Sunday, 15 May 2016

2016 Staff at Beaverlodge - Emily

These past 2 weeks have been a rollercoaster of new information to me. So far I have learned about various insects I had no idea even existed like the Diamondback Moth (DBM) and the Flea beetle (FB). I have been introduced to both of these insects through the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network (PPMN) we do at the farm, where I’ve been shown how to catch them by using pheromone lures and sticky cards (Figure 1). Working outside in the field requires us to wear protective booties to prevent spreading soil disease such as clubroot or sclerotinia.

Figure 1. Inserting sticky card within diamondback moth pheromone trap.

Sclerotinia is a type of fungus that causes stem rot and is a problem for all Canadian canola farmers as it is one of the most destructive diseases. The fungus itself looks like a tiny golf tee-shaped mushroom that grows up to 2cm long and spreads up and down the stem of the canola plant, cutting off all nutrient and moisture flow. Symptoms of sclerotinia include bleaching and whitening of stems of the canola plant and leaves will turn light brown. Sclerotinia flourishes in damp weather because it spreads by releasing its spores after rainfall. The main control strategy for this destructive disease is foliar fungicides which still may be a long fight as the disease is known to attack over 400 different plant species at any stage of growth. 

PPMN monitoring involves more than just setting out traps on a weekly basis. Once all FB and DBM traps are collected, the sticky cards need to be examined and the insects are identified to species level so data can be collected.  This week, I was shown how to identify the various Flea Beetle species using a stereomicroscope (Figure 2).  The dominant species on our sticky cards is the Striped Flea Beetle (Phyllotreta striolata) but we also learned to identify the Hop Flea Beetle (Psylliodes punctulata) and the Crucifer Flea Beetle (Phyllotreta cruciferae). Overall, a good indicator for identifying the Flea beetle is looking for its enlarged femor on the third pair of legs.
Figure 2. Sticky card processing includes circling Striped flea beetles (~3mm long) while working under the scope.

Reflecting on the past 2 weeks of my first Co-op work term with my Natural Resource Science program, I am looking forward to coming out of this summer with an entirely new outlook on insects and more knowledge of the behind the scenes work of scientists in our lab. Thanks for reading.

- Emily