Possible problems with insects this year

WINNIPEG, (MarketsFarm) – How problematic insects could be in 2020 across the Prairies largely depends on the spring weather, according to three provincial insect specialists. Be the insects grasshoppers, flea beetles, cutworms, or a few other types, their potential to cause significant damage to Prairie crops will partly depend on how dry and warm this coming spring will be.

Grasshoppers could be quite an issue in some parts of Saskatchewan this year, said James Tansey, specialist, insects/invertebrate pest management for the province. For the vast majority of Saskatchewan, grasshopper numbers should be very light, with some greater numbers in the Estevan area. The Kindersley area is expected to see light to severe populations.

Tansey explained grasshopper nymphs are susceptible to rain drops as well as cooler temperatures that permit bacteria, fungi and viruses.

Manitoba entomologist John Gavloski noted if the spring is dry and warm that increases grasshopper populations, such also boosts the populations of their natural predators. He said bee flies, field crickets and blister beetles like to feed on grasshopper eggs.

“Weather and natural enemies will be the two things capable of reducing levels,” Gavloski commented.

Manitoba is looking at higher grasshopper populations in the Arborg area in the Interlake plus the Brandon to Russell area in the western part of the province.

Alberta entomologist Scott Meers pointed to southern Alberta most likely to have problems later this year with grasshoppers, especially in the south-central and southwest areas. He added the Peace River region well to the north may also see increased numbers.

As for flea beetles, Meers said the insects have been a problem in Alberta for the last two years and “no reason why they wouldn’t be a problem in 2020.”

If winter should continue to be cold with poor snow cover, he said that could help to bring down their numbers.

Gavloski noted flea beetles caused significant issues in 2019 for Manitoba farmers, and too the beetles’ effect on this year’s crops will be dependent on how well they overwinter.

“I encourage farmers and agronomists to be out early with their crop scouting,” he said.

Tansey commented that Saskatchewan doesn’t monitor flea beetles and there two naturalized species: the crucifer flea beetle and the striped flea beetle.

Tansey also noted that two types of weevils have been problems in the past in the province: the pea-leaf weevil and the cabbage seedpod weevil. Although both weevil types have diminished in numbers, but he stressed they are spreading to the north and east into Manitoba.

When it comes to cutworms, Meers said Alberta doesn’t monitor them and there are always cutworms somewhere in Alberta. Also, Gavloski again emphasized the need for early scouting.

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