Western Colorado Insects

Native Plant Seed Prodution

Great Basin Native Plants Colordo Plateau Native Plant Project logo
Native Plant Fields
Native plant seed is collected and/or produced in many areas. It is typically used for land reclamation after disturbance, restoration of degraded lands, revegetation, or landscaping. There are currently more than 100 species of forbs and grasses in production, with multiple genetic lines in development or production for many. The Great Basin Native Plant Selection and Increase Project and the Colorado Plateau Native Plant Project are two federal projects intended to increase the diversity of native plant seed available to the public.

Each plant species being produced for seed has a unique set of insects and plant pathogens associated with it. In most cases, damage is negligible but occasionally it can be catastrophic. Many of the pests attacking native plants are host specific. They feed exclusively on plant family, genus, or species.

There is also considerable geographic variability. An insect that attacks a plant in southern Idaho may not be present in western Colorado. That plant species grown in western Colorado may be attacked by an entirely different complex of insects than the same species grown elsewhere. Additionally, there are many generalist insects that feed on native plants.

Many of the insect pests of native plant seed production have unknown life histories. Several previously undescribed insect species have been discovered by the Great Basin and Uncompahgre Projects. The goal of this web site is to present information on pests affecting seed production of native plants.

A suction sampler for sampling insects made from a Stihl leafblower. The only modification needed is a collection sock. I have them available for $4.00 each if you need one. E-mail Bob Hammon for details.
Running a suction sampler

Lygus Bugs

Lygus bugs attack the flowers and developing fruits of many species of forbs. Damage from lygus can be catastrophic. Control can be a challenge.

Lygus Bug Adult

Globemallows: Spheralceae spp.

Several species of globemallow are produced in the west for seed. They are widespread on western rangelands and are important soil stabilization and forage plants. Apionid weevils are a specialist seed predator that can severely limit seed production.

Scarlet Globemallow

Utah Sweetvetch: Hedysarum boreale

Utah sweet vetch is a nitrogen fixing legume that grows on western rangelands. There is significant seed production in CO, UT and ID. 'Timp' is a released variety and several ecotypes are in production. A widespread seed weevil, Acanthoscelides sp. has reduced yield by 75% in extreme situations. Lygus bugs can reduce seed set. The larvae of several native butterflies and moths can feed on foliage and seed pods, although we have not yet seen significant damage from them. Sweetvetch production is also impacted by a rust disease and root rot disease which are poorly understood.

Penstemons: Penstemon spp.

Gardeners who grow penstemons for their showy flowers consider them somewhat pest-free. Many Penstemon seed growers produce a crop without any apparent insect damage.When pests arrive however, their damage can be catastrophic. The pests we have seed to date are stem borers and foliage feeders. The Penstemon weevil is limited to SW Colo, but the Penstemon clearwing borer is widespread. Many Penstemons are short-lived plants. Borers and other unknown insects and pathogens could be part of the reason. Lygus can be a production problem for some Penstemon species.

Lupines: Lupinus spp.

Lupines are widely distributed throughout the US and several species are used for reclamation, revegetation and horticultural purposes. In addition, there are many horticultural varieties of lupine available. Several insect pests attack lupine seed production. There are seed feeders, pod feeders, foliage feeders, and sucking insects. Many are Lupinus specific, some are legume specific and some such as
Lygus are generalist feeders.

Mountain Mahogany: Cercocarpus spp.

There are several species of mountain mahogany, Cercocarpus, grown in seed production, and seed is often collected from native stands. There are several species of insects that feed on mountain mahoganies. This link discusses a leafminer that is specific to C. ledifolius, and a little known leaf galling psyllid.

Fourwing Saltbush: Atriplex canescens

Fourwing saltbush is an important and widely distributed rangeplant on arid western rangelands. Several named cutlivars are grown for seed production and more genetic lines are under development. Fourwing saltbush has been relatively pest free, there is potential for several native insects to inflict significant damage to seed orchards. The Irregular Wax Scale and Chenopod Ensign Coccid are discussed here.

This page was updated on March 3, 2016