Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) is working to learn more about Peritrechus convivus, the little red bugs farmers have been finding in their fields.
A species of dirt-coloured seed bug in the family Rhyparochromidae, P convivus is often spotted in its nymph form, which is far from the colour of the soil in the prairies, with red abdomens and black thoraxes. And farmers have been reporting them in an abundance – millions in some fields, hypothesizes Tyler Wist, field crops entomologist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
“Right now, everything’s anecdotal,” says Wist, in this interview from Saskatchewan’s CanolaPalooza. “A little bit on the literature side suggests that Peritrechus convivus likes slough edges, so, since 2017, we’ve had drier years, maybe people have been planting into the sloughs, so they like emergent vegetation, and then now that your slough edge is now your field, your emergent vegetation is your canola or your flax.”
Despite damaging plants by feeding on sap, and wiping out acres of flax, the bugs are not registered on any product labels.
“So there’s nothing registered to control this bug, because of course it’s never really been a pest before,” says Wist. “Some farmers have sprayed for cutworms and at the same time looked for red bug death. So, in those instances, nothing’s really seemed to work.”
Wist says contact insecticides may be missing the insects, as they spend a lot of the time in the ground, likely feeding on whatever seeds they can find. He is currently collecting reports to map, in an effort to identify similarities between the insect clusters.
“We’ve got more questions than we have answers with this insect.”