Flea beetles take advantage of late seeding

WINNIPEG — A heat wave in late May and a slow start to the planting season has created some ideal conditions for flea beetles.

Pest specialists in Saskatchewan and Manitoba say farmers have already begun to spray for the beetle in certain locations.

“They’ve been getting good conditions to feed under, they like it when it’s hot, dry and calm,” said John Gavloski, entomologist for Manitoba Agriculture.

While the flea beetle is generally spread out across Manitoba, the situation is slightly different in Saskatchewan where the southern portion of the province seems to be the most affected.

“What I think is happening this year is that we have the peak of the (flea beetle) population coinciding with the emergence of canola seedlings when they’re small and relatively vulnerable,” said James Tansey, provincial insect specialist for Saskatchewan.

Canola is the main crop targeted by the pest, which can attack both the leaf and the stem.

However, while the pest is off to a good start Gavloski said it hasn’t reached a serious population yet.

“You’ll find them but they’re not at economic levels,” he said.

Grasshoppers typically do well in dry conditions but Gavloski doubts it will be a very big year for them.

“We actually had very low numbers in our last survey,” he said. ”The forecast for this year was quite light.”

The situation is expected to be the same in Saskatchewan with a few exceptions.

“The Meadow Lake region has had light to very light populations,” said Gavloski. ”We’re not expecting much province-wide.”

One of the more recent surprises for both provinces was the discovery of the cabbage seedpod weevil in Manitoba.

The pest was well established in Saskatchewan but hadn’t managed to cross the eastern border until recently.

“We found two or three in the southwest corner,” said Govloski. “But I’m not expecting there to be economic populations here anytime soon.

Like the flea beetle, the weevil’s primary menu choice is canola.

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