Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) have been working together to study the potential of trajectories for monitoring insect movements since the late 1990s.
This week’s Insect of the Week feature crop is wheat (durum, spring and winter) and Dr. Meghan Vankosky is our starring entomologist.
Wheat is King on the Prairies and has been since the early 1900s (with recent rivalry for top spot by canola, the Queen of the Prairies). There are many challenges to overcome: droughts, pests, soils and agronomy and scientists and extension specialists have been working alongside farmers to improve the genetics, production practices, equipment and infrastructure. In 2019, despite weather challenges, the area seeded to wheat and the harvest remains impressive:
How do you contribute in insect monitoring or surveillance on the Prairies?
I am a co-chair of the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network. In addition to participating in insect monitoring of cabbage seedpod weevil, pea leaf weevil, and grasshoppers, I help provide supplies for diamondback moth, swede midge, and bertha armyworm monitoring across the prairies. In addition to the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network, I am involved with the Canadian Plant Health Council in the Surveillance Working Group and a member of the new AAFC Prairie Biovigilance Network.
In your opinion, what is the most interesting field crop pest on the Prairies?
The pea leaf weevil is very interesting. I started researching pest management options for pea leaf weevil during my MSc program in 2008. We are still working on this pest and learning so much about it. I like working with this species because it is usually easy to find specimens for lab work, they are fairly large (by insect standards) which makes them easy to handle, and I have to admit that they are kind of cute – for a pest.
What is your favourite beneficial insect?
Parasitoids in general are very cool. I spent a year in southern California working on a biological control program for Asian citrus psyllid. During that time, I worked with two parasitoids and studied how they interact with each other and their host. Of the two, I worked most with Diaphorencyrtus aligarhensis. It is an endoparsitoid that lays its eggs inside its host and kills the host from the inside out. There are many interesting parasitoids on the prairies that help manage field crop pests and I look forward learning more about them.
Tell us about an important project you are working on right now.
I just finished two projects (co-led by Dr. Boyd Mori) studying the newly discovered canola flower midge (Contarinia brassicola). We are currently working on writing papers to describe our work, but in three years we learned a great deal about the distribution of this insect in western Canada, its development, population genetics, and potential impact on canola production.
What tools, platforms, etc. do you use to communicate with your stakeholders?
I use the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network Blog (soon to be website), Twitter, and extension events to communicate research and insect monitoring results. I am getting better about using Twitter, both in terms of posting and replying, and am looking forward to helping with #abbugchat in 2020.