Dal researcher has the bug
BIBLE HILL, N.S. – Paul Manning doesn’t think of insects as nuisances. The Dal AC researcher understands the benefits of having them around, and he’s doing what he can to make his property as insect-friendly as possible.
“If there weren’t insects in this world we wouldn’t be here,” he said. “Sometimes people see the value of certain insects, like bees and butterflies, but not others. They all play a role and are part of the wider ecosystem.”
Some insects, such as dung beetles, feed on feces, preventing it from building up.
“We’d be up to our necks in it if it weren’t for insects and other invertebrates,” said Manning.
This action also improves soil, making it more biologically active so that plants can deal with stress better, as well as reducing greenhouse gases.
Some insects help degrade rotting plant material and fungi, returning nutrients to the soil, and many feed on insects that are garden pests. Insects are also an important food source for birds and other animals.
“They’re important components of ecosystems and support human health and well-being, but we’re seeing a decline in biodiversity,” said Manning. “There have been big, big decreases in numbers in the last few years.”
The Big Bug Count, done through the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) indicates a global decline in abundance, biomass and diversity of insects. Causes include heat waves, habitat loss, pesticides and invasive species.
“If you plant a seed that’s been treated with neonics (neonicotinoids), a slug can eat the plant but isn’t harmed,” said Manning. “A predator might then eat the slug and die.
“There’s a lot to conservation, but everything makes a difference.”
He suggests people avoid chemicals whenever possible and plant native flowers and clover, creating a diversity that will be hardier than grass lawns and exotic plants.
Paul Manning enjoys sharing information on the benefits of having insects around.
A harlequin ladybird rests on a leaf. While good for gardeners, these ladybirds contribute to the decline of many native ladybird beetle species.
A yellow dung fly rests on a tansy. Its larvae feed on animal dung and rotting vegetation, while adults feed on nectar, pollen, and smaller insects.
Weedy plants have value for insects. A monarch and a small solitary bee visit a volunteer aster.