The bermudagrass stem maggot has been found in a number of Arkansas counties

Scientists have confirmed the presence of a new insect pest in Arkansas, one that feeds on bermudagrass, but isn’t expected to be too problematic for ranchers or hay producers.

Entomologists for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture confirmed a finding of the bermudagrass stem maggot in a field near Magnolia and it has since been found in about a dozen counties across Arkansas, ranging from the southern to the northern border. 

“To our knowledge, this is the first confirmation of its presence in Arkansas,” said Kelly Loftin, extension entomologist with the Division of Agriculture. “In the U.S. it was first discovered in Georgia in 2010 and is currently found in other southeastern states as well as Oklahoma and Texas.”

The fly that produces the maggot is a native of south Asia from Japan, west to Oman and Pakistan. 

The fly’s maggots feed in bermudagrass shoots, causing the top two or three leaves to die. The rest of the plant is unaffected. The flies have a life cycle of about three weeks and with that many generations in a summer, damage to bermudagrass could accumulate through the growing season.

“Damage observed in fields at this point appears to be minor and in many cases would likely not be noticed unless you knew what to look for,” said John Jennings, professor-forages for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “Many affected stems were already producing new shoots and compensating for the damaged tillers.”

The flies are about one-eighth-inch-long, yellowish and have four black spots on the abdomen. The maggots are also about an eighth-of-an-inch-long and are yellow.

“Some have voiced concerns about the possibility of the bermudagrass stem maggot being transported from farm to farm in baled hay,” Loftin said. “Bermudagrass stem maggots are very unlikely to be transported in this manner, because maggots need moisture and will die as the hay dries.”

Although research has shown that turf bermudagrass varieties are attacked by this maggot, the frequent mowing of the turf does not allow the fly to complete a life cycle before the next mowing.

“With this being a new pest in Arkansas, we are trying to determine the extent of the damage and range of this pest in Arkansas,” he said. “Please call or e-mail if you suspect a bermudagrass field is infested with this pest. Its presence is determined by damage and can be confirmed with adult collections of the fly.”

Adults may be collected by using a sweep net to collect the flies in the bermudagrass.