Scouting tool kit

March 2, 2017 - Issue 3

In preparation for a season of effective scouting, gather these tools into your scouting tool kit.

Smart phone

With a phone, you can keep records, collaborate with others and take photos. Read more on how to take photos for agronomy.
Magnifying glass/hand lens

A 10X magnifying glass can be used to identify different insect species based on specific markings, to identify very small insects, such as thrips, to spot pycnidia in blackleg lesions, and to look at the growing points of frosted canola to see if they’re regrowing.

A digital USB microscope with its own light source as well can take highly magnified images that can be useful for things like insects, disease and weed seeds in particular.

Seed depth tool

Growers can use the tool to make sure every run of the drill places canola at the recommended half inch to one inch depth. Click here for tips on where and how to check seed depth.

Hand trowel

Hand trowels are handy for wireworm and cutworm scouting, evaluating the health of hypocotyls and roots. A sieve can help separate insects from dry soil. Find a sieve or strainer with holes big enough for your soil type. Cutworm scouting.

Standard sweep net

Lygus bug and cabbage seedpod weevil economic thresholds are based on sweep net counts, and proper counts depend on using the standard sweep net and technique. The standard size has a 35” long handle and 15” (38 cm) diameter net. More on sweep net technique. Large Ziploc bags, especially the breathable ones, are a handy companion for the sweep net. Flying insects can pop out of the net quickly, making it harder to do an accurate count. Carefully dump all contents into a Ziploc bag, then count insects through the perforated bag.

Three-sided or two-sided “square”

Some insect thresholds are based on counts per square foot or square metre, so use a two or three sided “square” to slip more easily into a heavy canopy and help you more accurately estimate the area of your counts. A home-made two-sided square, with a grid on each length showing one foot, half metre and full metre lengths will serve multiple purposes. With open sides, the square slips into the canopy more easily than a full square.

Hoop or metre stick

These are for plant counts. Click here for more on how to do counts with a metre stick or hoop.


Clippers provide a nice clean cross section to check canola stems for incidence and severity of blackleg. Click here for tips and a how-to-clip video. Spend the money on a good set that can cut through a large canola stem cleanly. Buy stainless steel (avoid carbon steel) so they can be disinfected and will not rust.

Containers for insect samples

Vials or sturdy plastic containers will keep insects in good shape while in transport to the lab for identification. A (full) small bottle of hand sanitizer works very well. Ziploc bags with perforations work for grasshoppers. Put stems covered with aphids in a paper bag.

Aspirators can help suck insect specimens off a plant and put them into the vials. An aspirator plugs into the top of the vial, and has hoses going in and out. You suck on one end and hold the other end up to insect, vacuuming them up the hose and into the vial. This is faster than tweezers and does less damage to the insect making identification easier.


Biosecurity is important for anyone moving from field to field and farm to farm. Mud on the bottom of boots can spread noxious weed seeds and clubroot spores. Use one set of booties per field. Put used ones in a garbage bag. If rubber boots are worn without booties, they will need to be scraped clean, washed (washing can be done in a 20L pail or a Rubbermaid type container with lid) and disinfected before the next visit. Include a spray bottle of sterilizer for cleaning boots and equipment between fields and garbage bags for disposal of booties or to wrap contaminated equipment.


If you find an area with suspicious weeds, disease lesions, or building insect populations, it can be helpful to mark them so you can come back to that same spot and monitor the potential problem. Plastic stemmed flags are preferred in case you forget them in the field and accidentally cut them with the swather.


Nitrile or latex gloves should be part of your biosecurity kit, and can keep your hands clean when handling insects, plant roots, etc.

Beating sheet

This is an expandable white sheet made from plasticized material. It has cross pieces underneath to keep corners square. Entomologists often have these on hand for field days, to bang out aphids, caterpillars or other insects to do accurate counts. For growers, the hood of the truck, tail gate or piece of cardboard is often handier and can be just as effective.

Recordkeeping book or app

Keep a notebook, either the real thing or an electronic version, to record scouting details. Also have a grease pencil or Sharpie on hand to mark containers.

Reference material

The Canola Council of Canada has a number of scouting pamphlets online. Canola Watch has thresholds information for each insect. also has lots of background information.

Canola Watch