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More on African black beetle

There have been further reports of African black beetles (Heteronychus arator) causing feeding damage. Agronomist, Ross Watson (Ross Watson Agriculture P/L), has reported beetles severely damaging a newly sown oat and ryegrass forage crop east of Tamworth in northern New South Wales. Initially, the damage was thought to be the result of cutworm feeding, however upon closer inspection approximately 2-3 African black beetles were found around damaged plants. Agronomist, Peter Abramowski (Bega Agricultural Services), reported that anecdotal evidence and personal experiences suggest treating ryegrass seeds with imidacloprid can improve establishment and vigour when African black beetles are present.

The African black beetle is a soil dwelling insect that favours pastures, particularly newly sown ryegrass and also summer-dormant perennial grasses. Adults are 12 - 14 mm long, cylindrical and glossy black in colour. Larvae are ‘C’ shaped with a brown head, 3 pairs of legs and can grow up to 25 mm long. Adults chew plants at or just beneath ground level, leaving frayed parts. Ryegrass seedlings and grasses may have roots damaged by large populations of adults and larvae.

For further information about African black beetles refer to PestFacts Issue No. 3

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