Flea beetle damage ‘moderate’ across Prairies so far

Levels in Manitoba hit thresholds for spraying, reseeding canola

MarketsFarm — Flea beetles, cutworms and diamondback moths are only a few of the pests Prairie farmers have to deal with — and this year, so far, damage from flea beetles and cutworms has varied, as have moth counts.

“Flea beetles are common throughout the Prairies, everywhere we grow canola. We haven’t been able to predict in advance where they’re going to be the worst or which fields. We really lack the ability to predict this particular insect,” said Keith Gabert, an Alberta agronomy specialist with the Canola Council of Canada.

“A sheer number of flea beetles aren’t always the problem,” he said, adding the damage is most often in combination with a crop that isn’t doing well for various reasons. Those include a slow-growing crop because of drought, excessive trash on a field, pounding rain, crusting soil, and other types of pests.

That’s been in the case in Alberta with flea beetles where damage has so far gone hand-in-hand with damage caused by gophers, according to Alberta Agriculture’s latest crop report on Friday.

James Tansey, an entomologist with Saskatchewan Agriculture, said some flea beetles have been seen in that province.

“There’s a lot of discussion about flea beetles this year, but the damage level is not extraordinary. I would consider it to be on the moderate side,” he said, noting cooler-than-normal spring weather helped to delay the beetle’s development.

Crop damage created by the beetles has been in conjunction with cutworms, plus strong winds and dry topsoil conditions, according to Thursday’s crop report from Saskatchewan Agriculture.

In Manitoba, “there’s been a fair bit of canola that had to be sprayed or even reseeded because there have been flea beetles feeding,” according to provincial entomologist John Gavloski.

Though strong winds hampered spraying, canola has reached the point where it’s outgrowing the damage caused by the beetles, Manitoba Agriculture reported Tuesday.

In Saskatchewan, Tansey said there have been a good many reports of bertha armyworms, along with some reports of yellow cutworms.

“However, no reports of the usual suspects. No reports of western cutworm or redbacked cutworm, to date,” he said, noting those two could become an issue.

Damage from cutworms also required some fields in Manitoba to be replanted, Gavloski said. Traps for bertha armyworms were set up across the province’s growing areas as well.

As for diamondback moths, Gavloski said they are definitely present in Manitoba this year, but “they haven’t been much of an economic problem this far.”

In Saskatchewan, Tansey said traps have caught a significant number of adult diamondbacks in some regions. He suggested farmers keep an eye out for the moths, as they arrived early this spring.

“The direct correlation between catch numbers and resulting damage is pretty loose,” he cautioned.

Gabert said moth larvae in Alberta have been 200 to 300 per square metre. Farmers need to look for holes in the leaves of their crops as a warning sign. A few holes should mean the moths shouldn’t be much of a problem, but a lot of holes could mean trouble ahead.

— Glen Hallick reports for MarketsFarm from Winnipeg.

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