Fighting Flea Beetles Without Neonicotinoids

Our flea beetles mitigation project is finishing its final season

As public pressure increased against the use of neonicotinoids in agriculture, we wanted to plan for the worst-case scenario. In 2020, we set out to evaluate potential losses and test the best available alternative management strategies to mitigate loss.

Striped flea beetles on canola leaf that doesn’t stand a chance! Photo: Keith Gabert

The goal with this study was to assess; alternate seeding rates, seed treatments, and any environmental effects of these alternative practices. Because of the negative impacts, neonicotinoids have on pollinators and aquatic invertebrates. We want to ensure that we aren’t switching to practices or products that have similar impacts in other areas of the environment.

Flea Beetles & Alternatives for Management

Our two-year study in alternative methods of mitigation reveals that the best tool is the one we already have. There are few options available to us outside of seed treatment with neonic insecticide. Unfortunately, it might not be available to us soon. We can’t be caught unprepared for that.

For this study, we had fields in northern and southern Alberta, and although this was a short-term study, we managed to get quite a bit of data in that short time. We found that the best alternative to the synthetic insecticide was through doubling the seeding rate.

Being the biggest pest in canola fields, flea beetles can vary wildly from year to year, even location to location. Unfortunately, they can quickly take over fields and once they do there is little that can be done.

Seed treatment insecticides keep damage below 5%. While it’s not cost-effective, a higher seed rate resulted in enough crop surviving that there was little impact on yields. Although it kept the damage below the action threshold of 25%, this method may not be practical as you don’t know if beetles will even attack your crops in a given year.

While there is valid concern, and potential, to move away from synthetic insecticides, it would be nice to do so to limit environmental impact.

Keep an eye out for any further research in the field of flea beetle management; we hope to soon evaluate damage levels and economic thresholds in future studies.

You can learn more about this study by visiting the Flea Beetle Management project page or check out some of our videos and presentations on the project!

Alternative Flea Beetle control methods

Post neonic strategies to manage flea beetles in canola

Field Scale Flea Beetle & Canola Trial Plot Shots