Insect of the Week

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2020 Insect of the Week Posts
2019 Insect of the Week posts
2018 Insect of the Week posts
2017 Insect of the Week posts
2016 Insect of the Week posts
2015 Insect of the Week posts



This year, we're doing things a bit differently. 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 (cultural, biological)* 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. We asked our feature entomologists to answer four questions to make the information more interesting and less of a dry biographical abstract. Enjoy!

*For chemical control options, refer to your provincial crop protection guides: ABSKMB or PRMA's online pesticide label search application

Week of June 29, 2020

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. Most of the Canadian sugar beets are grown in Alberta; the remainder is grown in Ontario. In 2019, sugar beets were seeded on 11,500 hectares (28,500 acres) and yielded 520,700 metric tonnes (574,000 US tons) in Alberta. 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 by cc 2.0 Gilles 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: 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
Bus: 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?
Flea beetles in the genus Phyllotreta are very interesting. There is still so much we do not know about these animals.

What is your favourite beneficial insect?
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.

Week of June 22, 2020

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 pest insects. 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 crop cc by 2.0 Johan Neven

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 Agriculture, Food and Nutritional Sciences, University of Alberta
Contact Information: bmori@ualberta.ca; @BoydMori on twitter


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.



Week of June 15, 2020
Corn crop (image courtesy 
Edwin Ijsman CC BY-NC 2.0)
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.

European corn borer, larval stage - AAFC
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

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:
o   It’s a moth (and I love moths)
o   Larvae march like an army
o   It is a native insect that exploits agricultural crops planted in its habitat
o   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:
o   It is a specialist on diamondback moth (although it will parasitize other Lepidoptera)
o   It tracks diamondback moth migration to the Prairie Provinces
o   It can result in a high level of parasitism of diamondback moth populations
o   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 @Maya Evenden.


Week of June 8, 2020

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
Barley thrips damage (gooseneck
injury) - AAFC
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 Development

Contact Information: John.Gavloski@gov.mb.ca, @Johnthebugguy


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

John Gavloski, Manitoba
Agriculture and Resource
Development
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.


Week of June 1, 2020

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

Cutworm (various species)

Grasshopper

Green clover worm

Lygus bug

Pea aphid

Potato leaf-hopper

Seedcorn maggot

Two-spotted spider mite

Wireworm



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

Potato leaf-hopper nymphs (bright green) and adults (silver) in sweepnet
(image courtesy of Bryan Jensen, U of Winsconsin, Bugwood.org)

Entomologist of the Week: Jennifer Otani
Name: Jennifer Otani
Affiliation: Pest Management Scientist, Beaverlodge Research Farm, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Contact Information: Jennifer.otani@canada.ca    @bugs5132

Jennifer Otani (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)
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 bugs continue 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 Blog (http://prairiepestmonitoring.blogspot.com/) 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.

Week of May 25, 2020


Chickpea and Lentil pests


Black cutworm (image courtesy USGS Bee Inventory
and Monitoring Lab)
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. 




Peas

Alfalfa caterpillar

Alfalfa looper

Army cutworm

Bertha armyworm

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 beans
Pea leaf weevil
Black cutworm
Blister beetles
Grasshoppers
Saltmarsh caterpillar
Variegated cutworm
Wireworms

Entomologist of the Week: Shelley Barkley
Name: Shelley Barkley                        
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.


Week of May 18, 2020

Chickpea and Lentil pests

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. 

Pea aphid (courtesy of Mike Dolinski)
Lentils
Cutworms
Grasshoppers
Lygus bug
Pea aphid
Wireworms

Chickpeas
Alfalfa loopers
Cutworms
Grasshoppers
Wireworms

Entomologist of the Week: Erl Svendsen
Name: Erl Svendsen
Erl Svendsen, Knowledge Transfer Specialist
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.

Week of May 11, 2020

Wheat pests

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)
Statistics Canada. Table 32-10-0359-01 Estimated areas, yield, production, average farm price and total farm value of principal field crops, in metric and imperial units

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 Fieldguide. 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 midge (Dr. Bob Elliot, AAFC)
·      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
·      Greenbug
·      Haanchen barley mealybug
·      Hessian fly
·      Mormon cricket
·      Oat-birdcherry aphid
·      Pale western cutworm
·      Redbacked cutworm
·      Rice leaf bug
·      Russian wheat aphid
·      Say stink bug
·      Variegated cutworm
·      Wheat curl mite
·      Wheat head armyworm
·      Wheat midge
·      Wheat stem maggot
·      Wheat stem sawfly
·      Wireworms

Entomologist of the Week: Dr. Meghan Vankosky

Dr. 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.



Week of May 4, 2020 




Over the growing season, wwill be posting an "Insect of the Week" in the form of short excerpts from the new cutworm field guide or our Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification Field Guide. We will also feature reports from our entomologists at work on the Prairies. The highlighted insect(s) is one that may be found in fields in the Prairie Region at the time of posting.

You can view information about the featured insect onscreen in the box below. The excerpt may a few pages long and can be viewed by scrolling within the box. The file can also be expanded to full screen by selecting the Pop-out icon (mouse-over image to reveal icon in top right corner). This second option will also allow you to download the pdf to your computer.

To download the Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Field Guide, see our page, Insect Field Guide.

To download the Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies, see our page, Cutworm Field Guide.

Week of August 19 - Giant water bugs vs cockroaches
                                    (for original post click here)


American cockroach
cc-by-nc 2.0 K. Schneider




Giant water bug
cc-by-nc 4.0 Christian Schwartz



















Week of August 12 - Hoverflies vs Bees vs yellow jacket wasps
                                   (for original post click here)         


Week of August 6 - Ladybird beetle larva vs Green lacewing larva 
                                 (for original post click here)

Week of July 29 - Monarch vs. Painted lady butterflies
                              (for original post click here)

Week of July 22 - Lygus bugs vs. Aphids 
                                 (for original post click here)




Week of July 15 - Doppelgangers: Lygus Bugs vs. Alfalfa plant bug
                              (for original post, click here)

Week of July 08 - Doppelgangers: Grasshoppers
                                  (for original post, click here)

Week of July 02 - Doppelgangers: Cereal leaf beetle vs Collops beetle
                              (for original post, click here)

Week of June 24 - Doppelgangers: Midge vs Parasitoid 
                               (For original post, click here)



Week of June 17 - Doppelgangers: Wheat midge and Lauxanid (click here)
                                (For original post, click here)

Week of June 10 - Doppelgangers: Bertha armyworm and clover cutworm

                               (For original post, click here)

Week of June 3 - Doppelgangers: Pea leaf weevil and other Sitona species (click here)
                             (For original post, click here)

Week of May 27 - Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) (click here)

Week of May 21 - Spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) (click here)

Week of May 13 - Lily leaf beetle (Lilioceris lilii) and its natural enemy, Tetrastichus setifer (click here


Week of May 07 - Brown marmorated stink bug (click here)


2018 Insect of the Week posts


Week of August 20 - Biological control agents of weeds (click here)

Week of August 11 - Twospotted spider mite (click here)

Week of August 7 - Natural Enemies of the wheat stem sawfly (click here)

Extra Insect of the Week (August 2) - English grain aphid (click here)

Week of July 30 - Wheat stem sawfly (click here)


Week of July 23 - Natural enemies of the canola flower midge (click here)

Week of July 16 - The new canola flower midge (click here)


Week of July 9 - Natural enemies of pea aphids (click here)

Week of July 3 - Pea aphid (click here)

Week of June 25 - Bruner grasshoppern (click here)

Week of June 18 - Red turnip beetle (click here)

Week of June 11 - Pterostichus melanarius (click here)


Week of June 4 - Wireworms (click here)

Week of May 28 - Flea beetles (click here)

Week of May 22 - Ground beetles (click here)

Week of May 14 - Darksided cutworm (click here)

Week of May 07 - Glassy cutworm (click here)


2017 Insect of the Week Posts

Week of August 21 - Brown marmorated stink bug (click here)

Week of August 14 - Bronzed blossom pollen beetle (click here)


Week of August 8 - Sugar beet root aphid (click here)


Week of July 31 - Red clover casebearer moth (click here)


Week of July 24 - BONUS - Wheat stem maggot (click here)


Week of July 24 - Soybean aphid (click here)


Week of July 17 - Tetrastichus juli (click here)


Week of July 10 - Cereal Leaf Beetle (click here)


Week of July 4 - Aphidius Parasitoid Wasp (click here)


Week of June 26 - Cereal Aphids (click here)


Week of June 19 - Macroglenes penetrans (click here)


Week of June 12 - Wheat Midge (click here)


Week of June 5 - Rove Beetle (click here)


Week of May 29 - Pea Leaf Weevil (click here)

Week of May 23 - Dingy Cutworm (click here)

Week of May 15 - Army Cutworm (click here)

Week of May 8 - Redbacked Cutworm (click here)

Week of May 1 - Pale Western Cutworm (click here)

Week of August 29 - Predatory Mites (click here)

Week of August 15 - Assassin Bug (click here)



Week of August 8 - Agricultural practices that promote crop pest suppression by natural predators (For English click here, for French click here)

Week of August 2 - Ladybird beetle (click here)

Week of July 26 - Cabbage seedpod weevil parasitoids: Braconidae and Pteromalidae (click here and here)

Week of July 18 - Aphidiidae (click here)

Week of July 11 - Crab spiders (click here)

Week of July 6 - Ichneumonids and Tachinids (click here and here)

Week of June 27 - Rove Beetle (predator) (click here)



Week of June 20 - Cotesia marginiventris (parasitoid) (click here)

Week of June 13 - Tetrasticus julis  (cereal leaf beetle parasitoid) (click here)

Week of June 6 - Blister beetle (predator and pest) (click here)

Week of May 30 - Ground beetle (predator) (click here)


2015 Insect of the Week Posts 


Week of August 31 - Aphidius wasp (beneficial-aphid parasitoid) (click here)

Week of August 24 - Corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea (Boddie)) (click here)

Week of August 17 - Syrphid (hoverfly) flies [beneficial-predator] (click here)

Week of August 10 - Beet webworm (Loxostege sticticalis (Linnaeus)) (click here)

Week of August 3 - Red turnip beetle (Entomoscelis americana Brown) (click here)
Week of July 27 - Alfalfa looper (click here)
Week of July 20 - Bertha armyworm (click here)

Week of July 13 - Aphids (click here) and Ladybird beetles (click here)

Week of July 6 - Blister beetles (Lytta nuttalli Say and Epicauta spp.) click here

Week of June 29 - Grasshoppers (Packard, clearwinged, migratory, two-striped) click here

Week of June 22 - Cabbage seedpod weevil (Ceutorhynchus obstrictus (Marsham)) click here
Week of June 15 - Lygus bugs (Lygus spp.) click here

Week of June 8 - Swede midge (Contarinia nasturtii (Keiffer)) click here

Week of June 1 - Pea leaf weevil (Sitona lineatus Linnaeus) click here

Week of May 25 - Diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella (Linnaeus)) click here

Week of May 18 - Leafhoppers, aster (Macrosteles quadrilineatus) and potato (Empoasca fabae) click here
Week of May 11 - Fleabeetles, crucifer (Phyllotreta cruciferae) and striped (P. striolata) click here Week of May 4 - Cutworms click here