Insecticide resistance management

Identification of Insecticide resistance management




two spider mites on a soybean leaf.
Figure 1. Photo: John Obermeyer. Resistance to the insecticide chlorpyrifos in a two-spotted spider mite population.

Insecticide (and miticide) resistance is a heritable decrease in a pest population's susceptibility to a pesticide, meaning the genetics are passed from generation to generation. As pest populations become less susceptible (i.e., more resistant) to a pesticide, the utility of that pesticide becomes less and less effective to a point where the pesticide and potentially other related pesticides may become effectively lost as tools for management of that pest.

Since the invasion of soybean aphid in 2000, use of foliar insecticides on soybean has greatly increased. In addition, increased crop values are stimulating increased adoption of seed treatments and prophylactic foliar treatments. If not well managed, this overall increased use of insecticides in soybean favors the development of insecticide resistance in pests.

Resistance to the insecticide chlorpyrifos was confirmed in a two-spotted spider mite population from southwestern Minnesota in 2012 (Figure 1).

Resistance to pyrethroid insecticides (bifenthrin & lambda cyhalothrin was documented in a soybean aphid population from southwestern Minnesota in 2015 (Figure 2).

Insecticide resistance management

soybean leaf with many aphids on it.
Figure 2. Photo: R.L. Koch. Resistance to pyrethroid insecticides (bifenthrin & lambda cyhalothrin).

Insecticide resistance management (IRM) is a collection of strategies used to prevent or slow the development of resistance to insecticides in order to prolong the utility of pesticides as management tools.

IRM strategies recommended for insect and mite pests in Minnesota soybean include the following:

1. Reduce likelihood of needing to use insecticides

Integrate multiple management tactics (e.g., pest-resistant varieties, biological control, crop rotation) to discourage pest outbreaks.

2. Use insecticides only when necessary

Scout regularly and base insecticide applications on economic (action) thresholds (Scouting for soybean aphid).

Economic threshold for soybean aphid: Through R5 soybean, treat when populations are increasing, the majority (at least 80 percent) of plants are infested, and average aphid counts exceed 250 aphids/plant.

University research continues to support the above mentioned threshold for soybean aphid. Use of the threshold will reduce risk of resurgence of the target pest, replacement by secondary pests, adverse impacts on natural enemies and pollinators, development of pest resistance, and unnecessary input costs (Multi-state report on continued validity of soybean aphid threshold).

3. Use insecticides appropriately

Follow the product label directions and use labeled rates of insecticides.

4. Don't repeat use of the same insecticide mode of action.

Alternate insecticide modes of action (Groups) to delay resistance. For newer products, the insecticide group is listed on the label. Table 1 shows insecticide groups to assist in selection of insecticides. Further information can be found on the Insecticide Resistance Action Committee (IRAC) website:

For pests with more than one generation per year, alternate insecticide modes of action being used within the year. For less-mobile pests with one generation per year, alternate modes of action between years. In terms of exposure to insecticides, think of the pest complex as a whole. An insecticide application targeted at one pest will also expose other pests present to the insecticide.

Example: If a foliar application of an organophosphate (group 1B) insecticide is applied to a field that has exceeded the economic threshold for soybean aphid (250 aphids per plant), the insecticide used for a subsequent treatment for soybean aphids or any other pest should notcontain an insecticide from group 1.

Though insecticide mixtures (formulated mixtures or tank mixtures) may be effective for pest suppression, alternation (i.e., the use one after another) of insecticide modes of action is generally more effective for insecticide resistance management (IRAC statement on mixtures).

Seed treatments

The widespread, prophylactic use of systemic insecticidal seed treatments (e.g., neonicotinoids) across many acres, regardless of pest risk, is counter to the philosophy of integrated pest management. It may pose a risk for development of pest resistance to these insecticides, as well as other environmental concerns.

The use of systemic insecticidal seed treatments is an effective pest management tool for some pest situations. In particular, these treatments should be used in situations with high risk for economically damaging populations of seed- and seedling-feeding insects (Multi-state report on continued validity of soybean aphid threshold).

Identifying cases of potential resistance

Before assuming resistance, rule out these factors:

  1. Misapplication of insecticide (incorrect insecticide or rate, poor coverage)
  2. Unfavorable weather (wind, rain, temperature). For example, some pyrethroids can be less effective at high temperatures.
  3. Improper timing of application (susceptibility of life stage present)
  4. Recolonization by the pest

If you still suspect insecticide resistance, use Extension's reporting webpage or contact Extension.

Table 1. Representative insecticides (foliar formulations) for soybean aphid management. Note that though there are many products, they represent only three insecticide modes of action (i.e., Groups: Group 1 = Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors; Group 3 = Sodium channel modulators; and Group 4 = Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonists). Always follow label instructions.

    Trade names
Group Common name Individual active ingredient Formulated mixtures
1A methomyl Lannate  
acephate Acephate  
1B chlorpyrifos Lorsban Advanced, Chlorpyrifos, Govern, Hatchet, Nufos, Vulcan, Warhawk, Whirlwind, Yuma Tundra Supreme, Cobalt, Cobalt Advanced, Stallion, Match-Up
dimethoate Dimethoate  
3A alpha-cypermethrin Fastac  
beta-cyfluthrin Baythroid Leverage
bifenthrin Tundra, Sniper, Fanfare, Discipline, Brigade, Bifenture Justice, Match-Up, Tundra Supreme, Brigadier, Swagger, Skyraider, Hero, Steed, Triple Crown
cyfluthrin Tombstone  
deltamethrin Delta Gold, Batallion  
esfenvalerate Asana XL, Adjourn  
gamma-cyhalothrin Declare, Proaxis Cobalt
lambda-cyhalothrin Warrior II, Grizzly Z, LambdaStar, Lambda-Cy, Lamcap, Province, Silencer VC, Taiga Z Besiege, Cobalt Advanced, Double Take, Endigo, Seeker
permethrin Arctic  
zeta-cypermethrin Mustang Maxx, Respect Hero, Steed, Stallion, Triple Crown
4A acetamiprid   Justice
clothianidin   Belay
imidacloprid Prey, Admire Pro, ADAMA Alias, Wrangler, Nuprid, Sherpa Leverage, Brigadier, Swagger, Skyraider, Triple Crown
thiamethoxam   Endigo
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