Your top 5 insect pests to watch out for, Alberta


One of the questions that come up this time of the year, when it comes to the growing season, is — what do the pest forecasts look like for 2020?

Boyd Mori, assistant professor in agricultural entomology, at the University of Alberta, was at FarmTech in Edmonton, Alta, and broke down the top 5 insects in Alberta, and what regions may be expected to be hit by some of these this year.


The Peace Region in 2019 saw a lot of grasshoppers. Although Albertans are used to seeing species such as the two-striped grasshopper, northwest of Edmonton saw the Bruner grasshopper, which is uncommon to the province. Numerous entomologists in Alberta say they are on a two-year cycle, which is encouraging for the upcoming year.

“We’re kind of hoping and predicting that in those regions we probably won’t have a grasshopper issue in 2020, fingers crossed,” Mori says. “Down in southern Alberta, we’ve had a lot of heat, and with the drought conditions, we had our grasshopper issues as well. The forecast is looking like there still could be some higher populations of grasshoppers down Lethbridge south to the border.”

Cabbage seedpod weevil

Cabbage seedpod weevil has traditionally been a southern Alberta problem, but over the past decade it has moved up to the central parts of the province. However, Mori says 2019 saw a year of retraction back south for the weevil.

“The higher numbers are south of Calgary, in its historical area. So generally, in that region, the first fields that come into flower, most will be sprayed with insecticide. After that, if we kind of think of it as early flowering fields, and then mid-to-late flowering fields occasionally are sprayed with insecticide, but usually those late-flowering fields don’t need to be treated. Cabbage seedpod weevil are highly visual, and they are usually attracted to those flowering fields, so when you are one of the first to come into flower, you are attracting all these weevils because you are the only field around.”

Bertha armyworm

If you’re in the Peace region, the name of this insect will most likely make you shudder. The Peace has seen three years of an outbreak now, and Mori says that after talking to some people in the Municipal District of Sunrise County, over 75 per cent of the canola acres were sprayed in 2019.

“It’s been pretty significant. It usually has a six to seven-year cycle, so we’re thinking it should hopefully be starting to reduce this coming year, but we really want to be monitoring for it and have our eye out for it. In central Alberta, there have been some hot spots, but it seems to be pretty low at the moment,” Mori explains. “In southern Alberta last year, we did see some minor spraying, but we’re hoping because of the really cold temperatures this winter with not a lot of snow cover, it will set them back and kill off quite a few.”

Pea leaf weevil

Pea leaf weevil, as Mori puts it, has been “an interesting one.” It’s traditionally known for lurking around southern Alberta, but has crawled its way up to the Peace Region. The levels are low up north but moving into the more central/northern parts of the province, the numbers are very high.

“We are definitely surveying in peas, but in faba beans, it’s actually a preferred host. So if producers are growing faba beans, they should really be aware of the potential for pea leaf weevil damage,” he explains.

Wheat midge

Wheat midge needs moderate to high moisture levels, so in the southern regions that have faced multiple years of drought, there really hasn’t been a lot of the insect. However, with the precipitation that never seemed to stop in the peace region, the numbers have been relatively significant. Mori says it is quite regionalized, so it’s not necessarily picked up on the forecast map.

“If you look at the wheat midge forecast, they don’t appear to be very high in the Peace. But we have talked to producers, especially around the Fahler area, who still say they have quite high numbers of wheat midge in some of their fields. But everywhere else, it seems to be fairly low.”

To learn more about the insect forecasts, and to see learn about some of the research Boyd Mori is conducting, check out the full conversation, below:

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