Autumn survey of wheat bulb fly incidence


Cereals & Oilseeds
Project code:
21510022 (2112003)
01 September 2019 - 31 October 2021
AHDB sector cost:
Total project value:
Project leader:


About this project

The problem

With the exception of oats, all cereals can be attacked by wheat bulb fly (WBF). Damage is most frequently reported in winter wheat. The pest is most prevalent in eastern England but numbers fluctuate considerably from year to year. Due to recent withdrawals, chemical control options are limited to seed treatments. The thresholds for treatment are as follows:

  • Early-sown wheat crops (before November) are unlikely to benefit from seed treatment
  • For late-sown wheat crops (November to December), seed treatments should be considered where WBF populations exceed 100 eggs/m2
  • For very late-sown crops (January), seed treatments should be considered irrespective of the WBF population size (unless no eggs are present)

*An autumn survey of the pest levels, based on egg extraction from soil samples, has been conducted since 1984. The survey results help the industry make crop management decisions, especially those relating to seed treatments. However, the survey approach is relatively costly and time consuming. As a result, there is a need to identify alternative approaches to assess WBF risk.

Note: Drill treated seed at the recommended depth of 2.44.0 cm in a firm, even seedbed. Signal 300 ES (cypermethrin) seed treatment must only be applied to cereal seed sown in the autumn/winter. Treated seed must not be sown after 31 January, as this is defined as the end of the winter period by CRD.

The project

This project will support the long-term monitoring of WBF through the traditional autumn survey. The survey involves taking soil samples in September from 30 fields prone to WBF attack (split equally across sites located in the East and North of England) and calculating the number of WBF eggs per square metre. An early indication of risk, based on a subset of sites, is published in September. The final indication of risk, based on all sites, is published in October.

The work will also investigate the potential to predict WBF risk using a meteorological model. A molecular method to detect WBF DNA in soil samples will also be validated as part of the project.

The benefits

The project will indicate the need for seed treatment against WBF. It will also investigate more rapid, lower-cost monitoring methods. If an indication of WBF risk can be provided earlier in the autumn, better decisions on seed treatment, sowing date and seed rate could be made.

Latest information (updated 16 September 2021)

To date, results are available for seven out of 15 sites in the North of England:

  • Three were in the low-risk category (<100 eggs/m2)
  • Three were in the moderate-risk category (101249 eggs/m2)
  • One was in the high-risk category (250500 eggs/m2)

So far in 2021, the highest egg count is 280 eggs/m2(2.8 million/ha) following vining peas at a site in North Yorkshire. 

The average egg count to date is 120/m2

Results will be added to this page as they become available.

How to manage wheat bulb fly risk in cereals.