Adult western corn rootworms have been spotted in the North Okanagan for the first time

Corn pest reaches Valley

There is a new pest in the region, and it's not good.

Adult western corn rootworms have been spotted in the North Okanagan this year for the first time.

Susanna Acheampong, Entomologist, Plant and Animal Health Branch BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food said the damaging bug has been found in Salmon Arm, Enderby and Armstrong.

As their name suggests, the bugs feast on corn and can cause extensive damage to a crop.

The small bug was first noticed in the United States since the 1950s. In 2016, it was found in Hope, Chilliwack and Abbotsford areas.

And now they are in the North Okanagan and Shuswap areas.

“It is not a good thing,” Acheampong said. “I was hoping they would not make their way here, but they showed up this year.”

Acheampong said the situation is being closely monitored to see how widespread the insect is.

“They can cause a lot of damage to corn,” said Acheampong.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture the pest has been an issue in the U.S. Mid-West for more than 50 years, and has been found in Ontario and Quebec.

Acheampong said they have also been found in Manitoba and Nova Scotia.

Although the rootworm is not a quarantine pest, it is the single greatest contributor to economic loss and shifting management practices in corn-growing regions in North America. It is estimated that rootworm species cause more than $1 billion in corn yield loss and control costs in the U.S. each year.

Adult beetles feed on corn foliage and silks of developing corn ears which can negatively affect pollination and fill of the cobs as well as be a contaminant at harvest for fresh market sweet corn.

Rootworm larvae do the most damage. They feed on corn roots, compromising plant growth and stability, resulting in tipping plants, lodging and poor yields in both sweet and forage corn.

“When something is feeding on the roots (the plant) does not do well as it effects the whole plant growth and you are not going to get a good crop,” Acheampong said.

Acheampong said there are a few strategies to combat the rootworm. American farmers have found that rotating the crops have an impact on the rootworms.

“That way you rob them of what they need to eat,” Acheampong said. “Crop rotation is a very good management strategy.”

Acheampong a hybrid corn is also more resistant to the bugs.

Acheampong urges farmers to contact her at [email protected] if they suspect the rootworm is in their area.

“We are going to followup next year and do an extensive study to see how widespread they are,” she said. “If a farmer has seen something that looks like them call us.”

The adults have also been known to feed on melons and flowers, but by far their preferred meal is corn.

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