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Crop pest numbers chilled by lower temperatures ahead of summer

Insects in the prairies are getting ready to jump into fields and potentially damage crops this summer once conditions warm.

Some of the most damaging insects, such as grasshoppers and flea beetles, have yet to emerge this year in many areas of the prairies as it's been too cold.

While recent rain has also affected crops, those insects are unbothered, explains Research Scientist with Agriculture and Agri-food Canada Meghan Vankosky.

"The rain itself probably would not have an impact on grasshoppers. Right now the eggs are in the soil, finishing up their development and getting ready to hatch, and there's no evidence in the literature that rainfall itself has an impact on those egg pods in the soil."

"But we've had cooler temperatures coming with the rainfall events that we've seen and just cooler temperatures this spring in general compared to temperatures last spring and those are going to be helping to slow grasshopper development down." 

Some areas of the prairies have seen grasshopper nymphs emerge, so Vankosky tells people to keep an eye on their fields in southern regions.

"We've also had reports come in this week from reliable sources that there are some grasshopper nymphs now being observed, especially in southern Alberta, south of Highway 1."

"I haven't had a chance to get out this week in Saskatchewan myself, but definitely there's been some activity in southern Alberta so it would not hurt to be ready to scout for grasshoppers all across the southern prairies, especially getting into next week when maybe it'll be a little bit warmer again." 

Another potential pest, the diamondback moth, has been seeing some activity in a few pheromone traps around the prairies.

"Those traps have been up for a couple of weeks now. We certainly have a good number of traps that have zero moths caught in them so far, but we've also had some traps that have had quite a few moths, which is maybe a little bit concerning," said Vankosky, "Especially if we are going to see really hot conditions or warmer than normal conditions throughout the summer."

"Diamondback moths can have multiple generations per year. So we can see their populations increase over time and potentially have an impact on crops. So in areas where we're seeing some of those higher numbers, which we've highlighted in the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network Weekly update, you can figure out if you're in an area where there might be more of a need to scout for diamondback moths this year." 

Some of those areas include the Vanscoy and Lumsden areas in Saskatchewan, the North Interlake region in Manitoba, and the Barrhead region in Alberta.

Vankosky reminds producers to watch for damaging pests in their fields headed into summer, including flea beetles.

"For those canola growers, definitely flea beetles are going to be the number one thing to be watching before, but as the season progresses, we can start to see more and more damage from those diamondback moths. So it's just kind of an early warning that they're definitely in the traps and could pose a problem as the summer goes on, but definitely prioritize and flea beetles should probably be a top priority."

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