You drive along the road looking at one of your soybean fields. In the corner is a very small patch of brownish, bronzed soybean plants. First you start to stop and make sure it isn't insect damage. You've heard about spider mites and dry weather. Then you decide it's probably just where you overlapped with the sprayer or something and damaged a few plants. You drive on.
Entomologists would tell you to stop. Don't take the chance that those bronze-colored plants, which could be from herbicide injury, depending upon the product used, but which are also typical of early injury symptoms of feeding by spider mites, are actually do to spider mites and not herbicide injury. John Obermeyer, Purdue University Extension entomologist, says spider mites can go from a small problem to a major, yield-robbing issue in a short time.
There are already reports of spider mi9te activity in the state. One viewer last week reported from Wells County that he has spider mites in one field. Then just recently, John Obermeyer shot a fresh picture of classic spider mite damage in a field in Tippecanoe County.
What makes it classic? The discoloration starts along the edge and then works inward. Usually spider mite infestation moves into the soybean field from a grassy border along the field. Winds help sweep them across the field, and damage begins to show up farther into the field.There is a pocket drought somewhere in the Corn Belt every year. So there are likely a few outbreaks of spider mites every year. It's a pest that's always around, the entomologist says. It's more than a pocket drought this year, and fi conditions persist to be hot and dry, there is the opportunity for the spider mite population to explode. The last time the pest reached epidemic proportions in Indiana was in 1988, a year which seems more than vaguely familiar with every passing day.