Insect of the Week – Wireworms

Jennifer Otani
Week 5

This week’s Insect of the Week is a frustrating pest of many crops: wireworm. Wireworms are the soil-dwelling larval stage of the click beetles (Elateridae). There are hundreds of click beetle species in the prairies, but the term wireworm refers to those that are pests, which in Canada is approximately 20 species. With the loss of effective insecticides (e.g. lindane), wireworms have re-emerged in recent years as primary pests of potato, cereals, and vegetables. On the prairies, we have 3 predominant pest species (Selatosomus destructor, Limonius californicus, and Hypnoidus bicolor; see photo), and their larvae vary (among other things) in life history (2-7 years), color (white to orange), cuticle thickness, distribution, behaviour, and susceptibility to insecticides.

Wireworms are patchy in distribution, difficult to monitor, and difficult to kill. We have a lot to learn about these resilient pests. Since the mid-1990’s AAFC has had a national research team (Bob Vernon et al.) screening for effective insecticides and developing trapping and monitoring methods, cultural controls (e.g., crop rotation), and biocontrols to manage the adult and larval forms of these pests.

For more information about wireworms, check out our Insect of the Week page!

The three most troublesome wireworm species on the prairies in their adult and larval stages. Note the different sizes and colours. From left to right, S. destructor, L. californicus, H. bicolor.
Photo by David Shack, AAFC-Lethbridge.

For more information, please contact Dr. Haley Catton (AAFC-Lethbridge) or Dr. Wim van Herk (AAFC-Agassiz)

Also link here to access a summary of Wireworm surveying (2004-2017) conducted across the Canadian prairies by van Herk and Vernon (AAFC-Agassiz).


Weekly Update

Jennifer Otani, Ross Weiss, David Giffen, Wim van Herk, Robert Vernon, Haley Catton, Aimee McGowan, Meghan Vankosky, Erl Svendsen and Owen Olfert
Week 5


Access the complete Weekly Update either as a series of Posts for Week 05 (June 7, 2018) OR a downloadable PDF version.  Also review the “Insect of the Week” for Week 5!

Questions or problems accessing the contents of this Weekly Update?  Please e-mail either Dr. Meghan Vankosky or Jennifer Otani.  Past “Weekly Updates” can be accessed on our Weekly Update page.

Subscribe to the Blog by following these three steps!


Weather synopsis

Ross Weiss, David Giffen, Owen Olfert and prairiepest_admin
Week 5

Weather synopsis – This past week (May 28-June 4, 2018), the average temperature was very similar to the long term normal (Fig. 1).  The warmest weekly temperatures occurred across Manitoba. The 30-day average temperature (April 29 – May 29) was approximately 2 °C warmer than long term average (Fig. 2).  Across the prairies, the average temperature for May was up to 5 °C warmer than average. 

Figure 1.  Weekly (May 28–June 4, 2018) average temperature (°C) . 
Figure 2.  The 30 day (April 29 – May 29, 2018) average temperature (°C).

Weekly precipitation was above average and 30-day total rainfall is approximately 20% less than average (Figs. 3 and 4). 

Figure 3.  Weekly (May 28 – June 4, 2018) cumulative precipitation (mm).
Figure 4.  The 30-day (May 28 – June 4, 2018) cumulative precipitation (mm).

Accumulated precipitation for the growing season (April 01-June 4, 2018) is shown below.

The map below reflects the Highest Temperatures occurring over the past 7 days (May 29-June 4, 2018) across the prairies. 

The map below reflects the Lowest Temperatures occurring over the past 7 days (May 29-June 4, 2018) across the prairies. 

The growing degree day map (GDD) (Base 10ºC, March 1 – June 3, 2018) is below:

The growing degree day map (GDD) (Base 5ºC, March 1 – June 3, 2018) is below:

The maps above are all produced by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.  Growers may wish to bookmark the AAFC Drought Watch Maps for the growing season.


Wind trajectories

Ross Weiss, Serge Trudel and prairiepest_admin
Week 5

Background:  Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) have been working together to study the potential of trajectories to deliver an early-warning system for the origin and destination of migratory invasive agricultural pests.

We receive two types of model output from ECCC: reverse trajectories (RT) and forward trajectories (FT): 

(i) ‘Reverse trajectories’ (RT) refer to air currents that are tracked back in time from specified Canadian locations over a five-day period prior to their arrival date. 

(ii) ‘Forward trajectories’ (FT) have a similar purpose; however, the modelling process begins at sites in USA and Mexico. The model output predicts the pathway of a trajectory. Again, of interest are the winds that eventually end up passing over the Prairies. 

Current Data
The number of Reverse Trajectories (RTs), crossing the prairies in May 2018, was lower than the long term average (2007 – 2017). The total number of incoming trajectories (sum of Pacific Northwest and southwest USA/Mexico) for 2018 was less than similar values for 2017 and 2007 – 2017. Based on RTs by region, the number of RTs from the Pacific Northwest (PNW) was less than 2007 – 2017 and 2017. To date, the RTs originating in the southwest USA/Mexico in 2018, have been greater in number than in 2017 and less than the long term average (Fig. 1).

Figure 1.  Total number of reverse trajectories by geographic region (Pacific Northwest and
Mexico and the southwest USA) for May 2018.

Weather forecasts (7 day):

Winnipeg: Brandon: Saskatoon: Regina: Edmonton: Lethbridge: Grande Prairie:


Wireworm distribution map

Wim van Herk, Robert Vernon and Aimee McGowan
Week 5

The following maps summarize the main results of a survey of pest species of wireworms of the Canadian Prairie Provinces.  Samples (both larvae and beetles) were submitted to Dr. Bob Vernon’s lab in Agassiz, BC, from 2004 to 2017, and identified by Dr. Wim van Herk (Fig. 1).  Species identifications were confirmed with barcoding.

Figure 1.  Sampling locations for click beetles and wireworm larvae (Coleoptera: Elateridae) submitted for wireworm surveying from 2004-2017.

Approximately 600 samples were submitted, with the number of larvae per sample typically less than five (Fig. 1).  More samples are welcome, particularly from areas currently not well represented on the maps.  Please provide either the legal land description or latitude and longitude coordinates with a sample.  Any information on the cropping history or whether fields were irrigated is helpful.

The main findings of this survey are that:
1. Wireworms are re-emerging as primary pests of cereals and other crops, particularly in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan.  This can be attributed to several factors, including changes in seeding and cultivation resulting in higher soil moisture and increased food availability, and therefore greater wireworm survival; the elimination of effective insecticides such as lindane and the decline of organochlorine residues in the soil; and the present lack of insecticides that actually kill wireworms.

2. Limonius californicus is generally the predominant pest species in fields reporting heavy wireworm damage, occasionally building up to very high populations and resulting in complete crop wrecks (Fig. 2).  This was not the case when Glen et al. (1943) or Doane (1977) conducted their surveys; L. californicus was considered a minor species at those times.  Selatosomus destructor (Fig. 3) and Hypnoidus bicolor (Fig. 4) are still the most common species.  The pest status of another commonly found species, the predaceous Aeolus mellillus (Fig. 5), is unclear.  The following species listed by Glen et al. (1943) as pests of agriculture in the Prairie Provinces were found also, but infrequently: Agriotes mancusA. criddleiA. stabilisHemicrepidius memnoniusL. pectoralis, and various Dalopius sp.

Figure 2.  Distribution of Limonius californicus (Coleoptera: Elateridae) submitted for wireworm surveying from 2004-2017.
Figure 3.  Distribution of Selatosomus destructor (Coleoptera: Elateridae) submitted for wireworm surveying from 2004-2017.
Figure 4.  Distribution of Hypniodes bicolor (Coleoptera: Elateridae) submitted for wireworm surveying from 2004-2017.
Figure 5. Distribution of Aeolus mellillus (Coleoptera: Elateridae) submitted for wireworm surveying from 2004-2017.

3. Multiple pest species are frequently found in the same fields where damage is reported (i.e. about 25% of the time, despite the small number of larvae per sample).  This is particularly important as pest species can vary considerably in the type of damage they cause (e.g. it remains unclear if H. bicolor is damaging to potato), their life history (e.g. duration of the larval stage), and susceptibility to insecticides.

Details related to the biology and management of these species are reviewed in van Herk and Vernon (2014) and Vernon and van Herk (2013).

These maps are only possible thanks to the collections done by a large team of local entomologists and agrologists.  We are extremely grateful to them; thank you to everyone who participated!  A special thank you to Ted Labun and colleagues at Syngenta Crop Protection (Canada), and to Bayer CropScience, for providing the bulk of the samples. 

Please do not distribute or use the contents of this post, including any maps, without obtaining prior permission.

Obtain further information or arrange shipment of wireworm or click beetle samples by contacting:
Dr. Wim van Herk
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Agassiz Research and Development Centre
6947 Highway 7, Agassiz, BC, V0M 1A0

Further wireworm reading:
Burrage RH (1964) Trends in damage by wireworms (Coleoptera: Elateridae) in grain crops in Saskatchewan, 1954–1961. Canadian Journal of Plant Science, 44: 515–519. 

Doane JF (1977) Spatial pattern and density of Ctenicera destructor and Hypolithus bicolor (Coleoptera: Elateridae) in soil in spring wheat. The Canadian Entomologist 109: 807–822.

Doane JF (1977) The flat wireworm, Aeolus mellillus: studies on seasonal occurrence of adults and incidence of the larvae in the wireworm complex attacking wheat in Saskatchewan. Environmental Entomology 6: 818–822. 

Glen R, King KM, Arnason AP (1943) The identification of wireworms of economic importance in Canada. Canadian Journal of Research 21: 358-387.

van Herk WG, Vernon RS (2014) Click beetles and wireworms (Coleoptera: Elateridae) of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.  In: Arthropods of Canadian Grasslands (Volume 4): Biodiversity and Systematics Part 2. (Edited by D.J. Giberson and H.A. Carcamo).  Biological Survey of Canada, pp. 87-117.

Vernon RS, van Herk WG (2013) Wireworms as pests of potato. In: Insect pests of potato: Global perspectives on biology and management.  (Edited by P. Giordanengo, C. Vincent, A. Alyokhin).  Academic Press, Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 103–164. 

Zacharuk RY (1962) Distribution, habits, and development of Ctenicera destructor (Brown) in western Canada, with notes on the related species C. aeripennis (Kby.) (Coleoptera: Elateridae). Canadian Journal of Zoology 40: 539–552.


Predicted grasshopper development

Ross Weiss, Owen Olfert and prairiepest_admin
Week 5

Grasshopper Simulation Model Output – The grasshopper simulation model will be used to monitor grasshopper development across the prairies. Weekly temperature data collected across the prairies is incorporated into the simulation model which calculates estimates of grasshopper development stages based on biological parameters for Melanoplus sanguinipes (Migratory grasshopper).  

As of June 4, 2018, predicted hatch was 51% (31% last week; long term average was 11%).  Hatch is predicted to be nearly complete in southeast AB and southern MB (Fig. 1). Grasshopper populations are primarily in the first instar (Fig. 2).

Figure 1. Grasshopper hatch (%) based on model simulations, for April 1-June 4, 2018.
Figure 2.  Percent of grasshopper population that is in the first instar, based on model simulations, for April 1-June 4, 2018.

Biological and monitoring information related to grasshoppers in field crops is posted by Manitoba AgricultureSaskatchewan AgricultureAlberta Agriculture and Forestry, the BC Ministry of Agriculture and the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network.  Also refer to the grasshopper pages within the new “Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and management field guide” as an English-enhanced or French-enhanced version.


Cereal leaf beetle

Ross Weiss, Owen Olfert and prairiepest_admin
Week 5

Cereal leaf beetle (Oulema melanopus) – Model output indicates that CLB are primarily in the larval stage (Fig. 1). 

Figure 1.  Percent of cereal leaf beetle population that is in the larval stage, based on model simulations, for April 1-June 4, 2018.

Lifecycle and Damage:

Adult: Adult cereal leaf beetles (CLB) have shiny bluish-black wing-covers (Fig. 2). The thorax and legs are light orange-brown. Females (4.9 to 5.5 mm) are slightly larger than the males (4.4 to 5 mm). Adult beetles overwinter in and along the margins of grain fields in protected places such as in straw stubble, under crop and leaf litter, and in the crevices of tree bark. They favour sites adjacent to shelter belts, deciduous and conifer forests. They emerge in the spring once temperature reaches 10-15 ºC and are active for about 6 weeks. They usually begin feeding on grasses, then move into winter cereals and later into spring cereals.  

Figure 2. Adult Oulema melanopus measure 4.4-5.5 mm long (Photo: M. Dolinski).

Egg: Eggs are laid approximately 14 days following the emergence of the adults. Eggs are laid singly or in pairs along the mid vein on the upper side of the leaf and are cylindrical, measuring 0.9 mm by 0.4 mm, and yellowish in colour. Eggs darken to black just before hatching.  

Larva: The larvae hatch in about 5 days and feed for about 3 weeks, passing through 4 growth stages (instars). The head and legs are brownish-black; the body is yellowish. Larvae are usually covered with a secretion of mucus and fecal material, giving them a shiny black, wet appearance (Fig. 3).  When the larva completes its growth, it drops to the ground and pupates in the soil. 

Figure 3.  Larval stage of Oulema melanopus with characteristic feeding  damage visible on leaf (Photo: M. Dolinski).

Pupa: Pupal colour varies from a bright yellow when it is first formed, to the colour of the adult just before emergence. The pupal stage lasts 2 – 3 weeks. Adult beetles emerge and feed for a couple of weeks before seeking overwintering sites. There is one generation per year.

Fact sheets for CLB are published by the province of Alberta and available from the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network. Also access the Oulema melanopus page from the new “Field crop and forage pests and their natural enemies in western Canada – Identification and management field guide”.


Predicted bertha armyworm development

David Giffen and prairiepest_admin
Week 5

Bertha armyworm (Lepidoptera: Mamestra configurata– The BAW model is predicting that pupae are developing rapidly in the soil and that development is well ahead of average (Fig. 1).  Development is expected to be 5 – 6 days faster than average. 

Though cooler temperatures have slowed BAW development, moths are predicted to emerge 10 days ahead of average (Table 1). Pupal development is approximately 82% (Fig. 1).  Model output predicts that emergence may begin as early as June 9th.

Table 1. Projected dates for BAW adult emergence for June 4, 2018 (projected to June 30, 2018).

Figure 1.  Predicted bertha armyworm pupal development (as of June 3, 2018).

Biological and monitoring information related to bertha armyworm in field crops is posted by the provinces of ManitobaSaskatchewanAlberta and the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network.  Also refer to the bertha armyworm pages within the new “Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and management field guide” – both English-enhanced or French-enhanced versions are available.


Pea leaf weevil

Ross Weiss, Owen Olfert and Meghan Vankosky
Week 5

Pea Leaf Weevil (Sitona lineatus– The PLW model predicts that oviposition is occurring across southern and central regions of the prairies (example Red Deer (Fig. 9). 

Figure 1.  Predicted pea leaf weevil phenology at Red Deer AB. 
Values are based on model simulations, for April 1-May 28, 2018 (projected to July 15, 2018).

Pea leaf weevils emerge in the spring primarily by flying (at temperatures above 17ºC) or they may walk short distances. Pea leaf weevil movement into peas and faba beans is achieved primarily through flight.  Adults are slender, greyish-brown measuring approximately 5 mm in length (Fig. 2, Left).  

The pea leaf weevil resembles the sweet clover weevil (Sitona cylindricollis) but the former is distinguished by three light-coloured stripes extending length-wise down thorax and sometimes the abdomen.  All species of Sitona, including the pea leaf weevil, have a short snout.  

Figure 2.  Comparison images and descriptions of four Sitona species adults including pea leaf weevil (Left).

Adults will feed upon the leaf margins and growing points of legume seedlings (alfalfa, clover, dry beans, faba beans, peas) and produce a characteristic, scalloped (notched) edge.  Females lay 1000 to 1500 eggs in the soil either near or on developing pea or faba bean plants from May to June.

Reminder – The 2017 risk map for pea leaf weevils was released in March 2018.  The map is based on the number of feeding notches observed in peas (Fig. 3).  

Figure 3. Estimates of pea leaf weevil (S. lineatus) densities based on feeding notches observed in peas grown in Alberta and Saskatchewan in 2017.

Biological and monitoring information related to pea leaf weevil in field crops is posted by the province of Alberta and in the PPMN monitoring protocol.

Also refer to the pea leaf weevil page within the “Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and management field guide” – both English-enhanced or French-enhanced versions are available.  A review of this insect was published in 2011 in Prairie Soils and Crops by Carcamo and Vankosky.


Alfalfa weevil

Ross Weiss, Owen Olfert and prairiepest_admin
Week 5

Alfalfa Weevil (Hypera postica) – The AAW model runs for Swift Current SK indicate that oviposition is well underway in southern Saskatchewan (Fig. 1).  Larvae should be primarily second and third instars.  Fourth instar larvae may be occurring as well. 

Figure 1.  Average developmental alfalfa weevil stage. 
Values are based on model simulations, for April 1-June 4, 2018.

The larval stage of this weevil feeds on alfalfa leaves in a manner that characterizes the pest as a “skeletonizer”.  The green larva featuring a dorsal, white line down the length of its body has a dark brown head capsule and will grow to 9mm long.  

Use the photo below as a visual reference to identify alfalfa weevil larvae.  Note the white dorsal line, the tapered shape of the abdomen and the dark head capsule.

Alfalfa growers are encouraged to check the Alfalfa Weevil Fact Sheet prepared by Dr. Julie Soroka (AAFC-Saskatoon).  Additional information can be accessed by reviewing the Alfalfa Weevil Page extracted from the “Field crop and forage pests and their natural enemies in western Canada – Identification and management field guide” (Philip et al. 2015).  The guide is available in both a free English-enhanced or French-enhanced version.


Cabbage seedpod weevil

Jennifer Otani
Week 5

Cabbage seedpod weevil (Ceutorhynchus obstrictus) –  There is one generation of CSPW per year and the overwintering stage is the adult which is an ash-grey weevil measuring 3-4mm long (Refer to lower left photo).  Adults typically overwinter in soil beneath leaf litter within shelter belts and roadside ditches.


  • Begin sampling when the crop first enters the bud stage and continue through the flowering. 
  • Sweep-net samples should be taken at ten locations within the field with ten 180° sweeps per location.  
  • Count the number of weevils at each location. Samples should be taken in the field perimeter as well as throughout the field.  
  • Adults will invade fields from the margins and if infestations are high in the borders, application of an insecticide to the field margins may be effective in reducing the population to levels below which economic injury will occur.  
  • An insecticide application is recommended when three to four weevils per sweep are collected and has been shown to be the most effective when canola is in the 10 to 20% bloom stage (2-4 days after flowering starts). 
  • Consider making insecticide applications late in the day to reduce the impact on pollinators.  Whenever possible, provide advanced warning of intended insecticide applications to commercial beekeepers operating in the vicinity to help protect foraging pollinators.  
  • High numbers of adults in the fall may indicate the potential for economic infestations the following spring.

Damage: Adult feeding damage to buds is more evident in dry years when canola is unable to compensate for bud loss.  Adults mate following a pollen meal then the female will deposit a single egg through the wall of a developing pod or adjacent to a developing seed within the pod (refer to lower right photo).  Eggs are oval and an opaque white, each measuring ~1mm long.  Typically a single egg is laid per pod although, when CSPW densities are high, two or more eggs may be laid per pod.

There are four larval instar stages of the CSPW and each stage is white and grub-like in appearance ranging up to 5-6mm in length (refer to lower left photo).  The first instar larva feeds on the cuticle on the outside of the pod while the second instar larva bores into the pod, feeding on the developing seeds.  A single larva consumes about 5 canola seeds.  The mature larva chews a small, circular exit hole from which it drops to the soil surface and pupation takes place in the soil within an earthen cell.  Approximately 10 days later, the new adult emerges to feed on maturing canola pods.  Later in the season these new adults migrate to overwintering sites beyond the field.

Please find additional detailed information for CSPW in fact sheets posted by Alberta Agriculture and ForestrySaskatchewan Agriculture, or the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network.


Provincial Insect Pest Reports

James Tansey, John Gavloski and Scott Meers
Week 5

Provincial entomologists provide insect pest updates throughout the growing season so we link to their most recent information: 

Manitoba‘s Insect and Disease Update for 2018 will be posted soon. Review the most recent update (June 4, 2018) prepared by John Gavloski and Holly Derksen. The insect update notes flea beetles in canola and cutworms with monitoring for alfalfa weevil larvae underway. Diamondback moth trap numbers remain low and bertha armyworm pheromone traps will go up this week.

Saskatchewan‘s Crop Production News for 2018 is now posted. Access Report #1 posted May 31, 2018, and be sure to review the articles posted for flea beetles and pea leaf weevils to prepare for field scouting. Also know that Saskatchewan growers can review diamondback moth pheromone trap counts in the upper right of the diamondback moth page.

Access Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s Call of the Land for insect pest updates from Scott Meers. The most recent Call of the Land (posted on May 31, 2018) and highlights scouting for flea beetles with the warmer weather, glassy cutworms in perennial forages crops and more recently in the irrigated acres to the south of the province (please report using online cutworm reporting tool), relatively low numbers of diamondback moth on pheromone traps in the 4th week of monitoring and relatively low pea leaf weevil numbers so far based on field assessments completed in southern Alberta to date.

Crop reports

Jennifer Otani
Week 5

Crop reports are produced by:

The following crop reports are also available:


Monarch migration

Jennifer Otani
Week 5

We continue to track the migration of the Monarch butterflies as they move north by checking the 2018 Monarch Migration Map!  A screen shot of the map has been placed below as an example (retrieved 29May2018) but follow the hyperlink to check the interactive map! 

Visit the Journey North website to learn more about migration events in North America and visit their monarch butterfly website for more information related to this fascinating insect.