Insect of the Week – Doppelgangers: Cereal leaf beetle vs. Collops beetles

The case of the innocuous versus the evil twin: When making pest management decisions, be sure that the suspect is actually a pest. This can be challenge since insects often mimic each other or look very similar. An insect that looks, moves and acts like a pest may in fact be a look-alike or doppelganger.

Doppelgangers may be related (e.g. same genus) or may not be related, as in the case of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) and viceroys (Limenitis achrippus).  Doppelgangers are  usually relatively harmless but sometimes the doppelganger is a pest yet their behaviour, lifecycle or hosts may be different.

Correctly identifying a pest enables selection of the most accurate scouting or monitoring protocol. Identification and monitoring enables the application of economic thresholds. It also enables a producer to select and apply the most effective control option(s) including method and timing of application.  For the rest of the growing season, the Insect of the Week will feature insect crop pests and their doppelgangers.

The case of the cereal leaf beetle versus Collops beetles: 

Cereal leaf beetle, Boris Loboda

Cereal leaf beetles (Oulema melanopus), both adults and larva, feed on leaves (oat, barley, wheat, corn, etc), but it is the larval damage that can reduce yield and quality, especially if the flag leaf is stripped. Adults are 6-8 millimeters (.25-.31 inches) long with reddish legs and thorax (middle section between head and abdomen) and metallic bluish-black head and elytra (wing coverings).

Collops beetle, cc-by-nd-nc 1.0 Ashley Bradford

They may be confused with beneficial beetles belonging to the Collops genus (adults feed on aphids, stink bug eggs, moth eggs, small caterpillars, spider mites, whiteflies). Roughly the same size, they may have a red or orange thorax with/without red markings on their elytra, depending on the species. One consistent feature that will help distinguish between the two species is that the cereal leaf beetle elytra are smooth and shiny whereas the Collops’ elytra are covered in hairs.

Specific information on the cereal leaf beetle can be found in the updated Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural enemies in Western Canada field guide.

Review previously featured insects by visiting the Insect of the Week page.

Insect of the Week – Brown marmorated stink bug

This week’s Insect of the Week is the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys). Stink bugs get their name from the foul odour they release when threatened. Brown marmorated stink bug is not known to be established in the Prairies, but the species has been found in the Southern Interior of BC, in Ontario and Quebec. Feeding causes damage to seeds and seed pods, reducing yield. Nymphs and adults prefer field corn and soybean, but infestations have been reported on rape, pea, sunflower and cereals in the USA. They have also been known to attack tree fruits, berries, vegetables and many ornamental trees and shrubs.

Brown marmorated stink bug – adult (CC-BY 2.0 Katja Schulz)

Additional information and fact sheets for this insect have been posted by Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Development, and BC Ministry of Agriculture and Seafood. You can also check out our Insect of the Week page.

This insect is featured in our Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies Field Guide which is available for download from the Insect Field Guide page. 

Insect of the Week – Twospotted spider mite (Acarina: Tetranychus)

This week’s Insect of the Week is the twospotted spider mite. This tiny mite is 0.5 mm long and has eight legs. It has a greenish, yellowish to orange oval body with two dark spots on its abdomen. To the unaided eye, it looks like a small speck. they feed on corn, soybean, dry beans, alfalfa, vegetables and fruit.

These mites overwinter in protected sites as eggs, immatures or adults depending on food hosts and habitat. Immatures and adults move to emerging plant hosts in the spring. They create webbing on the underside of leaves where they puncture cells to feed on cell contents. This feeding causes stippling, yellowing or browning of the leaves. Leaves may dry and drop which can further reduce crop yields.

Infestations start at the field edge and move inwards. Extended hot, dry conditions favour rapid population build up and exacerbate feeding injury.

For more information on the twospotted spider mite, check out our Insect of the Week page!

Twospotted spider mite – adult closeup
David Cappaert, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org
Twospotted spider mite – stippling damage on bean
Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

Insect of the Week – Darksided cutworm

It’s spring, so it’s cutworm season. This week’s insect is the darksided cutworm. Mature larvae are hairless, greyish with a prominent white stripe on either side just above their legs. It is a climbing cutworm with feeding occurring at night. They have a broad host range including cereals, canola, corn, flax, sunflower, vegetables berry and tree fruits.

Find out more about the darksided cutworm at the Insect of the Week page.  Other important species include dingy, army, redbacked and pale western cutworms (See Insect of the Week: 2017 – May 1, 8, 15 and 29).

Darksided cutworm
Photocredit John Gavloski, Manitoba Ministry of Agriculture

In addition, Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies – Identification and Management Field Guide was recently published (2017). This new handy manual has chapters on general biology, history of outbreaks, scouting techniques, natural enemies and general control options. The meat of the manual is descriptions of 24 cutworm species, their lifecycle, hosts, damage, monitoring and economic thresholds. To download a copy, go to the Cutworm Field Guide page.

Insect of the Week – Glassy cutworm

This week’s insect is the glassy cutworm. The larva is greyish-white, semi-translucent and shiny (i.e. glass-like) with a orange-brown head. Since it overwinters as a larva, it is active as soon as the ground thaws. It feeds underground and rarely come to the surface. Their main host crop are grasses but will also attack wheat and corn. Corn planted following wheat may be particularly at risk.

Find out more about the glassy cutworm at the Insect of the Week page.

Glassy cutworm
cc-by Joseph Berger, bugwood.org

Other important species include dingy, army, redbacked and pale western cutworms (See Insect of the Week: 2017 – May 1, 8, 15 and 29).

In addition, Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies – Identification and Management Field Guide was just published (2017). This new handy field guide has chapters on general biology, history of outbreaks, scouting techniques, natural enemies and general control options. The guide includes descriptions of 24 cutworm species, their lifecycle, hosts, damage, monitoring and economic thresholds. To download a copy, go to the Cutworm Field Guide page.

Winter Update – True armyworm

Earlier this summer (Week 14), the true armyworm (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae: Mythimna unipunctawas reported on the lower west coast and a summary was provided by Tracy Hueppelsheuser (BC Ministry of Agriculture).

Tracy kindly provided an update to the situation…. The initial true armyworm damage reported earlier did not relent and a second generation of voracious larvae continued to cause damage in late August through to late September in southwestern British Columbia.  In addition to Vancouver Island (hit a second time), true armyworm larvae showed up south of Abbotsford, Sumas, Matsqui, Dereoche, as well as east through Chilliwack (Greendale, Rosedale), and west all the way to Delta and Westham Island.  The outbreak resulted in damage to grass fields and even corn was defoliated and cobs damaged!  

True armyworm pupae were observed mid-September and moths are expected over the next while in lower BC.  A third generation is anticipated but is not expected to cause as much damage owing to the cooler nights (~8°C) which should slow insect development and feeding.  Parasitism was noted which is good news in terms of natural enemies responding to the outbreak.  Also, lots of bird feeding activity has been observed although the birds’ seeking and feeding activities have also damaged grass fields!

The outbreak of true armyworm in lower BC appears to be part of a larger outbreak that has similarly afflicted western Oregon and Washington this year.  

Find more information on true armyworms in the NEW Cutworm Field Guide, free and downloadable in 2017!


Screenshots of true armyworm from the Cutworm Field guide are also shown below:




Insect of the Week – Cereal leaf beetle

This week’s Insect of the Week is the cereal leaf beetle. Wheat is their preferred host, but they also feed on oats, barley, corn, rye, triticale, reed canarygrass, ryegrass, fescue, wild oats, millet and other grasses. Adults and larvae feed on the leaf tissue of host plants. Yield quality and quantity is decreased if the flag leaf is stripped. It is also interesting to note that larvae carry all of their own fecal waste with them as protection from predators.


For more information on the cereal leaf beetle, see our Insect of the Week page.



Cereal leaf beetle larva (cc-by 2.0 Christophe Quintin)




Cereal leaf beetle damage (cc-by-nc-sa 2.0 CIMMYT)



Remember the NEW Cutworm Field Guide is free and downloadable in 2017!

Weekly Update – Small scarab beetle

Small scarab beetle (Coleoptera: Aphodius distinctus) – This is the time of summer that farmers will be seeing larvae of a small scarab beetle (Aphodius distinctus) in their fields.  There have been scattered reports each June of large numbers of beetle grubs in crops associated with crop damage (e.g., canola, corn, dry bean, onion, pea).


Please help researchers compile information related to this species so they might confirm its pest status!  Information is posted about the beetle and the survey.  Here’s how you can help:


1. Please send reports of high white grub densities and associated crop damage to Kevin.Floate@agr.gc.ca (403-317-2242). 


2. Live larvae accompanied by the following field information would be extremely helpful please – contact Dr. Kevin Floate if you have a sample!


3. Include answers to the following so the pest status for this species can be ascertained:  
     – Previous crop?
     – Legal land location or latitude+longitude?
     – Irrigated or not?
     – Was composted manure added this spring?
     – Surface residue in spring?

Insect of the Week – Tetrastichus julis

Tetrastichus julis (parasitoid)

Last year, the focus of the Insect of the Week was crop pests. This year, we’re changing things up and highlighting the many natural enemies that help you out, silently and efficiently killing off crop pests. [note: featured Insects of the Week in 2015 are available on the Insect of the Week page] 

This week’s Insect of the Week is Tetrastichus julis (sorry, no common name), an important cereal leaf beetle parasitoid. Where T. julis has become established, it can reduce cereal leaf beetle populations by 40 – 90%, preventing yield loss without using pesticides. See also the factsheet, Biological Control at its Best, Using the T. julis Wasp to Control the Cereal Leaf Beetle (French version).


For information about the cereal leaf beetle (p. 24) and other pests and their natural enemies, see the new Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada – Identification and Management Field Guide for identification, life cycle and conservation options (download links for field guide available on the Insect of the Week page).

T. julis adult parasitizing a cereal leaf beetle larva 
– Swaroop Kher, University of Alberta/AAFC