Sunflower & Triticale Pests

As the growing season winds down, we are wrapping up our summer series with an Insect of the Week doubleheader: one post featuring both sunflower and triticale pests!

Sunflowers are an eye-catching plant with seeds that have numerous uses: as snacks, as birdseed, and as the raw material to produce sunflower oil.

Sunflowers — AAFC

While sunflowers are grown across the Prairie region, the bulk are grown in Manitoba. In fact, almost 90% of Canadian sunflower production took place in Manitoba in 2019. Over the same year, sunflowers were seeded across 28,000 hectares (69,300 acres) in the Prairies, producing 59,000 metric tonnes (65,000 US tons).

Sunflower field — AAFC

Triticale is the first man-made crop species, and was initially produced through the hybridization of wheat and rye to create this new cereal.

Triticale
cc by 2.0 Jean Weber

Though its origins date back to 19th-century Scotland and Germany, triticale development didn’t begin in Canada until researchers at the University of Manitoba started to breed this cereal crop in 1954. Still grown in the Prairie provinces, triticale is utilized as a food source for both humans and animals. In 2019, triticale was seeded across 42,000 hectares (103,700 acres) across the Prairie region. The resulting harvest produced 63,900 metric tonnes (70,400 US tons).

Triticale field
cc by 2.0 Anita Priks

Several pests target sunflower and triticale alike. Monitoring and scouting protocols as well as economic thresholds (when available) are found in Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management and the Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies: Identification and Management Field Guide. Additional monitoring protocols exist to control certain pests.

Sunflower Pests

  • Banded sunflower moth
  • Beet cutworm
  • Black cutworm
  • Brown marmorated stink bug
  • Darksided cutworm
  • Dingy cutworm
  • Grasshoppers
  • Lygus bugs
  • Painted lady butterfly
  • Pale western cutworm
  • Potato aphid
  • Redbacked cutworm
  • Red sunflower seed weevil
  • Sunflower beetle
  • Sunflower bud moth
  • Sunflower maggot
  • Sunflower midge
  • Sunflower moth
  • Sunflower receptacle maggot
  • Sunflower seed maggot
  • Wireworms
Sunflower beetle – Frank Peairs, bugwood.org, cc-by 3.0

Triticale Pests

  • Cereal leaf beetle
  • Darksided cutworm
  • Fall armyworm
  • Fall field cricket
  • Glassy cutworm
  • Grasshoppers
  • Greenbug
  • Pale western cutworm
  • Redbacked cutworm
  • Variegated cutworm
  • Wheat midge
  • Wireworms
Variegated cutworm – James Calisch, bugwood.org, cc-by 3.0

A deep thanks to all who have been reading Insect of the Week 2020! We look forward to publishing a whole new set of posts next season.

Soybean Pests – Week 17

This week’s Insect of the Week feature crop is soybean, a common crop in Eastern Canada that has become more popular in the Prairie region over the past decade.

Soybeans – AAFC

Despite being a recent crop to Western Canada, soybean cultivation in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba contributed 20% to the national production total in 2019. Ongoing research is being conducted to develop new plant varieties that are better suited to the short growing season and low temperatures characteristic to the Canadian Prairies. In 2019, soybeans where seeded over 658,200 hectares (1.6 million acres) across the Prairie Region, producing 1.2 million metric tonnes (almost 1.4 million US tons).

Several pest species target soybeans. Monitoring and scouting protocols as well as economic thresholds (when available) are found in Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management and the Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies: Identification and Management Field Guide. Additional monitoring protocols exist to control certain pests.

Soybean field – AAFC

Soybean Pests

  • Alfalfa caterpillar
  • Brown marmorated stink bug
  • Darksided cutworm
  • Grasshoppers
  • Green cloverworm
  • Lygus bugs
  • Potato leafhopper
  • Saltmarsh caterpillar
  • Seedcorn maggot
  • Soybean aphid
  • Twospotted spider mite
  • Variegated cutworm
Soybean aphid – Robert O’Neil and Ho Jung Yoo, Purdue University, cc-by 2.0

RYE PESTS / FEATURE ENTOMOLOGIST: HALEY CATTON

This week’s Insect of the Week feature crop is is rye, a cold and drought resistant grain with various uses, including bread and cereal production, and brewing and malting. Our feature entomologist this week is Haley Catton.

Rye – AAFC

A versatile crop, rye grown in the Prairie region has numerous uses, including animal feed production, bread and cereal production and brewing and malting. Rye can also be used as a cover and forage crop. Like wheat, rye comes in winter and spring varieties, with winter rye remaining the most popular across Western Canada. In 2019, rye was grown over 114,100 hectares (281,700 acres) in the Prairies, producing 262,200 metric tonnes (289,000 US tons).

Various pest species target rye. Monitoring and scouting protocols as well as economic thresholds (when available) are found in Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management and the Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies: Identification and Management Field Guide. Additional monitoring protocols exist to control certain pests.

Rye field – AAFC
Rye Pests
  • Armyworm
  • Black grass bugs
  • Cereal leaf beetle
  • Darksided cutworm
  • Dingy cutworm
  • English green aphid
  • Fall armyworm
  • Fall field cricket
  • Glassy cutworm
  • Grasshoppers
  • Green-tan grass bugs
  • Breenbug
  • Pale western cutworm
  • Rice leaf bug
  • Variegated cutworm
  • Wheat head armyworm
  • Wheat midge
  • Wheat stem maggot
  • Wheat stem sawfly
  • Wireworms
Fall field cricket – Joseph Berger, bugwood.org, cc-by 3.0

ENTOMOLOGIST OF THE WEEK: HALEY CATTON

Name: Dr. Haley Catton
Affiliation: AAFC-Lethbridge Research and Development Centre
Contact Information: haley.catton@canada.ca
@haleycatton (Twitter)

How do you contribute in insect monitoring or surveillance on the Prairies?

My team and I often work on developing and refining monitoring methods for certain pests (e.g. wireworms). But, for the past few years we have actively been monitoring one particular tiny little insect – the parasitic wasp T. julis, a natural enemy of the cereal leaf beetle. These beneficial wasps are so small that they are easy to miss with the naked eye, only 2-3 mm long in their adult form! We track them by cutting open cereal leaf beetle larvae to see if they are parasitized. We can find 5-20 little T. julis larvae inside a single cereal leaf beetle larva! For next year, we ask that anyone on the Prairies who sees cereal leaf beetle larvae to send us a sample of 10-30 larvae so we can dissect them. We will tell you if T. julis is on the scene and contributing to management of this potentially damaging pest.

In your opinion, what is the most interesting field crop pest on the Prairies?

That’s tough to pick, all of them are interesting in their own way. But if I have to choose, it will be wireworm. This is a pest made up of several species, with long life spans, lots of host crops, and different behaviours. They can go without food for at least a year, and even moult to become smaller in times of stress. They are a formidable pest, but the more I learn about them, the more interesting the story becomes.

What is your favourite beneficial insect?

Another tough choice. T. julis is pretty spectacular, how it finds its host so effectively, a true “seek and destroy” biological control insect, or Field Hero. We think T. julis is a big reason why cereal leaf beetle has not become a major pest on the Prairies, but that is hard to prove when it is tough to even find larvae to dissect! This “disappearance” phenomenon is a big problem in biological control. When beneficial insects are very successful, the pests are no longer noticeable, and therefore less on people’s minds. The value of the beneficial insects therefore becomes “behind the scenes”, and can be overlooked. This is why more research and awareness are needed on the value and efficacy of beneficial insects, so they can considered and protected.

Tell us about an important/interesting project you are working on right now.

I’m just finishing up a 3-year project on wireworms (funded by AWC and WGRF), and have learned so much. I am working with a team to produce a wireworm field guide for the Prairies, and it is shaping up to be a really nice document. Expected release later this year!

What tools, platforms, etc. do you use to communicate with your stakeholders?

I love giving presentations, going to field days, and talking to farmers. Also, find me on Twitter (@haleycatton), or reach out by email, haley.catton@canada.ca.

Oat Pests / Feature Entomologist: Héctor Cárcamo

This week’s Insect of the Week feature crop is oat, a plant grown across the Prairies for both food production and livestock feed. Our feature entomologist this week is Héctor Cárcamo.

Oat – AAFC

A versatile food and feed crop, almost 90% of Canadian oat production takes place across Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. In 2019 Canada was the world’s third largest oat producer, and number one oat exporter. In the same year, total Prairie production seeded over 1.3 million hectares (3.2 million acres) was over 3.8 million metric tonnes (4.2 million US tons).

Various pest species target oat. Monitoring and scouting protocols as well as economic thresholds (when available) are found in Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management and the Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies: Identification and Management Field Guide. Additional monitoring protocols exist to control certain pests.

Oat field – AAFC
Oat Pests
  • Army cutworm
  • Armyworm
  • Black grass bugs
  • Cereal leaf beetle
  • Chinch bug
  • Darksided cutworm
  • Dingy cutworm
  • English grain aphid
  • Fall armyworm
  • Fall field cricket
  • Glassy cutworm
  • Grasshoppers
  • Green grass bugs
  • Greenbug
  • Oat-birdcherry aphid
  • Pale western cutworm
  • Redbacked cutworm
  • Rice leaf bug
  • Say stink bug
  • Variegated cutworm
  • Wheat head armyworm
  • Wheat stem maggot
  • Wireworms
English grain aphids – AAFC

ENTOMOLOGIST OF THE WEEK: Héctor Cárcamo

Name: Héctor Cárcamo
Affiliation: AAFC, Lethbridge Research and Development Centre
Contact Information: hector.carcamo@canada.ca

How do you contribute in insect monitoring or surveillance on the Prairies?

I contribute by helping to develop survey protocols for resurging native insect pests (wheat stem sawfly, 2003) or new invasive pests (pea leaf weevil, 2005; cereal leaf beetle, 2007). With my team we also conduct surveys to tackle research questions such as farm threshold validations or landscape studies for lygus bugs, cabbage seedpod weevil and cereal leaf beetle. Finally, I collaborate with various researchers in the writing of scientific articles from survey data.  

In your opinion, what is the most interesting field crop pest on the Prairies?

It is difficult to name just one! I really like the wheat stem sawfly because it is so well studied and this allows us to ask more refined ecological questions. Plus it forces us to use non-chemical methods to manage it. But if I had to choose only one to work on…I would pick lygus bugs because they are an extremely challenging and complex pest with populations that can increase rapidly. It seems to be almost ‘unpredictable”! Also it is highly polyphagous and as a species complex, extremely widespread geographically – the tarnished plant bug ranges from Guatemala to Alaska!

What is your favourite beneficial insect?

Well, this is an easy one: a carabid ground beetle of course, my Twitter name gives this one away: @hectorcarabido! Why: because they are so diverse, easy to catch and easy to identify to species. They are also very popular so it is easy to start a conversation over carabid beetles with most entomologists.

Tell us about an important/interesting project you are working on right now.

I am excited about biological control and I am currently leading a national study on biocontrol of cabbage seedpod weevil and I am also equally excited to start the one that got delayed due to COVID-19: A survey of parasitism of lygus nymphs in emerging and established crops.

What tools, platforms, etc. do you use to communicate with your stakeholders?

I regularly do interviews with the farm media and work with the technology transfer platforms used by the various commodity associations that fund our research. I have also contributed to our AAFC fact sheets or other technology transfer publications. Recently I have started to use Twitter and I have participated regularly in the weekly #abbugchat.

Sweet Clover Pests / Feature Entomologist: Sean Prager

This week’s Insect of the Week featured crop is sweet clover: a soil-building, weed suppressing legume. Our feature entomologist this week is Sean Prager.

Sweet clover
cc by 2.0 Phil Gayton

Native to Turkey, Canadian sweet clover includes plants developed from Spanish and Siberian sources. Tolerant to cold, drought and various soil textures, sweet clover is a robust crop that is grown across the Prairies. Sweet clover has a taproot that can grow as deep as 1. 5 metres (5 feet) by the end of spring, adding nitrogen and organic matter to soil. As a forage grazed by livestock, it achieves maximum palatability and feed quality between 25 and 35 centimetres (10-14 inches) in height, as it reaches the bud stage. As sweet clover matures, it loses its palatability. Sweet clover contains a unique chemical called coumarin. When sweet clover is exposed to mold growth, coumarin is converted into the anticoagulant dicoumarol, which poses a risk to livestock consuming contaminated hay or silage. For this reason, proper harvesting of sweet clover for hay or silage is essential.

Sweet clover is vulnerable to several pests. Monitoring and scouting protocols as well as economic thresholds (when available) are found in Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management and the Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies: Identification and Management Field Guide. Additional monitoring protocols exist to control certain pests.

Sweet clover plant
cc by 2.0 Des Blenkinsopp
Sweet clover pests
  • Alfalfa caterpillar
  • Army cutworm
  • Beet webworm
  • Blister beetle
  • Clover root weevil
  • Grasshoppers
  • Mormon crickets
  • Sweet clover weevil
  • Variegated cutworm
Sweetclover weevil – AAFC

Entomologist of the Week: Sean Prager

Name: Sean Michael Prager
Affiliation: Department of Plant Sciences, University of Saskatchewan
Contact Information:
sean.prager@usask.ca
306-361-8525
Agriculture Building, 51 Campus Drive, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5A8

How do you contribute in insect monitoring or surveillance on the Prairies?

I coordinate the Lygus surveys in faba bean as part of the provincial monitoring and survey efforts in Saskatchewan. Our lab also occasionally conducts other studies that result in pest information for crops in the prairies.

In your opinion, what is the most interesting field crop pest on the Prairies?

The first insects I worked on were mosquitoes. Because of that experience, I have always been really interested in disease vectors. On the Prairies, Aster Leafhoppers are a vector and pest that have some pretty neat aspects to their biology. They can be a major problem in canola; although the events are rare. Finally, they are also really useful for many of the ecological questions our lab asks.

What is your favourite beneficial insect?

As a postdoc, I studied a small parasitoid wasp called Aphelinus rhamni. It is a species that parasitizes aphids, especially soybean aphid. It was collected in Asia and has potential as a classical biological control agent.

Tell us about an interesting project you are working on right now.

I think the work we are doing to develop thresholds for aphids in pulse crops will be very useful on the Prairies and is quite interesting. Similarly, the work we have been doing on Lesser clover leaf weevils in red clover has been interesting as well and will hopefully be important to industry.

What tools, platforms, etc. do you use to communicate with your stakeholders?

We use many of the standard tools. My lab has a website (www.pragerlab.ca), a twitter account (@USaskENt), and Instagram. We are more active in some places than others. In addition to that, members of my lab often attend field days and grower meetings.

Clover Pests / Feature Entomologist: Vincent Hervet

This week’s Insect of the Week featured crop is clover: a plant used both as a cover crop and in pasture blends. Our feature entomologist this week is Vincent Hervet.

Red clover
cc by 2.0 George Hodan

While there are numerous clover species, we will be looking at three clovers that are common across the Prairie region: red clover, white clover, and alsike clover. All are short-lived perennial legumes used for pasture and hay production, with red and white clover also used for silage (in mixture with grasses). All three species are cold-tolerant, though each clover is best suited to its own peak soil conditions. All three clovers are palatable and digestible to livestock, though it’s recommended that clover content in a pasture mix never exceed 30% to avoid bloating in cattle and other livestock. In addition to all this, all three species provide pollen and nectar, and attract insects like the bumblebee.  

Certain pests target clover. Monitoring and scouting protocols as well as economic thresholds (when available) are found in Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management and the Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies: Identification and Management Field Guide. Additional monitoring protocols exist to control certain pests.

White clover
cc by 2.0 Trish Steele
Clover Pests
  • Alfalfa caterpillar
  • Alfalfa looper
  • Alfalfa weevil
  • Black cutworm
  • Clover cutworm
  • Clover leaf weevil
  • Grasshoppers
  • Green cloverworm
  • Less clover weevil
  • Pea aphid
  • Pea leaf weevil
  • Potato aphid
  • Potato leafhopper
  • Red clover casebearer moth
  • Saltmarsh caterpillar
  • Variegated cutworm
Clover cutworm – AAFC

Entomologist of the Week: Vincent Hervet

Name: Vincent Hervet
Affiliation: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Contact Information: Email: vincent.hervet@canada.ca; Tel: 204-915-6918

How do you contribute in insect monitoring or surveillance on the Prairies?

I was previously involved with the monitoring of cereal leaf beetle, diamondback moth, and cutworms in southern Alberta. I am currently planning a monitoring program for pests of stored seeds across the Canadian Prairies.

In your opinion, what is the most interesting field crop pest on the Prairies?

We can find that all species, pests and non-pests, are fascinating if we look close enough. For example, the cereal leaf beetle belongs in the family commonly known as “leaf beetles” and scientifically known as “Chrysomelidae” (from the Greek word “Chrysos” = gold, an allusion to the shininess of most species). Cereal leaf beetles neatly eat the soft parenchyma tissue between the parallel longitudinal veins of cereal leaves and other grasses. Larvae cover themselves with their own feces and a moist secretion, which is often referred to as the “fecal coat”. It provides them protection and camouflage. Ironically, this fecal coat also attracts the parasitoid Tetrastichus julis, the arch nemesis of the cereal leaf beetle in North America.

What is your favourite beneficial insect?

Rather than a single species my favourite beneficial insect is a group of species: parasitoids. Inconspicuous little critters, they are ubiquitous and represent about 10% of all known insect species on Earth. From Tetrastichus julis that keeps the cereal leaf beetle in check in North America, Bracon cephi that keeps wheat stem sawfly in check on the prairies, Macroglenes penetrans that keeps wheat midge in check where it is established, Cotesia glomerata that keeps imported cabbageworm in check in North America, Diolcogaster claritibia that seems to be keeping diamondback moth for the most part in check in southern Alberta since at least 2010, to an undescribed species of Cotesia that appears to keep the alfalfa looper in check (a system that has not been studied because the alfalfa looper is not a big deal―likely thanks to this unknown parasitoid species), and many more, parasitoids are the true silver bullets against insect pests. Insect pest problems could be brought to an end if we could have one effective parasitoid species for each insect pest species and preserve them.

Tell us about an important project you are working on right now.

I am currently working on the detection and control of the bean weevil in stored beans. The bean weevil is a quarantine species for India, our main importer of beans, and bean prices would increase if we could ensure no bean weevils in shipments. I am currently looking for live bean weevils for research. Please contact me if you encounter any!

What tools, platforms, etc. do you use to communicate with your stakeholders?

I most frequently rely on email and telephone.

Alfalfa Pests / Feature Entomologist: Tyler Wist

This week’s Insect of the Week featured crop is alfalfa: a perennial legume known as “the Queen of Forage Crops.” Our feature entomologist this week is Tyler Wist.

Alfalfa – AAFC

A crop indispensable to Canadian livestock production, alfalfa is a high protein forage used for pasture, hay and silage. Since 1950, improved alfalfa cultivars have been developed for growth in the Prairie region. In particular, Variegated alfalfa is a subspecies developed by cross breeding Flemish alfalfa with Siberian alfalfa. The resulting cultivar is known for both its winter hardiness and resilience to drought and is grown across Western Canada. Because alfalfa is so integral to livestock industries, alfalfa seed is a notable Canadian export, with almost all seed production occurring in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Several pest insects target alfalfa. Monitoring and scouting protocols as well as economic thresholds (when available) are found in Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management and the Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies: Identification and Management Field Guide. Additional monitoring protocols exist to control certain pests.

Alfalfa field – AAFC
Alfalfa Pests
  • Alfalfa blotch leafminer
  • Alfalfa caterpillar
  • Alfalfa looper
  • Alfalfa weevil
  • Army cutworm
  • Armyworm
  • Aster leafhopper
  • Beet webworm
  • Bertha armyworm
  • Black cutworm
  • Black grass bugs
  • Blister beetles
  • Clover leaf weevils
  • Clover root weevils
  • Dingy cutworm
  • Fall field cricket
  • Grasshoppers
  • Green cloverworm
  • Lygus bugs
  • Mormon cricket
  • Pale western cutworm
  • Pea aphid
  • Pea leaf weevil
  • Potato leaf weevil
  • Potato leafhopper
  • Redbacked cutworm
  • Saltmarsh caterpillar
  • Superb stink bug
  • Sweetclover weevil
  • Twospotted spider mite
  • Variegated cutworm
Alfalfa looper – AAFC

Entomologist of the Week: Tyler Wist

Name: Tyler Wist
Affiliation: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Saskatoon Research and Development Centre
Contact Information: Tyler.Wist@canada.ca

How do you contribute in insect monitoring or surveillance on the Prairies?

I’m involved in insect surveillance, including a project to ground-truth the use of wind trajectories to predict the arrival of aster leafhoppers (and diamondback moths) in the spring. I also monitor for aphids in cereals and pea crops in July and August as part of projects that I run as a Field Crop Entomologist with AAFC.

In your opinion, what is the most interesting field crop pest on the Prairies?

I’ve always been fascinated by aphids because in North America, our pest species are all female. Unlike the majority of insects, these female aphids are born pregnant and they give birth to live, ready-to eat your crop, clones of themselves. Those freshly-birthed offspring already have little clones of themselves starting to mature within them. Thanks to this reproductive strategy, aphid populations can increase quickly and overwhelm their host plants. Right now I’m really interested in pea aphids and their effect on lentils and faba bean. We had high enough pea aphid pressure in my plots last season (2019) that many of our plots yielded nothing which reinforces that this insect is worth studying in these crops.

What is your favourite beneficial insect?

My favourite beneficial insect is the green lacewing larva, which is a generalist predator, so generalist that one once tried to eat me. It is such a fierce predator that female green lacewings have to lay their eggs on the underside of leaves on stalks so that the first-hatched green lacewing larvae do not eat their siblings! The lacewing larva feeds by piercing it’s prey with huge mandibles, then injects a digestive enzyme that liquefies the prey inside its hard, outer exoskeleton. Once their food is liquefied, the larva proceeds to suck the prey dry until all that remains is an empty shell of the insect prey. 

Tell us about an important project you are working on right now.

I’ve alluded to two projects already, one funded by WGRF to look at the origins and arrivals of aster leafhoppers to the prairies and see if they are flying in on the same winds as the diamondback moth and one funded by ADF and WGRF to evaluate the yield loss caused by pea aphids. Another important project is to find alternative wheat resistance against wheat midge so that agriculture is not so heavily reliant on using wheat with the Sm1 gene.

What tools, platforms, etc. do you use to communicate with your stakeholders?

I communicate to stakeholders with reports to funding agencies, PowerPoint presentations at grower/agronomist meetings, using Twitter, email and sometimes even over the phone!

Forage Grass Pests / Feature Entomologist: Chrystel Olivier

This week’s Insect of the Week feature crop is forage grasses: common Prairie plants know to be robust, adaptive, and tolerant to grazing. Our feature entomologist this week is Chrystel Olivier.

Crested wheatgrass
cc by 2.0 Matt Lavin

The total cattle population in the Prairie region is 7.7 million animals: over three times the combined population of Atlantic Canada, according to the 2016 census. In order to feed millions of cattle and other livestock, forage is an important component to Prairie agriculture. Forage grasses include native and nonnative grass species grown for grazing, as well as hay and silage production. Sometimes doubling as cover crops in order to prevent soil erosion and nutrient loss, forage grasses are resilient, multi-purpose crops used to sustain livestock: either as a nutritional source in-pasture or as hay and silage used to supplement or replace grazing during the off-season. Common species include timothy grass, crested wheatgrass, and orchard grass.

A number of pests target forage grasses. Monitoring and scouting protocols as well as economic thresholds (when available) are found in Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management and the Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies: Identification and Management Field Guide. Additional monitoring protocols exist to control certain pests.

Hay bales
cc by 2.0 Bruce Guenter
Forage Grass Pests
  • Army cutworm
  • Armyworm
  • Aster leafhopper
  • Black grass bugs
  • Cereal leaf beetle
  • Chinch bug
  • Corn leaf aphid
  • Dingy cutworm
  • Fall armyworm
  • Glassy cutworm
  • Grasshoppers
  • Green grass bugs
  • Greenbug
  • Hessian fly
  • Mormon cricket
  • Rice leaf bug
  • Russian wheat aphid
  • Variegated cutworm
  • Wheat head armyworm
  • Wheat stem maggot
Cereal leaf beetle – Boris Loboda

Entomologist of the Week: Chrystel Olivier

Name: Chrystel Olivier
Affiliation: AAFC-Saskatoon
Contact Information: Chrystel.olivier@canada.ca

How do you contribute in insect monitoring or surveillance on the Prairies?

We are monitoring the aster leafhopper (Macrosteles quadrilineatus) that vectors aster yellow (AY) diseases and two species of flea beetles, the crucifer flea beetle (Phyllotreta cruciferae) and the striped flea beetle (Phyllotreta striolata) that feed on canola seedlings. We monitor for these species throughout SK using sweep nets and sticky cards. We record the emergence dates of the flea beetles in spring and their abundance in spring and fall. We also note when migratory aster leafhoppers arrive in the spring and their rate of AY infection. 

In your opinion, what is the most interesting field crop pest on the Prairies?

The most interesting field crop pest is the aster leafhopper. It is a small insect (about 4 mm long) that migrates from the southern US states to the Canadian prairies, carried by the wind. It is an efficient vector of the economically important aster yellow disease. Aster yellow phytoplasma infect over 300 plant species, including canola, cereals and many vegetables grown in Canada. Phytoplasma are fascinating because they modify the feeding and reproduction behavior of their insect vectors to their own advantage. For example, AY-infected aster leafhoppers live longer, lay more eggs and can feed on plants they usually don’t feed on, all to increase spread of the pathogen.  

What is your favourite beneficial insect?

My favourite beneficial insects are dragonflies. They are sky acrobats, and can fly in every direction, even backwards.

Tell us about an important project you are working on right now.

An important project I am working on right now investigates if hairy lines of brassicas can be used to protect seedlings from feeding and oviposition of flea beetles, diamond-back moths and aster leafhopper. This project is funded by the Canola Agronomic Research Program (CARP). Trichomes (hairs) are known to deter herbivorous insects and have been used as a deterrent with success in several crops. Recently, natural lines of Brassica napus, and the related Brassica villosa species, that exhibited high level of hairs were identified as potential sources of natural resistance towards flea beetles, diamond-back moths and aster leafhoppers. This project involves both field trials and laboratory-based bioassays. 

What tools, platforms, etc. do you use to communicate with your stakeholders?

Communication is mostly via peer-reviewed publications, written reports to the funding agencies, and oral presentations during grower/agronomist meetings and conferences. I often speak about insects to groups of all ages at parks and other community events across Saskatchewan.

Sugar Beet Pests / Feature Entomologist: James Tansey

This week’s Insect of the Week featured crop is the sugar beet, a plant that has been grown in southern Alberta since 1925. Our feature entomologist this week is James Tansey.

Sugar Beet
cc by 2.0 Ulrike Leone

Introduced to the Prairies in the mid-20s, sugar beets are the single 100% Canadian sugar source. A crop that loves heat and water, sugar beets require irrigation to thrive. Alberta produces most of the sugar beet in Canada (only Prairie producer) with the rest produced in Ontario. In 2019, sugar beets were seeded on 11,500 hectares (28,500 acres) in Alberta, producing 520,700 metric tonnes (574,000 US tons). This was a 39% decrease compared to 2018 due to unseasonable cold in September and October.

Several pests target sugar beets. Monitoring and scouting protocols as well as economic thresholds (when available) are found in Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management and the Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies: Identification and Management Field Guide. Additional monitoring protocols exist to control certain pests.

Sugar Beet Field
cc by 2.0 Gille San Martin
Sugar Beet Pests
  • Army cutworm
  • Beet webworm
  • Blister beetle
  • Clover cutworm
  • European corn borer
  • Pale western cutworm
  • Redbacked cutworm
  • Saltmarsh caterpillar
  • Sugar beet root aphid
Saltmarsh caterpillar moth – AAFC

Entomologist of the Week: James Tansey

Name: Dr. James Tansey
Affiliation: Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture
Contact Information: James Tansey PhD
Provincial Specialist, Insect/Pest Management
Production Technology
Crops and Irrigation Branch, Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture
3085 Albert Street; Room 125
Regina, Canada S4S 0B1
Business: 306-787-4669
Cell: 306-520-3525

HOW DO YOU CONTRIBUTE IN INSECT MONITORING OR SURVEILLANCE ON THE PRAIRIES?

I help to coordinate and conduct insect surveys in several crops throughout Saskatchewan and coordinate diagnostics with the Crop Protection Laboratory located in Regina.

IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING FIELD CROP PEST ON THE PRAIRIES?

Predatory midges are very cool. Like flea beetles, there is still so much we do not know about these important insects.  

TELL US ABOUT AN IMPORTANT PROJECT YOU ARE WORKING ON RIGHT NOW.

I am working on a project to establish thresholds for pea aphid in field peas and lentils. This project is in collaboration with AAFC and utilizes the expertise of the Redvers, Outlook and Swift Current Agri-ARM sites.

WHAT TOOLS, PLATFORMS, ETC. DO YOU USE TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR STAKEHOLDERS?

I communicate with stakeholders at extension meetings, field days, and Crop Diagnostic School and use tools including webinars, Twitter, and the telephone.

Flax Pests / Feature Entomologist: Boyd Mori

This week’s Insect of the Week feature crop is flax, a crop that thrives in cooler environments. Our feature entomologist this week is Boyd Mori.

Flax Field
Ian Patterson cc by sa 2.0

Flax is a versatile crop grown across the Canadian Prairies, and is used in cooking, animal nutrition, and industrial production. Since 1994 Canada has been the largest flax producer and exporter in the world (Flax Council of Canada, 2020). In 2019 flax was grown on 375,700 hectares (928,500 acres) across the Prairies, producing 483,000 metric tonnes (532,400 US tons). Just under 80% of that total was grown in Saskatchewan.

Flax crops are susceptible to a number of pests. Monitoring and scouting protocols as well as economic thresholds (when available) are found in Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management and the Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies: Identification and Management Field Guide. Additional monitoring protocols exist to control certain pests

Flax Pests:
  • Army cutworm
  • Aster leafhopper
  • Beet webworm
  • Bertha armyworm
  • Clover cutworm
  • Darksided cutworm
  • Dingy cutworm
  • Flax bollworm
  • Grasshoppers
  • Pale western cutworm
  • Potato aphid
  • Redbacked cutworm
Redbacked cutworm, larval stage – AAFC

Entomologist of the Week: Boyd Mori

Name: Boyd Mori
Affiliation: Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Sciences, University of Alberta
Contact Information: bmori@ualberta.ca twitter: @BoydMori

How do you contribute in insect monitoring or surveillance on the Prairies? 

I actively participate in the PPMN. In my position at the U of A, I help monitor bertha armyworm and wheat midge at sites in North-Central Alberta.Next year, my research group will have a project that will try to verify the source of diamondback moths captured in pheromone traps. We will also be re-evaluating the wheat midge pheromone monitoring system with Dr. Maya Evenden (U of A). In the past, my former research group (AAFC-Saskatoon) along with Dr. Meghan Vankosky ran the survey for the canola flower midge in SK and MB and I occasionally helped with the pea leaf weevil survey in SK. I have also been involved with verifying some of the monitoring protocols used by all members of the PPMN.

In your opinion, what is the most interesting field crop pest on the Prairies?

Probably not a surprise to most, but I am going to have to say the canola flower midge, an insect I helped to recently discover and describe. The canola flower midge was previously mistaken for the swede midge, a significant pest of canola and other cruciferous vegetable crops in Ontario. Luckily, the canola flower midge is not as damaging as the swede midge (at least so far), and we are still trying to determine its overall pest status. What makes it really interesting is that we don’t know where the canola flower midge came from. We don’t know if it is a native or invasive species, although we tend to think it is native to the Prairies. We hypothesize it may have switched hosts to canola as acreage increased over the last 40 years, but we don’t know what is its original host plant was. There is a lot of interesting research to come on this species!

What is your favourite beneficial insect? 

I am partial to hover flies (Syrphids). The adult flies are often mistaken for bees due to their colouration, but they are harmless and actually help to pollinate many different plants. The larvae are active predators within crops, feeding on a variety of soft-bodied insects, especially aphids.

Tell us about an important project you are working on right now. 

I am currently working on a project with Dr. Hector Carcamo (AAFC-Lethbridge) and Jennifer Otani (AAFC-Beaverlodge) investigating insecticide resistance in alfalfa weevil in southern Alberta. We have identified a few populations with resistance to synthetic pyrethroids and we now have a graduate student, Michelle Reid, whose project will map resistance and also the presence of parasitoids throughout southern Alberta. We don’t see much insecticide resistance on the Prairies compared to other regions of the world, so this is a unique project.

What tools, platforms, etc. do you use to communicate with your stakeholders? 

I enjoy giving presentations, speaking with farmers and actively participating in extension events (e.g., CanolaPalooza, WheatStalk, Crop walks, etc.) and AGMs each year. Results of our work is published by industry magazines, blogs and newsletters. You can also reach me directly via email or Twitter (@BoydMori). Hopefully my research group will have a functional website soon too.

Corn Pests / Feature Entomologist: Maya Evenden

This week’s Insect of the Week feature crop is corn, which has become more prominent on the Prairies. Our feature entomologist this week is Maya Evenden (Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta).

Corn Crop
cc by 2.0 Edwin Ijsman

While the bulk of Canadian corn is grown in Ontario and Quebec, the Prairies are not without robust corn production, split between corn for grain and corn for silage. In 2019, corn was grown on 404,800 hectares (992,300 acres) across the Prairies, producing 5.44 million metric tonnes (6 million US tons). Over three quarters of this amount was corn for silage, and the remainder corn for grain.

Corn crops are susceptible to several pests. Monitoring and scouting protocols as well as economic thresholds (when available) are found in Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management and the Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies: Identification and Management Field Guide. Additional monitoring protocols exist to control certain pests.

Corn pests:
  • Armyworm
  • Black cutworm
  • Brown marmorated stink bug
  • Cereal leaf beetle
  • Chinch bug
  • Corn earworm
  • Corn leaf aphid
  • Darkside cutworm
  • Dingy cutworm
  • European corn borer
  • Fall armyworm
  • Glassy cutworm
  • Grasshoppers
  • Green cloverworm
  • Green-tan grass bugs
  • Greenbugs
  • Pale western cutworm
  • Potato aphid
  • Redbacked cutworm
  • Rice leaf bug
  • Saltmarsh caterpillar
  • Twospotted spider mite
  • Variegated cutworm
  • Wheat stem sawfly
  • Wireworms
European corn borer, larval stage
AAFC

Entomologist of the Week: Maya Evenden

Name: Maya Evenden
Affiliation: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta
Contact Information: mevenden@ualberta.ca; @MayaEvenden on twitter

How do you contribute in insect monitoring or surveillance on the Prairies?
  • My research group develops semiochemical-based monitoring tools that target insects of environmental and economic impact in Alberta.  For field crop pests, we have developed and tested semiochemical-based monitoring tools for 1) diamondback moth; 2) pea leaf weevil; 3) red clover casebearer 4) cutworms and 5) wheat midge.
  •  We also work on other non-target species that are captured in monitoring traps (bycatch).  This provides information on biodiversity and community composition of arthropods in managed agroecosystems.
  • I am an active member of the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network.
In your opinion, what is the most interesting field crop pest on the Prairies?
  • I am partial to the Bertha armyworm because:
    • It’s a moth (and I love moths)
    • Larvae march like an army
    • It is a native insect that exploits agricultural crops planted in its habitat
    • Pheromone-based monitoring is useful because moths can be caught before eggs are laid in the field to warn producers of the current season’s feeding damage
What is your favourite beneficial insect?
  • I like the diamondback moth parasitoid, Diadegma insulare because:
    • It is a specialist on diamondback moth (although it will parasitize other Lepidoptera)
    • It tracks diamondback moth migration to the Prairie Provinces
    • It can result in a high level of parasitism of diamondback moth populations
    • It is highly susceptible to pesticide applications
Tell us about an important project you are working on right now.
  • We are currently documenting the biodiversity and abundance of ground beetles in pulse crops in Alberta.  We will find out the community composition of ground beetle predators in pulse fields, the landscape features with which they are associated, and what they eat.  My PhD student Maggie MacDonald is leading this research and we are collaborating with Dr. Boyd Mori on the assessment of beetle gut content using molecular methods.
What tools, platforms, etc. do you use to communicate with your stakeholders?
  •  We communicate with stakeholders through in-person updates at field days and annual meetings.  In addition, we publish updates in grower magazines (i.e. Top Crop Manager), newsletters and grower websites.  We communicate with grower organizations through research updates.  I also communicate directly with stakeholders through email and twitter @MayaEvenden.

Barley Pests / Feature Entomologist: John Gavloski

This week’s Insect of the Week feature crop is barley, an important Prairie cereal (and not just because it’s an essential ingredient for beer). Our feature entomologist this week is John Gavloski (Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development).

Barley Crop
cc by 2.0 Ian Britton

Without barley, there would be no beer. And the world wept. Thankfully, plenty of barley is grown on the Prairies, not just for beer but also as feed. Roughly 96% of the barley grown on the Prairies is split equally between Alberta and Saskatchewan. In 2019, total Prairie production on 2.85 million hectares (7.05 million acres) was 9.93 million metric tonnes (10.95 million US tons).

A number of pests can be found in barley fields. Monitoring and scouting protocols as well as economic thresholds (when available) are found in the Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management and the Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies: Identification and Management Field Guide. More detailed protocols exist for some of the pests.

Barley Pests
  • Army cutworm
  • Armyworm
  • Barley thrips
  • Black grass bugs
  • Brown wheat mite
  • Cereal leaf beetle
  • Chinch bug
  • Corn leaf aphid
  • Darksided cutworm
  • Dingy cutworm
  • English grain aphid
  • Fall armyworm
  • Fall field cricket
  • Glassy cutworm
  • Grasshoppers
  • Green-tan grass bugs
  • Greenbug
  • Haanchen barley mealybug
  • Mormon cricket
  • Oat-birdcherry aphid
  • Pale western cutworm
  • Redbacked cutworm
  • Rice leaf bug
  • Russian wheat aphid
  • Say stink bug
  • Variegated cutworm
  • Wheat head armyworm
  • Wheat stem maggot
  • Wireworms

ENTOMOLOGIST OF THE WEEK: John Gavloski

Name: John Gavloski
Affiliation: Manitoba Agriculture and Resource DevelopmentContact Information: John.Gavloski@gov.mb.ca, @Johnthebugguy

How do you contribute in insect monitoring or surveillance on the Prairies?

I organize annual monitoring programs for diamondback moth, bertha armyworm and grasshoppers in Manitoba. I am also currently monitoring the distribution and levels of cabbage seedpod weevil and pea leaf weevil in Manitoba. 

In your opinion, what is the most interesting field crop pest on the Prairies?

Grasshoppers, as a group of insects, are quite interesting. In Canada there are about 180 species of grasshoppers, but only a few cause economic damage to crops. I have enjoyed the sights, sounds, and tastes of grasshoppers; yes you read that last part correctly! The pest species like dry conditions. In late-spring or early-summer we often start to see species of grasshoppers with colourful and almost butterfly-like hind wings; when they fly you get flashes of orange, yellow, and black. None of these are pest species, but cool to observe. Others are good mimics, and can blend in with sand, gravel or leaves very well. Late in the summer it is always a treat to hear the singing of grasshoppers, especially the katydids, which are not pests and are usually green with long antennae. And yes, I have eaten grasshoppers, at an entomology conference featuring an insect banquet. I did enjoy them – anything cooked in a flavourful sauce is good, but I suggest  removing the wings if you ever try them – too much cuticle. I guess this bout of entomophagy makes me and the other entomologists at the banquet natural enemies of grasshoppers.

What is your favourite beneficial insect?

This is a really tough, as there are so many fascinating beneficial insects! Hover flies are a family of flies (Syrphidae) with many beneficial and interesting attributes. They are predators, pollinators, masters of mimicry, and it is fun to watch the larvae feed. There are 539 species of hover flies in Canada. Adults are good pollinators that are great at mimicking wasps and bees, come in a variety of sizes, and can often be seen hovering near flowers. The slug-like, legless larvae of many hover flies feed on aphids by impaling an aphid with its mouthparts, holding it up, sucking the fluids out of the body, and discarding the exoskeleton. It makes for a great show. I try to raise awareness about hover flies so that people know they are not wasps or bees, cannot sting and are beneficial in many ways.

Tell us about an important project you are working on right now.

I am tracking the distribution and densities of cereal leaf beetle in Manitoba. It was first found in the northwest region of Manitoba in 2009. A small parasitic wasp called Tetrastichus julis was introduced shortly after cereal leaf beetles were detected. I have been tracking the spread and densities of both the pest and the parasitoid across Manitoba. Cereal leaf beetle larvae are sent to AAFC-Lethbridge where they are dissected to determine the level of parasitism. If the level is low, parasitoids are sent to me for release in Manitoba in areas where they may be lacking. I will be assessing levels of cereal leaf beetle larvae again this year, and hopefully releasing more wasps if needed.

What tools, platforms, etc. do you use to communicate with your stakeholders?

I enjoy doing presentations for academics, producers, agronomists, and the general public. I co-produce the Manitoba Crop Pest Update from May through August. This is an opportunity to communicate current types and levels of insect activity in Manitoba. I like producing factsheets, for pests and beneficial insects, that are available on our department’s website. An information campaign that has been fun to contribute to is “Field Heroes”, which provides information to help raise awareness and provide information about beneficial insects. Until several of the rural newspapers in Manitoba closed recently, I produced a monthly column called “Incredible Creatures” that several of the rural newspapers carried.

Bean Pests / Feature Entomologist: Jennifer Otani

This week’s Insect of the Week feature crop is dry bean, one of a number of important Prairie pulse crops. Our feature entomologist this week is Jennifer Otani (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada).

Fava Bean Crop
cc by 2.0 Phillip Halling

Dry bean, an important pulse crop, has seen modest but steady gains over the last five years. On the Prairies, Manitoba leads in both area (71%) and production (60%) (2019, StatsCan). Total Prairie production was 184,200 tonnes (203,046 US tons) on 96,000 hectares (237,400 acres).

A number of pests can be found in bean fields. Monitoring and scouting protocols as well as economic thresholds (when available) are found in the Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management and the Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies: Identification and Management Field Guide. More detailed protocols exist for some of the pests.

Bean Pests
  • Alfalfa caterpillar
  • Black cutworm
  • Blister beetles
  • Green cloverworm
  • Grasshoppers
  • Pale western cutworm
  • Pea aphid
  • Pea leaf weevil
  • Wireworms
  • Saltmarsh caterpillar
  • Seedcorn maggot
  • Twospotted spider mite
  • Variegated cutworm
  • Wireworms

When scouting, keep in mind that some of these pests may originate in neighbouring crops (e.g. alfalfa caterpillar).

Pea aphid – AAFC

Entomologist of the Week

Name: Jennifer Otani

Affiliation: Pest Management Scientist, Beaverlodge Research Farm, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Contact Information: Jennifer.otani@canada.ca, @bugs5132

How do you contribute in insect monitoring or surveillance on the Prairies?

The Pest Management Program based at the Beaverlodge Research Farm monitors and studies economic insect pests in annual crops, perennial grasses and legumes grown for seed. Our projects have focused on monitoring Lygus and root maggots in canola, red clover casebearer and clover-feeding weevils in clover seed production systems, and wheat midge. The program also monitors pests and beneficial insects in canola, alfalfa, wheat, clovers and grasses grown throughout the BC and Alberta portions of the Peace River region. Data collection supports the development of integrated pest management strategies suited to the region and supports regional and provincial insect pest surveillance and growers. I am the co-chair of the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network, and have supported the Network for many years as a researcher, collaborator, and editor for the PPMN’s Weekly Update and Blog.

In your opinion, what is the most interesting field crop pest on the Prairies?

I have two – one that’s kept me employed and one that scares me! Lygus bugscontinue to intrigue on so many levels. There are several species (a “complex”), that are native to the Canadian prairies. They affect a diverse range of plants and they can adjust to a region by producing more or less generations per season.  My other favourite is the red clover casebearer (Coleophora deauratella) – I have tremendous respect for any larva that carries its home around and can chew through plexiglass glue to escape from cages!

What is your favourite beneficial insect?

I love dragonflies – both the aquatic and aerial life stages are simply amazing! Dragonflies are important indicators of ecosystem health. Both the nymphs and adults are fierce predators. I’m also tremendously fond of the Peristenus formerly known as Otaniaea.  After years of collecting, rearing and forwarding beautiful specimens to support Dr. Henri Goulet’s work to revise the genus, he generously named this native braconid parasitoid after me. The species was later synonymized but, after so many years studying this pest-parasitoid complex, I’m still very honoured to have a beneficial wasp that attacks Lygus linked to my name!

Tell us about an important project you are working on right now.

Our program continues to work towards making the most of our samples by addressing species of both pest and beneficial insects. We are fortunate to work in a variety of host crops including canola, wheat, peas, alfalfa, creeping red fescue, plus red and alsike clover. This growing season, we now have an enhanced opportunity to continue more of this work in perennial grasses and legumes grown for seed. It’s important because perennials grown for seed, turf and forage markets are common throughout the region with fields remaining in crop 3-5 years and they may be an important reservoir for beneficial insects who traverse beyond field edges. Projects like these, involving our long-term monitoring and surveying research in both annual and perennial field crops, produce data sets we can direct towards the first iteration of the Beneficial Insects project lead by Dr. Haley Catton. We are working to make multiple years of canola survey data, some of our field plot data, and portions of our natural enemies data available to better define interactions and the economic value associated with the interaction of pests and beneficial insects in our fields.

What tools, platforms, etc. do you use to communicate with your stakeholders?

In addition to normal project reporting and publishing results, I actively support tech-transfer events at regional, provincial and national levels. The Pest Management Program has an unofficial lab Blog (http://insectpestmanagement.blogspot.com) to help communicate our activities to producer-cooperators, collaborators and potential students. I am also responsible for the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network (prairiepest.ca) which is a vital tool used to communicate with the Canadian agricultural industry. I also communicate using Twitter (@Bugs5132) during the growing season to highlight our research activities and the PPMN, often with the hashtags #PPMNblog and #WestCdnAg.

Peas and Faba Beans Pests / Feature Entomologist: Shelley Barkley

This week’s Insect of the Week feature crops are peas and faba beans, two important Prairie pulse crops. Our feature entomologist this week is Shelley Barkley (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry).

Pea Field
cc by 2.0 Gilles San Martin

Peas and faba beans are relative newcomers to Prairie large-scale agriculture. Up until the 70s, a typical crop rotation may have been some combination of cereal and summer fallow. Dr. Al Slinkard was hired by the University of Saskatchewan-Crop Development Centre (CDC) in 1972 as a pulse breeder, starting a major transformation of Prairie agriculture. First came dry peas and lentils followed by many other pulse crops. Now there is a team of four pulse breeders at the CDC to carry on Dr. Slinkard’s legacy. And of course, let’s not forgot about the many federal, provincial, university and private industry Prairie pulse breeders that have come along since the 70s.

In 2019, dry peas were grown on 1.7 million hectares (4.3 million acres) on the Prairies, yielding 4.2 million tonnes (4.6 million US tons). Faba beans were grown (37,300 hectares / 92,100 acres) and yielded 107,000 tonnes (118,000 US tons).

There are a number of pests that attack these crops with several common to both crops. Monitoring and scouting protocols are found in the Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management and the Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies: Identification and Management Field Guide. More detailed protocols exist for some of the pests.

Pea Pests
  • Alfalfa caterpillar
  • Alfalfa looper
  • Army cutworm
  • Bertha armycutworm
  • Black cutworm
  • Brown marmorated stink bug
  • Clover root curculio
  • Grasshoppers
  • Green cloverworm
  • Pale western cutworm
  • Pea aphid
  • Pea leaf weevil
  • Saltmarsh caterpillar
  • Seedcorn maggot
  • Variegated cutworm
  • Wireworms
Faba Bean Pests
  • Black cutworm
  • Blister beetles
  • Grasshoppers
  • Pea leaf weevil
  • Saltmarsh caterpillar
  • Variegated cutworm
  • Wireworms
Pea leaf weevil
cc by 2.0 Mike Dolinski

Entomologist of the Week: Shelley Barkley

Name: Shelley Barkley
Affiliation: Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
Contact Information: shelley.barkley@gov.ab.ca, @Megarhyssa                   

How do you contribute in insect monitoring or surveillance on the Prairies? 

I am managing the insect monitoring and surveillance program for Alberta Agriculture and Forestry in 2020. 

In your opinion, what is the most interesting field crop pest on the Prairies? 

It is not a field crop pest, but lily leaf beetle tops my list. So stunningly beautiful, but so devastating to lilies. I am in a war to bring these animals to a tolerable level in my lily bed without having to resort to removing the lilies. 

Of the field crop pests, I think bertha armyworm is very interesting, especially how it has capitalized on the introduction of canola. Bertha armyworm have taught me population dynamics, and shown me biocontrol at work in the field. You can read that stuff in a text book, but once you see it in real life you have a new appreciation for nature…and science fiction movies.

What is your favourite beneficial insect? 

Ambush bugs are my favourite. I think this species was a model for dragons on Game of Thrones and other works of dragon fiction. All the bumps and lumps on its head and thorax. And those front legs…if only I could have guns like that!

Tell us about an important project you are working on right now. 

Delivering insect survey results to the agriculture industry in AB in a timely fashion is my most important current project. I am supporting the industry to the best of my ability.

What tools, platforms, etc. do you use to communicate with your stakeholders? 

Twitter, and email are my go to. I also enjoy sharing my photography.

Chickpea and Lentil Pests / Feature (honorary) ‘Entomologist’ Erl Svendsen

This week’s Insect of the Week feature crops are chickpea and lentil and Erl Svendsen is our feature ‘entomologist.’

Lentil Plant
cc by 3.0 Christiaan Kooyman

Lentils (green, red, black beluga, French green, Spanish brown) and chickpeas (desi, kabuli) are important Prairie crops introduced to the region in the 1970s and 1980s. These crops are good options to include in your rotation. Except for a few acres in Ontario, lentils and chickpeas are grown in Alberta and Saskatchewan, with Saskatchewan accounting for 90% of production. In 2019, lentils were grown on 1.5 million hectares (3.8 million acres) and yielded 2.2 metric tonnes (2.4 US tons). Chickpeas were grown on 160,000 hectares (390,000 acres) and yielded 250,000 metric tonnes (280,000 US tons). Over 70% of production is exported.

There are a number of pests that attack these crops, many are common to both crops. Monitoring and scouting protocols are found in the Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management and the Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies: Identification and Management Field Guide. More detailed protocols exist for some of the pests.

Lentil Pests
  • Cutworms
  • Grasshoppers
  • Lygus bugs
  • Pea aphid
  • Wireworms
Chickpea Pests
  • Alfalfa loopers
  • Cutworms
  • Grasshoppers
  • Wireworms
Pea aphid
cc by 2.0 Mike Dolinski

Entomologist of the Week: Erl Svendsen

Name: Erl Svendsen
Affiliation: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Contact Information: erl.svendsen@canada.ca, @ErlSv

How do you contribute in insect monitoring or surveillance on the Prairies? 

Full disclosure: I am not an entomologist by any stretch of the imagination. But much of my recent work was been to support the communications efforts by the real entomologists of the network. I was the co-lead for the Cereal Aphid Manager app, and have edited done the layout and design of the recent insect field guides. More recently, I’ve been working with a great team to develop the new PPMN website, to be launched soon. I am also responsible for putting out the Insect of the Week post.

In your opinion, what is the most interesting field crop pest on the Prairies?

Considering I knew very little about the life histories of many of the pest and their natural enemies when I started working the entomologists 7 years ago, it’s hard to pick a favourite. Back to the wall, I would have to say the lowly cutworm. Who knew there were so many pest species with very different behaviours. Which makes them a challenging group to manage.

What is your favourite beneficial insect? 

I’ve always had a special place in my heart for ladybird beetle. Not only are they beautiful and brightly coloured (orange with black spots), they are voracious, gobbling down hundreds (if not thousands) of aphids and other soft-bodied pests in their short lifespan. And unlike many other natural enemies, both the adult and the larva are mighty hunters.

Tell us about an important project you are working on right now. 

I am working with Drs. Haley Catton, Wim van Herk and Julien Saguez on a new Wireworm Field Guide for the Prairies. It summaries all the wireworm research conducted on the Prairies since the 1910s as well as pulling in relevant research from other regions. And of course there will be high quality images throughout. Look for an announcement and download links later this summer.

What tools, platforms, etc. do you use to communicate with your stakeholders? 

In addition to the PPMN blog (new website to be launched soon), I work with the entomologists to develop manuals and factsheets. I use Twitter (@ErlSv) and have a booths at several extension events throughout the year to promote the PPMN and other AAFC research programs.

Wheat Pests / Feature Entomologist: Dr. Meghan Vankosky

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:

Area Seeded

Durum:  1,980,200 hectares (4,893,400 acres)
Spring wheat 7,443,500 hectares (18,393,300 acres)
Winter wheat 91,000 hectares (224,900 acres)
Total: 9,514,700 hectares (23,511,600 acres)

Production

Durum: 4,977,000 tonnes (182,872,000 bushels)
Spring wheat: 25,111,000 tonnes (922,672,000 bushels)
Winter wheat: 265,100 tonnes (9,705,000 bushels)
Total: 30,352,100 tonnes (1,115,249,000 bushels)

There are over 30 economic wheat pests. Identification, monitoring and scouting protocols, and management options are found in the Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management and the Cutworm Pests of Crop on the Canadian Prairies: Identification and Management Field guide. More detailed protocols exist for some of the pests. In the case of cereal aphids (English, oat-bird cherry, greenbug), AAFC developed the Cereal Aphid Manager app to help with identification and management decisions.

Wheat Pests
  • Army cutworm
  • Armyworm
  • Aster leafhopper
  • Black grass bugs
  • Brown marmorated stink bug
  • Brown wheat mite
  • Cereal leaf beetle
  • Chinch bug
  • Corn leaf aphid
  • Darksided cutworm
  • Dingy cutworm
  • English grain aphid
  • Fall armyworm
  • Fall field cricket
  • Glassy cutworm
  • Grasshoppers
  • Green-tan grass bugs
  • Greenbugs
  • Haanchen barley mealybug
  • Hessian fly
  • Mormon cricket
  • Oat-birdcherry aphid
  • Pale western cutworm
  • Redbacked cutworm
  • Rice leaf bug
  • Russian leaf aphid
  • Say stink bug
  • Variegated cutworm
  • Wheat curl mite
  • Wheat head armyworm
  • Wheat midge
  • Wheat stem maggot
  • Wheat stem sawfly
  • Wireworms
Wheat midge – Dr. Bob Elliot, AAFC

ENTOMOLOGIST OF THE WEEK: Meghan Vankosky

Name: Meghan Vankosky
Affiliation: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Contact Information: meghan.vankosky@canada.ca, @vanbugsky

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.

Canola and Mustard Pests / Feature Entomologist: Owen Olfert

This year, we’re doing things a bit differently for our Insect of the Week. Instead of focussing on a single insect (pest or natural enemy), we’re looking at it from a crop perspective. Each week, we’ll pick a crop and list the insects that attack it along with additional helpful information. The insect list is based on the information found in the Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management field guide. The field guide offers information describing lifecycle, damage description, monitoring/scouting strategies, economic thresholds (where available) and control options) for each economic pest.

In addition to an Insect of the Week, we’ll also feature one of the entomologists that help support the PPMN, either directly or indirectly.

This week’s feature crops are the Brassica oilseeds (mustard and canola) and Dr. Owen Olfert is our starring entomologist.

Canola Field
cc by 2.0 George Hodan

Canola has been gaining ground over wheat in terms of production area, yield and value since it was first introduced on the Prairies. In 2019, 20.4 million tons (18.5 million tonnes) were harvested from 20.4 million acres (8.3 million hectares). Mustard, typically grown in warmer and drier regions than canola, was grown on 398,000 acres (161,000 hectares) across the Prairies to produce 148,000 US tons (134,000 tonnes) across the prairies.

There are several pests that attack these crops, many are common to both crops. Monitoring and scouting protocols are found in the Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management and the Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies: Identification and Management Field Guide. More detailed protocols exist for some of the pests. In addition, you find a Seasonal Canola Insect Scouting Chart showing when specific pests are active on our Pest Insects page. Each pest listed is hyperlinked to additional information.

Canola Pests
  • Alfalfa looper
  • Army cutworm
  • Aster leafhopper
  • Beet webworm
  • Bertha armyworm
  • Blister beetles
  • Bronzed blossom beetle
  • Brown marmorated beetle
  • Cabbage maggot
  • Cabbage seedpod weevil
  • Clover cutworm
  • Darksided cutworm
  • Diamondback cutworm
  • Dingy cutworm
  • Flea beetles
  • Grasshoppers
  • Green peach aphid
  • Imported cabbageworm
  • Lygus bug
  • Painted lady butterfly
  • Rape pollen beetle
  • Red turnip beetle
  • Redbacked cutworm
  • Saltmarsh caterpillar
  • Seedcorn maggot
  • Swede midge
  • Turnip aphid
  • Turnip maggot
Mustard Pests
  • Army cutworm
  • Beet webworm
  • Bertha armyworm
  • Bronzed blossom beetle
  • Cabbage maggot
  • Clover cutworm
  • Diamondback moth
  • Flea beetles
  • Grasshoppers
  • Imported cabbageworm
  • Pale western cutworm
  • Rape pollen beetle
  • Red turnip beetle
  • Redbacked cutworm
  • Swede midge
  • Turnip aphid
  • Turnip maggot

ENTOMOLOGIST OF THE WEEK: Owen Olfert

Name: Owen Olfert
Affiliation: Saskatoon Research and Development Centre, Emeritus
Contact Information: owen.olfert@canada.ca

How do you contribute to insect monitoring or surveillance on the Prairies?

Before I retired, I was the Chair of the PPMN. In collaboration with provincial, federal and industry colleagues, the PPMN makes decisions on insect priorities, develops standardized monitoring protocols, determines timing of surveillance activities, provides appropriate survey tools to collaborators, conducts field surveys, assembles and analyzes data, drafts and presents visual survey results to the agriculture industry. As an Insect Ecologist, I was involved in all of the field and laboratory activities mentioned above.  Over the many years, the crop growing season activities have provided amazing professional opportunities in insect ecology, which overlapped strongly with my farming background.  I have been fortunate to explore all of the agro-ecosystems of the Prairies in search of insect populations that threaten field crops.

In your opinion, what is the most interesting field crop pest on the Prairies?

Not to offend other insect groups, but I think grasshoppers (Acrididae) are most interesting!  My interest in our prairie grasshopper complex began as a summer student with Dr. Roy Pickford (AAFC-Saskatoon) in the early 1970s.  Coincidentally, my first assignment as a research scientist with AAFC involved developing surveillance and management strategies for grasshopper pest species in field crops.  Over the years, my colleagues and I have published about 30 scientific papers related to grasshoppers.

What is your favourite beneficial insect?

My favourite is Macroglenes penetrans (Pteromalidae), a parasitoid of wheat midge (Sitodiplosis mosellana). It is the dominant parasitoid of wheat midge in western Canada. It is an egg-larval parasitoid; the female wasp oviposits into the egg of its host. It was discovered very early during the first major outbreak of wheat midge in the early 1980s.  All of the pest management tools developed for wheat midge have taken this parasitoid into account.  As a result, our estimated total saving in pesticide costs alone due to this parasitoid in the 1990’s was $248.3 million.

Tell us about an important project you are working on right now.

Our most recent project is related to an important agricultural pest – parasitoid – host plant complex, involving wheat midge and its parasitoid mentioned above. The project assesses the interactive population dynamics of the host plant (wheat), wheat midge, and M. penetrans, based on their respective life cycles and weather.  These simulation models helped to detail our understanding of the tri-trophic population dynamics.  The models will help guide pest management decisions prior to and during the growing season.

What tools, platforms, etc. do you use to communicate with your stakeholders?

In addition to the suite of communication tools used by the PPMN, I still attend conferences and get contacted to conduct interviews by the agricultural news media.