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Loopers in action

Small loopers are attacking canola and wheat, often taking advantage of stressed crops.

Loopers has been reported nibbling on leaves in multiple canola paddocks. Plants have been attacked from cotyledon to the 4-leaf growth stage in the NSW Central West Slopes and Plains, and the Victorian Mallee, Wimmera and Northern Country. The damage has often been worse in crops impacted by moisture stress or frost, and in slow growing crops. In several paddocks the culprit is the brown pasture looper (Ciampa arietaria), however in some cases the looper species remain unknown due to their young age. A report from the NSW Central West Slopes and Plains revealed small unidentified loopers (2 – 3 mm long) damaging early tillering wheat. These loopers were mostly occupying plants along fencelines. Paddocks with small loopers should be monitored closely as their appetites grow enormously as they enter their final larval stages.

There are numerous caterpillars which can attack broadacre crops and pastures during the year but loopers are easy to identify once you know what to look out for. The key is the number of abdominal prolegs. These are the sets of leg-like appendages towards the rear end of the caterpillar. While most caterpillars have four sets of these, loopers have only one to three sets. Using their abdominal prolegs and single pair of anal prolegs, they move using a series of back arches, which results in a characteristic looping motion. Brown pasture looper is particularly distinctive. Look out for the two, bright yellow wavy lines running down along the back. 

Brown pasture looper caterpillars showing the abdominal and anal prolegs (top) and the two yellow lines running along the back (bottom) (Source: cesar)

 

Brown pasture looper caterpillars attack pastures, canola and some pulse crops, and are most damaging when they are greater than 20 mm in length. They are often most problematic when they migrate from summer and autumn weeds onto newly emerged seedlings. Control of brown pasture loopers and other looper species can be assisted by natural enemies including parasitic wasps, which attack the eggs. They are also prey to spined predatory shield bugs and glossy shield bugs as young caterpillars. If chemical control is warranted, there are several insecticides registered against loopers, however spot spraying or perimeter spraying is usually all that is required.

If you are concerned (or just curious) about loopers in your paddocks, you can send us in a sample for an identification (here’s how).

 

Field reports

Ben Brennan – AGRIvision (Mallee, VIC)

Chris Dunn – Landmark (Northern Country, VIC)

Rob Launder – PB Seeds (Wimmera, VIC)

Luke Maher – AGRIvision (Mallee, VIC)

Jamie Pursehouse – Landmark (Central West Slopes & Plains, NSW)

Andrew Reardon – AGnVet (Central West Slopes & Plains, NSW)

Angus Skinner – Landmark (Mallee, VIC)

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