Alberta pest maps warn of insect hot spots

Wheat midge


Scout fields regularly | Insect populations are expected to be similar to last year but environmental conditions can alter risk

Scott Meer’s crystal ball shows that crop-eating insects aren’t going to disappear this year from Alberta fields.

Alberta Agriculture’s Insect Pest Monitoring Network has released its 2014 insect forecast maps for the top Alberta pests.

Meer, an insect specialist with the department, recently hosted a chat with producers on Twitter and re-leased the latest maps.

Studies and insect traps conducted last year indicate that Alberta farmers need to be vigilant in scouting for pests this spring and summer.

The 2014 wheat midge forecast indicates a general decrease for midge risk in southern Alberta but a large increase for midge risk in the eastern Peace River region.

Producers should pay attention to midge downgrading in their wheat samples and use this as an indication of midge risk in their fields.

Individual fields throughout Alberta may still have economic levels of midge, and farmers must assess risk.

This year’s grasshopper forecast map is based on adult grasshopper counts conducted in early August. The number of adults gives an indication of the number of eggs laid.

Environmental factors will also have an impact.

“My impression of the grasshopper forecast is that it is very similar to previous years.”

The Peace River region, which struggled with grasshoppers last year, will continue to have problems .

Farmers are advised to monitor areas that have traditionally higher grasshopper populations.

As well, grasshoppers tend to lay their eggs near areas of green growth in the fall that will provide potential food sources for emerging young the following spring. Keep an eye out along fence lines and roadsides.

Bertha armyworm was monitored last year through a series of pheromone-baited traps. Populations are normally kept in check by weather and natural enemies.

Meers believes it is possible to see a complete collapse of the population in central Alberta this year.

The pest was first discovered infesting canola in southern Alberta in 1995 and it now covers the province.

“We are now recommending careful scouting for CSPW in all counties south of and touching Highway 1 in Alberta,” said Meers.

Canola producers in southern Alberta and southern portion of central Alberta will have to check crops as they come into flower, he warned.

The earliest flowering crops are at the highest risk and should be monitored closely.

Larval feeding can result in yield losses of 15 to 20 percent.

Damage from this pest will likely be in similar areas as last year.

“Pea leaf weevil damage was lower in 2013, but don’t let that fool you,” Meers said. “A warm spring in 2014 would change all that.”

Low levels of damage were found in central Alberta, but serious risk is unlikely. Moisture in August appears to be a significant predictor of population changes.

The forecast is based on 71 fields in 17 municipalities in southeastern Alberta. The most significant populations were in Forty Mile County.

“Wheat stem numbers are down, but there are still several areas with a population for a rebound if dry weather returns,” said Meers.

To see Alberta Agriculture insect forecast maps visit http://bit.ly/1f7nmeT

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