Wheat Midge


Wheat midge (Sitodiplosis mosellana) is a significant pest that can cause substantial damage to wheat crops, resulting in yield losses and poor grain quality, and can increase the risk of secondary infections, such as Fusarium head blight.

The life cycle of wheat midge begins with adult midges laying their eggs on the wheat heads. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the developing kernels, disrupting the grain formation process. This leads to the formation of shriveled, discolored, and less marketable wheat kernels. Severe infestations can result in yield reductions of up to 50%.

(Image Credit: Lesley Ingram, Bugwood.org)


How to Identify Wheat Midge

Adult midges are small, orange-colored flies measuring about 2-3 mm in length. They can be seen hovering around the wheat heads during the flowering stage. The larvae of wheat midge are also small and orange-colored, resembling tiny worms. They can be found inside damaged kernels, causing further harm to wheat crops.

During the flowering stage of wheat, be vigilant for signs of wheat midge infestation. Adult midges emerge from the soil and lay their eggs on the wheat heads. The hatched larvae then feed on the developing kernels, causing damage. Discolored and shriveled kernels are also indicators of damage caused by wheat midge larvae.

Regular scouting during the flowering stage allows for early detection of adult midges and their eggs. Taking timely action is essential to minimize damage.

Regions Affected by Wheat Midge

Wheat midge is most prevalent in regions with a temperate climate, particularly in North America and Europe. In North America, the Canadian Prairie provinces, including Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, are heavily affected by this pest. In Europe, countries like the United Kingdom, France, and Germany also face significant challenges with wheat midge infestations.

However, the distribution of wheat midge can vary from year to year, depending on weather patterns and pest management practices. Staying updated with local reports and recommendations is crucial for effective management.

(Image Credit: Gerald Holmes, Strawberry Center, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Bugwood.org)

How to Manage Wheat Midge

Before taking chemical steps to address a wheat midge infestation, first incorporate Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices, such as:

  • crop rotation

  • trap crops

  • biological control strategies

If chemical action becomes necessary to protect wheat crops, several insecticides have shown effectiveness against wheat midge larvae. These crop protection products include such as Willowood Lambda-Cy 1EC* or other insecticides with the active ingredient chlorpyrifos. Note, however, that chlorpyrifos products were banned for application in the United States in 2021, but they have been reinstated for the 2024 growing season. Consult your local agronomist for the latest use updates.

Follow label instructions and recommendations from local agricultural extension services for safe and effective application. Timing is critical: apply insecticides during the early stages of larval development. Pay attention to application rates and the pre-harvest interval to minimize risks and ensure no chemical residues in harvested grain.


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