Pests & Predators, Ep 14: Mistaken identities: insect pest or beneficial insect?


Can you tell an armyworm from a hover fly larva? What about a helpful pirate bug from a lygus? The trouble with insect identification is that it’s actually incredibly difficult, especially when you’re looking for adults but find nymphs, or are nervous about a pest species and a look-alike pops up.

John Gavolski, entomologist with Manitoba Agriculture, understands that correctly identifying friend from foe can be daunting, especially when a crop is of high value or an insect seems to be in high numbers.

The challenge is, however, that pulling the trigger on an insecticide pass can sometimes do more harm than good, as it may take out plenty of beneficial insects as well as pests, or you may end up targeting a benign or even helpful insect through a mistaken identification.

In the podcast below, Gavloski runs through three scenarios where a beneficial insect can be mistaken for a pest, with helpful hints on how to tell friend from foe. He also outlines some strategies that farmers have undertaken to protect beneficial insect populations, such as strip spraying, when a control pass is warranted.

Listen on for episode 14 of the Pests & Predators podcast, or download below for later listening! 

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