwise, Don’t Treat.


Here is an Example:


Step 1:  Estimate YIELD LOSS:


  • Total # aphids_______525___________/25 tillers = average # aphids/tiller_____21_____


Step 2:  Estimate CROP VALUE:  (Crop Value = Yield potential X Price per bushel)

  • Yield potential__40____ bushels/acre X price per bushel $____4.50____ per bushel


CROP VALUE = $___180____


Step 3:  Estimate CONTROL COSTS: (Control Cost = Insecticide Cost + Application Cost)


  • Insecticide cost $___6_____ /acre  +  Application Cost       $ ____3_____/acre


CONTROL COSTS $_____9_____/acre


Step 4:  Estimate PREVENTABLE LOSS (Crop Value X Yield Loss from Aphid)


  • Crop value/acre $___180_____  x Yield Loss from aphid ___0.07_____


PREVENTABLE LOSS $____12.60______/acre


IF PREVENTABLE LOSS $___12.60_____ is greater than CONTROL COSTS $___9.00_____ TREAT


IF PREVENTABLE LOSS $________ is less than CONTROL COSTS $__________                                   DON’T TREAT


Check CR-7194, “Management of Insect and Mite Pests in Small Grains” for registered insecticides, application rates, and grazing/harvest waiting periods.

It can be obtained from any County Extension Office, or found at the OSU Extra Website at

Disease and insect issues to consider prior to planting

Planting date:  Much of the winter wheat in Oklahoma is sown with the intent of being used as a dual-purpose crop. In this system wheat is grazed by cattle from late October to early March, and then harvested for grain in early summer.  In a grain-only system, wheat is generally planted in October, but in a dual-purpose system wheat is planted in early to mid-September to maximize forage production.  Planting wheat early significantly increases the likelihood that diseases such as mite-transmitted viruses, the aphid/barley yellow dwarf complex, and root and foot rots will be more prevalent and more severe.  For more detailed information on planting date and seed treatment considerations on wheat, see CR-7088 (Effect of Planting Date and Seed Treatment on Diseases and Insect Pests of Wheat)

Mite-transmitted virus diseases.    These include wheat streak mosaic (WSM), wheat mosaic (formerly called high plains disease), and Triticum mosaic (TrM).  All are transmitted by wheat curl mite (WCMs).  WCMs and these viruses survive in crops such as wheat and corn, as well as many grassy weeds and volunteer wheat.  In the fall, WCMs spread to emerging seedling wheat, feed on that seedling wheat, and transmit virus to the young wheat plants.  Wheat infected in the fall is either killed by the next spring or will be severely damaged.  Seed treatments are not effective in controlling these virus diseases.  However, planting later in the fall (after October 1 in northern OK and after October 15 in southern OK) and controlling volunteer wheat are two practices that provide some control.  It is critical that volunteer wheat is completely dead for at least two weeks prior to emergence of seedling wheat because WCMs have a life span of 7-10 days.  Thus, destroying volunteer wheat at least two weeks prior to emergence of seedling wheat will greatly reduce mite numbers in the fall.  In addition to these cultural controls, two winter wheat varieties (RonL from Kansas and Mace from Nebraska) have resistance to WSM; however, their adaptation to production is limited to northwestern Oklahoma.  For more information on mite-transmitted virus diseases, see OSU Fact Sheet 7328 (Wheat Streak Mosaic, High Plains Disease and Triticum Mosaic:  Three Virus Diseases of Wheat in Oklahoma)

Aphid/barley yellow dwarf (BYD) complex:  Viruses that cause BYD are transmitted by many cereal-feeding aphids.  BYD infections that occur in the fall are the most severe because virus has a longer time to damage plants as compared to infections that occur in the spring.  Several steps can be taken to help manage BYD.  First, a later planting date (after October 1 in northern Oklahoma and after October 15 in southern Oklahoma) helps reduce the opportunity for fall infection. Second, some wheat varieties (e.g., Duster, Endurance, Gallagher, Iba, Doublestop CL+, Bentley, Everest, Winterhawk, Redhawk) tolerate BYD better than other varieties; however, be aware that no wheat variety has a high level of resistance to the aphid/BYD complex.  Third, control aphids that transmit the viruses that cause BYD.  This can be done by applying contact insecticides to kill aphids, or by treating seed before planting with a systemic insecticide.  Unfortunately, by the time contact insecticides are applied, aphids frequently have already transmitted the virus(es) that cause BYD.  Systemic seed-treatment insecticides including Gaucho (imidacloprid) and Cruiser (thiamethoxam) can control aphids during the fall after planting.  This may be particularly beneficial if wheat is planted early to obtain forage.  Be sure to thoroughly read the label before applying any chemical.

Hessian fly:  Hessian fly infestations occur in the fall and spring.  Fall infestations arise from over-summering pupae that emerge when climate conditions become favorable.  Delayed planting (after October 1 in northern Oklahoma, and after October 15 in southern Oklahoma) can help reduce the threat of Hessian fly, but a specific “fly free date” does not exist for most of Oklahoma as it does in Kansas and more northern wheat-growing states.  This is because smaller, supplementary broods of adult flies emerge throughout the fall and winter.  Some wheat varieties are either resistant (e.g. Duster, Gallagher, SY-Southwind, LCS Wizard, Winterhawk) or partially resistant (e.g. Everest, Iba, Jackpot, PostRock, Ruby Lee, SY-Gold, T-153, Tam 304, WB-Stout) to Hessian fly infestations.  Hessian fly infestations can be reduced somewhat by destroying volunteer wheat in and around the field at least two weeks prior to emergence of seedling wheat.  Seed treatments that contain imidacloprid or thiamethoxam will also help reduce fly fall infestations, especially if combined with delayed planting and volunteer destruction.  For more information on Hessian fly, see OSU Fact Sheet: EPP-7086 (Hessian fly Management in Oklahoma Winter Wheat)

Root and foot rots:  These include several diseases caused by fungi such as dryland (Fusarium) root rot, Rhizoctonia root rot (sharp eyespot), common root rot, take-all, and eyespot (strawbreaker).  Controlling root and foot rots is difficult.  There are no resistant varieties, and although fungicide seed treatments with activity toward the root and foot rots are available, their activity usually involves early-season control or suppression rather than control at a consistently high level throughout the season.  Often, there also are different “levels” of activity related to different treatment rates, so again, CAREFULLY read the label of any seed treatment to be sure activity against the diseases and/or insects of concern are indicated, and be certain that the seed treatment(s) is being used at the rate indicated on the label for activity against those diseases and/or insects.  Later planting (after October 1 in northern Oklahoma and after October 15 in southern Oklahoma) also can help reduce the incidence and severity of root rots, but planting later will not entirely eliminate the presence or effects of root rots.  If you have a field with a history of severe root rot, consider planting that field as late as possible or plan to use it in a “graze-out” fashion if that is consistent with your overall plan.  For some root rots, there are specific factors that contribute to disease incidence and severity.  For example, a high soil pH (>6.5) greatly favors disease development of the root rot called take-all.  OSU soil test recommendations factor in this phenomenon by reducing lime recommendations when continuous wheat is the intended crop. Another practice that can help limit take-all and some of the other root rots is the elimination of residue.  However, elimination of residue by tillage or burning does not seem to affect the incidence or severity of eyespot (strawbreaker).

Seed treatments:  There are several excellent reasons to plant seed wheat treated with an insecticide/fungicide seed treatment.  These include:

  1. Control of bunts and smuts, including common bunt (also called stinking smut), loose smut, and flag smut (for more information on flag smut, go to end of this report).  The similarity of these names can be confusing.  All affect the grain of wheat, but whereas common bunt and flag smut spores carryover onseed or in the soil, loose smut carries over in the seed.  Seed treatments are highly effective in controlling all three of these bunts/smuts.  If common bunt (stinking smut) was observed in a field and that field is to be planted again with wheat, then planting certified wheat seed treated with a fungicide effective against common bunt is strongly recommended.  If either common bunt or loose smut was observed in a field, grain harvested from that field should not be used as seed the next year.  However, if grain harvested from such a field must be used as seed wheat, treatment of that seed at a high rate of a systemic or a systemic + contact seed treatment effective against common bunt and loose smut is strongly recommended.  For more information on common bunt & loose smut, see: and consult the “2015 OSU Extension Agents’ Handbook of Insect, Plant Disease, and Weed Control (OCES publication E-832),” and/or contact your County Extension Educator.
  2. Enhance seedling emergence, stand establishment and forage production by suppressing root, crown and foot rots.  This was discussed above under “Root and Foot Rots.”
  3. Early season control of the aphid/BYDV complex.  This can be achieved by using a seed treatment containing an insecticide.  Be sure that the treatment includes an insecticide labeled for control of aphids.
  4. Control fall foliar diseases including leaf rust and powdery mildew.  Seed treatments are effective in controlling foliar diseases (especially leaf rust and powdery mildew) in the fall, which may reduce the inoculum level of these diseases in the spring.  However, this control should be viewed as an added benefit and not necessarily as a sole reason to use a seed treatment.
  5. Suppression of early emerged Hessian fly.  Research suggests that some suppression can be achieved, but an insecticide seed treatment has little residual activity past the seedling stage.

A final consideration for fall 2015:  In the text above, I made reference to “flag smut,” which is a smut of wheat I have not mentioned previously.  Flag smut occurs in the U.S., in particular, the Pacific Northwest.  It also has been reported in the Plains States, being first reported in Kansas in the 1920s.  However, flag smut has not been observed in the Central Plains for many years until this past spring when it was found in around 20 counties in Kansas from April-June.  No flag smut was observed on wheat in Oklahoma in 2015, but much of the wheat in Oklahoma had been harvested when I found out about flag smut occurring in Kansas.  Flag smut is similar to common bunt (stinking smut) in terms of its disease cycle, but spores of this fungus erupt through the leaves rather than replace the wheat grain as with common bunt.  Additionally, leaves and tillers infected with flag smut often are twisted and deformed.

For more information on flag smut, please go to the following links.  The first link is to a press release made in mid-July, 2015 on the finding of flag smut in Kansas.  The second link is a KSU fact sheet on flag smut.

By: Dr. Bob Hunger, Extension OSU Wheat Pathologist and Dr. Tom Royer, OSU Extension Entomologist

Wheat disease update 04 May 2013

Wheat disease updates are written by Dr. Bob Hunger, OSU Extension Wheat Pathologist

Oklahoma:  Over the last week I, Nathalia Grachet (OSU graduate student), and Brian Olson (OSU A&P) extensively looked at wheat around Stillwater, and in central (Minco, Apache), southwestern (Granite), and north central (Lahoma) Oklahoma.  Additionally, OSU Wheat Breeder Brett Carver examined his plots at numerous locations in central, southwestern OK as well as at Stillwater, and Dr. Art Klatt (OSU Wheat Geneticist) examined trials around Stillwater and Perkins.  Wheat in southwestern Oklahoma was damaged from drought and freeze, and little disease was discernible.  Wheat in southwestern Oklahoma (where it was possible) appeared to be at various states of head emergence, and in a few cases was just starting to flower.  In central OK, wheat was in various stages of heading.  Around Stillwater, wheat was just starting head emergence, while at Lahoma wheat was mostly just approaching GS 10 (boot stage).  However, there seems to be quite a bit of variability regarding stage of maturity depending on variety and planting date.

No leaf rust was observed at any location.  The “hot spot” of stripe rust we found at Minco is still active, but my previous update incorrectly identified ‘Duster’ as the variety with the most severe stripe rust.  Actually that was ‘Garrison’.  Stripe rust also was on Duster but not to the same severity nor was significant stripe rust on the flag leaves of Duster.  This is the only location where we observed significant stripe rust.  We also observed powdery mildew and leaf spotting on lower to mid leaves at many locations.  Primarily the leaf spotting appeared to be septoria/stagonospora with some tan spot mixed in, and as expected is usually somewhat more severe in no- or low-till fields.

Barley yellow dwarf was commonly observed at many locations with variable severity, but it was often difficult to differentiate damage between BYD, freeze, and drought.  Wheat streak mosaic also was observed across the areas examined (see photo below).  An increasing number of samples from around western OK have kept Jen Olson (Plant Disease Diagnostician) busy.  Most of these samples have tested positive for BYDV, WSMV, or both, but no high plains virus or Triticum mosaic virus has been detected.  This includes the Stillwater area where I have never before (since 1982) observed WSM.  Another interesting find here at Stillwater included occurrence of Russian Wheat Aphid, which was confirmed by Dr. Rick Grantham (Director of the Plant Disease and Insect Diagnostic Lab –  photos below taken by Rick).

Wheat showing symtoms of Wheat Streak Mosiac Virus. There are no curative sprays for this virus, but it can be avoided by ensuring volunteer wheat and other grasses are dead at least two weeks prior to planting

Wheat showing symtoms of Wheat Streak Mosiac Virus. There are no curative sprays for this virus, but it can be avoided by ensuring volunteer wheat and other grasses are dead at least two weeks prior to planting

Symptoms of Russian wheat aphid feeding

Symptoms of Russian wheat aphid feeding

Russian wheat aphids on wheat

Russian wheat aphids on wheat