From FCC Express, by Owen Roberts
Farmers are hoping to see less harmful insect activity this growing season, thanks to the harsh winter experienced almost everywhere in Canada. But in Ontario, the provincial field crop entomologist says don’t count on it.
Tracey Baute of Ridgetown, author of Baute’s Bug Blog, urges farmers not to be lulled into a false sense of security by thinking insects have been hammered by winter.
“Though overall there could be a reduction in pest populations, this is not necessarily true for all of our key pests,” she says in her latest blog post. “Some of them are quite tolerant to harsh winters and deal with it better than we do.”
All have their own way of surviving winter. For example, insects such as the black cutworm armyworm migrate south to warmer climes. Ladybugs move indoors. Wireworms and grubs dig deep below the frost line to hibernate. And some insects are equipped with natural anti-freeze compounds that prevent cells from damage in extreme temperatures.
But those that over-winter closer to the soil surface may have a harder time dealing with the winter, Baute says. Bean leaf beetle, flea beetles and slugs count on some insulating value from snow cover as a defense against extreme temperatures. If snow was scarce, they could be affected.
Another pest vulnerable to the winter is western bean cutworm. Baute says the insect’s pre-pupae, which overwinter in the soil, can only tolerate temperatures as low as -7.6 C, “so it was a hard winter for them.” Still, she cautions these cutworms might rebound if moths blow up from the U.S. and lay eggs here.
And that’s worrisome this spring. Insects will be looking for green vegetation to lay their eggs and re-establish themselves.
“If we don’t get in to do a good burn down before planting, these pests could be a problem,” Baute says.
Wet field conditions could also affect pest populations, particularly those which thrive in cool, moist soil.
“It is up to growers to do their best in good weed control prior to planting and to make sure to plant in good soil conditions so that the seed germinates and the plants grow quickly to avoid much of the feeding damage,” Baute says.