Courtesy of the Government of BC Website
Caption Cereal Leaf Beetle Larva

The Cereal Leaf Beetle isn't native to North America, but it has become a risk to crops in Alberta.  The first discovery of the beetle in Alberta was in 2005 near Lethbridge.   "The populations have been increasing because of the vast food resources available, we do plant a lot of cereal crops right across Western Canada. And the other important reason is the beetle has not been under attack by its natural enemies.  So in Europe and Asia where the beetle has been known for hundreds of year, the beetle has natural enemies that help keep it's population in check."  explains Lloyd Dosdall, a Professor of Agriculture Entomology at the University of Alberta.

"We have been working very hard to increase the population of it's natural enemies in Western Canada and I personally believe that's the secret to being able to control the Cereal Leaf Beetle without using insecticide." Dosdall says there is an insecticide that is registered in Canada that is very effective, but not the most effective control method.  "We've found so far that populations are able to be controlled with a little parasitic wasp," he explains. "What we've being doing is moving the parasites around to different farmers fields, so when we find a field that is heavily infected, we have been bringing in the parasites and releasing them."  

There are two life stages that are easy to find for cereal producers.  Dosdall says "The adults are a small beetle about a centimetre in length, the abdomen has shiny dark wings and they are kind of greenish in colour. The thorax is much lighter, kind of an orangey colour, they look like a normal beetle and they feed somewhat on leaves of plants, especially of wheat's and oats and barely."   He says the larvae are an uglier looking insect. They coat the back of their abdomen with their own waste products, so they looks somewhat like a bird dropping on a cereal leaf. "The larvae are the most damaging, they can strip the green material from leaves and can cause a lot of yield loss, especially when populations are quite high."

He says the outbreaks started in Southern Alberta, but there have been new ones in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. "Our effort has been to take parasites from Alberta and ship them  around as much as possible." He says they are really promoting the use of this parasitic wasp.