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Rutherglen bugs

Consultant, Todd Peach (Agronomic Business Solutions), has reported Rutherglen bugs (Nysius vinitor) within field peas near Hillston, in the Riverina district of New South Wales. It is unclear what level of damage Rutherglen bugs cause to field peas. Todd says they do not appear to be causing any obvious feeding damage to plants at present, despite greater than 200 bugs found in every 10 sweeps.

The Rutherglen bug is a common native insect that attacks a wide range of weed and crop hosts, including sunflowers, linseed, canola, wheat, sorghum, safflower and lucerne. They are opportunistic insects which are well adapted to Australia’s dry and variable climate. Rutherglen bugs are widely regarded as a spring pest and have multiple generations through spring and summer. They can be a sporadic pest during autumn.

Adults are 4 mm long, have clear wings and are narrow bodied. They are grey-brown in colour, have two prominent black eyes and are very mobile. Immature Rutherglen bugs are dark red and more swollen in shape than adults. They are sap suckers and damage to susceptible plants is similar to that caused by aphids. In spring they are able to penetrate pods where they feed on developing seed.

In some seasons, Rutherglen bugs can reach plague proportions, typically when the senescence of weed hosts in spring and early summer forces adults and nymphs into nearby crops. At Hillston, Todd says the bugs have likely breed-up on weeds such as turnip and mustard that are present within the affected paddock.

Rutherglen bugs can be controlled by removing weeds they use as hosts and by ploughing a deep furrow around the crop, which prevents wingless individuals migrating from weeds along roads and fencelines. As Rutherglen bugs can readily reinvade a sprayed area, insecticide application will not guarantee a clean crop.

Click here for images of Rutherglen bugs.

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