Flea beetles, wheat midge, and grasshoppers, oh my! — LIVE! with Boyd Mori

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This past growing season seemed to be the year for insects. Pea leaf weevils, grasshoppers, and of course, flea beetles, all made the “hot list”. Curious about which insects were prevalent, and which ones should be on your mind for next year?

Dr. Boyd Mori, assistant professor of agriculture and ecological entomology at the University of Alberta joins Kara Oosterhuis for today’s LIVE! to give us all the details. Plus, he gives insight into what’s being researched next in the entomology world, what his favourite insect is, and what he’s excited to research next.

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SUMMARY

  • They’re not bugs, they’re INSECTS
  • Alfalfa weevil, biodiversity in alfalfa seed production fields, insecticide resistance, are just a few of his research projects going on right now
  • Insect year across the prairies: flea beetles in canola was a big issue, wheat midge seems to be on the increase, grasshoppers weren’t a huge issue
  • Two-year cycling of grasshoppers in the Peace Region and northern Saskatchewan seems to be holding true
  • Pea leaf weevil is on people’s minds, entomologists have been gathering more data and doing more research on them, specifically overwintering
  • Fall pressure of grasshoppers? Deposit eggs in soil that’ll hatch in spring.
  • Any surprises in 2020? Ground beetles, go figure.
  • Insect traps and rearing. Could be fun.
  • The evil weevils (pea leaf weevils) have had some lower populations recently; what conditions do they like/dislike? Research still has to be conducted on this one. Region to region populations seem to change. No parasitoid or beneficial insect that predates on them.
  • Mori’s favourite beneficial insect? Syrphid flies, look like a bee and are pollinators, but the larvae are in crop, green maggot-like, feed on aphids.
  • Favourite insect in his collection? Red clover case-bearer moth. Soft spot for the insects he’s worked on.
  • Risk maps? Predictions? Flea beetles, not going away any time soon. Wheat midge, it’s been off the radar but this year the growing conditions were just right. Others: N Sask and Alta, grasshoppers
  • What tools should a farmer have in their truck cab, if they want to scout? Nothing too specialized. Shovel or soil knife to look for in-the-ground insects, a sweep net.
  • Magic number for how many sweeps to do? 25 if you’re not trying to estimate a threshold.
  • Challenges of conducting entomological research? Variable populations in the field, year-to-year. Insect rearing can be difficult in the lab: host plants, artificial diets, diapause (like a hibernation in the cold).
  • Cool research (other than what Mori’s working on): wheat midge tolerant wheat, developing monitoring tools for wireworms
  • Getting the word out about beneficial insects. Field Heroes, for sure. Being conscious about beneficial populations compared to pest populations.
  • Flea beetles, are they becoming resistant to seed treatment on canola? Mori can only speculate, but there has been tolerance to seed treatment by flea beetles in the past, since then though, don’t know. It’ll be in the future research to-do list
  • Mori loves all his projects equally. Ground beetles eating other things is the next project that Mori is excited to work on.

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