AWC - Funded Research

Development of synthetic food bait traps to monitor multiple cutworm pests and minimize bee by-catch

AWC contribution: $30,000


This 3 year proposal aims to develop a trap to monitor cutworms (a pest species that damages several Canadian crops). The goal of this research is to create a food-based lure to attract both sexes of multiple species of cutworm, but not bee pollinators. Food baits based on sugar fermented products, floral and host plant volatiles will be used and compared. Baits that attract cutworms and not bee pollinators will be selected to further develop a monitoring tool that can attract various cutworm species over short distances. 


Long term:

  1. Test various food baits known to attract noctuid (cutworm) moths in other agroecosystems as potential attractants for cutworm moths in wheat and canola in Alberta.
  2. Compare the attractiveness of food baits emitted from various release devises, at different release rates and doses to maximize capture of pest cutworms.
  3. Compare the attractive radius of food bait traps and pheromone traps targeting various noctuid pests. It is important to develop a lure that attracts moths in the local vicinity so that trap capture reflects the local population density of the cutworm species
  4. Assess the community composition and number of hymenopteran pollinators trapped in various food bait traps as compared to that in pheromone-baited traps targeting cutworm moths.
  5. Determine physiological factors that influence cutworm moth response to food baits. Understanding the physiological conditions required for cutworm moths to respond to food-based attractants will help us interpret the trap catch.

Short term:

  1. Develop a food bait monitoring tool to attract multiple species of cutworm moths in wheat and canola in Alberta.
  2. Develop a food bait monitoring tool to attract both male and female cutworm moths. Understand the physiological conditions that promote moth response to food baits to assist in interpretation of trap catch
  3. Develop a food bait monitoring tool that has a relatively small radius of attraction so that trap catch reflects local population density

Benefit to producers:
Cutworms cause millions of dollars of damage in a variety of cropping systems in Alberta and other Prairie Provinces. There are currently no monitoring tools that can systematically assess the distribution of cutworm moths in Prairie Provinces. This research project will enable direct monitoring of cutworms and to better understand their pheromone physiology. 

Maya Evenden is a Professor of Entomology in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta.  Research in her lab focusses on understanding chemical communication in insects and exploiting chemically mediated behaviours for integrated pest management.  Insects use chemical signals for a variety of functions including: mate finding, habitat and host selection, foraging and egg-laying decisions.  The reliability and repeatability of these signals will depend on ecological factors and the physiological state of the signaller and responder.  The Evenden lab takes an eco-physiological approach to understand insect chemical signalling and movement by flight in response to chemical cues.  Research is conducted on insect species considered to be agricultural, horticultural or forest pests in Alberta.  Applications of this work include the development of semiochemical-based tools to monitor and control insect pests and the development of models to predict movement of insects on the landscape.