Photo by USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab from Beltsville, Maryland

Rise in cutworm infestations in Alberta farms

A pest that feeds on farmers’ crops is on the rise in Alberta.

Officials at Alberta Agriculture and Forestry told Postmedia that there has been an increase in reported cutworm outbreaks this summer. The worms are the larvae of moths and eat through most crops. They can be particularly damaging to cereals, flax and canola if not detected early.

Alberta Agriculture’s maps show that there have been 16 reported cases as of Wednesday. This was twice the rate reported in 2017, officials said.

“We’ve had reports of cutworms all the way from the Lethbridge area all the way up to Edmonton. We don’t, of course, hear about every cutworm problem,” said Scott Meers, an insect management specialist with Alberta Agriculture. “It’s definitely a bigger year than normal.”

The majority of the damage cutworms can cause usually happens when crops are seedlings early in the season. Meers said the larvae can be difficult to catch before they do too much damage. So farmers should monitor their fields very closely for the pests.

Chris Allam, an Alberta farmer, told Postmedia the larvae are typically active at night, which is an inopportune time for farmers to be up spraying their crops with insecticide.

“It involves night spraying which is a pain in the neck. So I pulled an all-nighter here awhile back when we were spraying for them. It’s frustrating because sometimes it involves another pass in the field,” he said.

He added that the decision to spray insecticide might be a hard one for farmers, who could be worried about getting rid of other insects that are beneficial for their crops.