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The impact of flies, fruit flies, and mosquitoes on Quebec farming: a growing concern

Farming is an integral part of Quebec’s economy. This province leads the way in dairy farming, produces 50 per cent of Canadian cheese, and has more pigs and organic farms than any other province. It is a leader in maple syrup exports and continues to be a strong player in the production of many other crops. Among the many challenges for Quebec farmers are insects such as flies, fruit flies, and mosquitoes. These pests not only affect crop yields and livestock health but present considerable obstacles to effective pest management strategies.

Flies are more than just a nuisance; they pose serious health risks to livestock and affect agricultural productivity. Houseflies and stable flies, for instance, are vectors for various diseases that can lead to significant economic losses. They can spread bacterial infections such as salmonella and E. coli, which can contaminate food supplies and harm both animals and humans. Stable flies, known for their painful bites, reduce livestock productivity by causing stress and discomfort, leading to decreased milk production in dairy cows and weight loss in cattle.

Fruit flies, particularly the spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii), pose a significant threat to Quebec’s fruit crops. This invasive species targets soft-skinned fruits like strawberries, blueberries, and cherries, and cause the fruit to rot and become unsellable.

Mosquitoes, while often associated with human health concerns, also significantly impact livestock. They are vectors for diseases such as West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis, which can affect horses and other animals. The irritation caused by mosquito bites can lead to reduced feeding efficiency and weight gain in livestock, negatively impacting farm productivity.

Insect control: challenges and solutions

Despite numerous control methods, flies, fruit flies and mosquitos remain a persistent problem. Resistance to insecticides is growing, rendering many chemical treatments less effective. Moreover, environmental concerns and regulations limit the use of certain insecticides. Alternative methods, such as biological control using parasitic wasps, have shown promise but are not widely adopted due to cost and implementation challenges.

 

One of the models of the new insect control system in a championship horse barn PHOTO Courtesy of Ken Hamilton

 

In indoor areas, glue traps and zappers have helped, but often do not solve the problem. Research has shown that when insects are electrocuted, bug zappers can spread a mist containing insect parts up to about seven feet from the device. The air around the bug zapper can become contaminated by bacteria and viruses that can be inhaled by, or settle on the food of, people and animals nearby. Glue boards become carpeted with insects, and then must be handled. Chemical fly control systems are toxic, and always pose a risk of contamination. Recently, however, a local resident, Ken Hamilton, who for 30 years ran Hamilton Agencies, a food service equipment distributor, has begun distributing a new product that works extremely efficiently against flies and fruit flies or against mosquitos.

“I had a big fly and invasive ladybug problem. I bought one of these four weeks ago for inside, and it really works; I am impressed,” says Luc Bellefroid, owner of Ferme Dohbell 2000 inc. in Dundee. “I bought another for outside and another for my daughter-in-law’s office.”

“The technology works with an ultraviolet light and pheromones, which we could describe as a ‘party smell’ for the targeted insect,” explains Hamilton. “The colour of the light, the pheromones, the colour of the cartridge, and the decoy image are all tailored to the specific insect one wants to get rid of. The four attractants working together explains why it’s so effective,” says Hamilton. “The product is not attractive to good insects such as bees,” he adds. The system does not use any insecticides, pesticides, does not zap or spray, and is safe for animals, humans and food.

The negative impacts of flies, fruit flies, and mosquitoes on Quebec farming are significant and growing. Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach, combining advanced research, sustainable practices, and robust support systems to ensure the long-term viability and productivity of the province’s agricultural sector. This new insect control system can be part of an overall pest management strategy, whether for farms, restaurants, or other uses.

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