Ohio grain farmers should take extra precaution this spring to scout their fields as the near-record warm winter is expected to cause a severe infestation of corn flea beetle, says an Ohio State University Extension entomologist.

Insects such as the corn flea beetle will likely be seen earlier than normal this year, said Ron Hammond, who also has an appointment with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

Corn flea beetle targets both sweet and field corn and spreads the bacterium that causes Stewart’s bacterial wilt and leaf blight. Adult beetles that overwinter become active in the spring when the soil temperature reaches 65 degrees and are most active on sunny, warm, windless days, Hammond said.

“Those adults that fed on corn plants with Stewart’s disease in the previous late summer or fall may acquire and carry the bacterium from one growing season to another,” Hammond said. “By feeding on young plants in the spring, they may spread the bacterium, which in turn causes seedling wilt and leaf blight.