How to Manage Pests
UC Pest Management Guidelines
Sampling with a sweep net is a common practice for many alfalfa pests when alfalfa plants are at least 6- to 10-inches tall. (For shorter regrowth, do not rely on sweep net sampling to determine population levels). Sweep net sampling is also used for estimating lady beetle populations. A 15-inch diameter sweep net is the standard sampling tool used in alfalfa. The manner in which this sweep net is used can greatly influence its effectiveness for collecting insects in alfalfa and, consequently, treatment decisions based on the number of insects caught. Therefore, standard methods have been developed for sampling so results from different individuals are comparable.
To use a sweep net, swing it in a 180° arc such that the net rim strikes the top 6 to 8 inches of alfalfa growth. Hold the net slightly less than vertical so the bottom edge strikes the alfalfa before the top edge. This will facilitate getting the insects into the net. Each 180° arc counts as one sweep. A common practice is to take a sweep from right to left, walk a step, and take another sweep, left to right.
After taking the desired 5 sweeps, quickly pull the net through the air to force all insects into the bottom of the net bag and grasp the net bag with a hand at about the mid-point. Slowly invert the net bag while releasing your grasp on the bag allowing the insects to escape and count the numbers of key species. Many slow-moving insects, such as weevil larvae, aphids, and caterpillars can be counted by turning the net onto a white pan or even the hood of a vehicle. Divide totals by 5 to get the average number of insects per sweep. To get a good representation of insect numbers in the alfalfa field, take sweep net samples in four different areas of the field.
If the numbers are so large that counting in the field is difficult, the bag contents can be placed into a plastic or paper bag and the counting done after cooling the sample to slow down the insect movement. Pest management decisions, however, are generally made before such high numbers occur. Collect samples from all portions of the field but avoid unusual parts of the field, such as field edges. The exception to this is when sampling leafhoppers, which tend to be concentrated initially on the field margins. The table below details specific sweeping guidelines for each pest.GUIDELINES FOR SWEEP NET SAMPLING
UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines: Alfalfa