Blog: The Wheat Sheaf

Amazing day learning about managing wireworms with Dr. Haley Catton

Last week, I had an amazing day meeting with Dr. Haley Catton, research scientist  at AAFC-Lethbridge. We discussed her research on “Managing wireworms in southern Alberta wheat fields with crop rotations and beneficial insects”.

I was a bit nervous since I have never been to a research facility before and I was on my own this time. Yet, at the same time, I could not hide my excitement and curiosity about her project.

Haley came over the lobby and shook my hand with a very friendly smile.

After chatting about our backgrounds, Haley passionately gave me a detailed explanation of types of immature and mature wireworms (which are root-feeding pests) and carabid beetles (considered beneficial predators) that this project is targeting. There are big differences between these wireworms, as you can see in the picture below there are different sizes and species.

“The huge one might need a huge carabid beetle to eat him,” Haley explained.

Thanks to Haley, I learned a ton about wireworms. One thing that totally surprised me was that when wireworms are mature as click beetles, they are not directly harmful anymore, but they lay eggs. How fascinating!

In the box filled with hundreds of wireworms and soil, Haley enthusiastically dug them out and showed me how they look like in the soil. While Haley had already found a bunch of them, I still struggled figuring out where they were.


“It’s a good game for the eyes. I get a ton of practice,” Haley said.

After a while of looking and sifting through the soil, I still couldn’t find any wireworms.

Based on my performance, I might need lots of practice and patience for this game. Personally, I think the students and technicians completing the sifting and wireworm collection are really admirable!

Once the insects are collected, they are stored in a preservative for later analysis.

Look at these containers filled with collected insects. I was totally impressed with how hard they worked within just few months. 

Haley explained how she and her staff have used various types of traps for this experiment including, pitfall trap (picture below), soil bait trap, soil cores, etc. to collect insects.

I bet you would be surprised to see how effective this method is!

Getting the wireworms out of soil samples can be tricky. Some of them are very small and hard to see. So, Haley's crew gets the wireworms to sort themselves. This setup, pictured above, shows a Berlese funnel that was constructed by her technicians and students using the and uses tomato cages and oil funnels. They use lamps and funnels to drive wireworms down out of soil samples and into vials of preservatives. Thanks to the strong heat from the lights, wireworms are unable to handle it and they voluntarily crawl down.

As the day progressed, Dr. Haley Catton showed me a map of six commercial wheat fields with different preceding rotations containing six trap stations on each field. Trap stations are set-up in pairs, the field center and field edge. Two summer students travel to each of these wheat fields to collect data five days per week to maintain the trapping schedule.

I applaud all the contributions and efforts Haley and her team have put into this project. The work is labor-intensive with many challenges including accessing and traveling to field sites during all kinds of weather.

According to Haley, this three-year project aims to improve monitoring, control and awareness about wireworms and ground beetles with crop rotations in southern Alberta. It is the beginning of developing potential wireworm management practices directly benefiting Alberta producers in the future.

Thanks to Dr. Haley Catton, I got to visit an entomology lab for the first time!

I experienced how research was conducted and what researchers needed to do to make their research a success!

It was definitely cool to see all those wireworms Haley and her team have collected and those hands-on methods they use. I was impressed with the use of technology, innovative initiatives and all the hard work that everybody is working towards this objective.

Thanks to AWC for giving me this chance to visit AAFC-Lethbridge, and especially thanks to Dr. Haley Catton for her warm demeanor and sharing her knowledge!

Note on WGRF’s recently-launched Field Heroes campaign:

Ground beetles are insect heroes. Some ground beetles can consume eight cutworms a day. These beneficial insects are an important part of integrated pest management and can lower the cost of production by reducing the need of other control methods. Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) has launched a campaign called Field Heroes to increase the awareness of beneficial insect and to encourage growers and agronomists to consider these heroes in best management practices. Scouting guides and the latest information on beneficial insects can be found on the Field Heroes webpage.



Add a comment

10 ÷ = 5