Predicted Mortality of Bean Leaf Beetle Is Highest in 25 years

April 9, 2014
ICM News

By Erin Hodgson and Adam Sisson

Bean leaf beetle adults are susceptible to cold weather and most will die when the air temperature falls below 14°F (-10°C). However, they have adapted to winter by protecting themselves under plant debris and loose soil. An overwintering survival model was developed by Lam and Pedigo from Iowa State University in 2000, and is helpful for predicting winter mortality based on accumulating subfreezing temperatures. Predicted mortality rates in Iowa were extremely high during the 2013-2014 winter and ranged from 89-99 percent (Fig. 1). Not surprisingly, central and northern Iowa experienced colder temperatures, and most of the bean leaf beetle adults are not expected to survive.

Figure 1. Predicted overwintering mortality of bean leaf beetle based on accumulated subfreezing temperatures during the winter (October 1, 2013 —  March 31, 2014).

The statewide-predicted mortality from the 2013-2014 winter is the highest since Marlin Rice started tracking these data in 1989. It is important to remember insulating snow cover and tillage residue can help protect bean leaf beetle from harsh air temperatures. Recent fluctuating temperatures can also negatively influence spring populations. The average mortality rate in central Iowa over the last 25 years is 72 percent, but >99 percent of adults were predicted to have been killed last winter around Ames (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Predicted bean leaf beetle mortality by year for central Iowa; the red line indicates the average mortality rate.

Although overwintering beetle populations are expected to be low this year, consider scouting soybean fields, especially in southern Iowa, if:

  1. Soybean is planted near alfalfa fields or if the field has the first-emerging plants in the area. Overwintering adults are strongly attracted to soybean and will move into fields with emerging plants (Fig. 3).
  2. Fields have food-grade soybean or are seed fields where reductions in yield and seed quality can be significant.
  3. Fields have a history of bean pod mottle virus.

Figure 3. Overwintering bean leaf beetles can defoliate young soybean plants. Photo on the left by Marlin E. Rice.


Bean leaf beetle is easily disturbed and will drop from plants and seek shelter in soil cracks or under debris. Sampling early in the season requires you to be "sneaky" to estimate actual densities. Although overwintering beetles rarely cause economic damage, their presence may be an indicator of building first and second generations later in the season. To learn more about managing bean leaf beetle and bean pod mottle virus, click here.

Erin Hodgson is an associate professor of entomology with extension and research responsibilities; contact her at or by calling 515-294-2847. Adam Sisson is an Integrated Pest Management extension specialist; contact him at or by calling 515-294-5899.

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Integrated Crop Management News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on April 9, 2014. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.


Erin Hodgson Professor

Dr. Erin Hodgson started working in the Department of Entomology, now the Department of Plant Pathology, Entomology, and Microbiology, at Iowa State University in 2009. She is a professor with extension and research responsibilities in corn and soybeans. She has a general background in integrated...

Adam Sisson Extension Specialist

Adam Sisson is an extension specialist with the Iowa State University Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program and a Certified Crop Adviser. Sisson focuses on the development of publications and other educational resources for farmers, agribusi...