Alfalfa Weevil (Hypera postica) – 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. Alfalfa growers are encouraged to check the Alfalfa Weevil Fact Sheet prepared by Dr. Julie Soroka (AAFC-Saskatoon).
Updated – Degree-day maps of base 9°C are now being produced by Soroka, Olfert, and Giffen (2016) using the Harcourt/North Dakota models. The aim or the modelling is to predict the development of Alfalfa weevil (Hypera postica) across the prairies and to help growers time their in-field scouting as second-instar larvae are predicted to occur. Compare the following predicted development stages and degree-day values copied below (Soroka 2015) to the map below.
For the week of June 12, 2016, thanks to D. Giffen for updating the following map to match the above predicted developmental stages and corresponding degree-days. Areas highlighted yellow are predicted to find second instar larvae the week of June 12th. Areas highlighted gold are predicted to encounter third instar larvae while areas highlighted orange should observe fourth instar larvae so scout for major leaf feeding then compare larval densities to the action threshold for alfalfa weevil!
Economic thresholds for Alfalfa weevil (adapted from Soroka 2015) vary by crop type (hay or seed), area fed upon and larval densities.
In hay fields, forage losses can be economic if one or more of the following syptoms are noted:
● if 25-50 % of the leaves on the upper one-third of the stem show damage, or
● if 50-70% of the terminals are injured, or
● if 1 to 3 third or fourth instar larvae occur per stem (with shorter stems having lower economic thresholds and 3 or more larvae requiring treatment no matter what the alfalfa height), or
● 20-30 larvae per sweep occur when 12% leaf loss is acceptable.
● Also consider these two points:
1. Early cutting of the first growth of alfalfa or insecticide treatment will reduce alfalfa weevil populations.
2. If the hay crop value is high and weevil injury is seen or 2 or more larvae per stem reappear in regrowth after cutting, insecticide may be necessary (if a second cut is anticipated).
In alfalfa seed fields:
● Economic thresholds are 20-25 third to fourth instar larvae per sweep or 35-50% of the foliage tips showing damage.
● Thresholds increase with the height of the alfalfa, and decrease in drought conditions.
● Also know that several small wasps parasitize alfalfa weevil larvae and adults, and in the past these natural control agents kept the weevil in check in most years. One of these wasps, Bathyplectes curculionis (Thomson), parasitizes alfalfa weevil in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and is now found in Manitoba.