Dal re­searcher has the bug

Truro Daily News - - COLCHESTER COUNTY - LYNN CUR­WIN

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.

JAMES SKIN­NER PHOTO

Paul Man­ning en­joys shar­ing in­for­ma­tion on the ben­e­fits of hav­ing in­sects around.

CON­TRIB­UTED

A har­lequin la­dy­bird rests on a leaf. While good for gar­den­ers, these lady­birds con­trib­ute to the de­cline of many na­tive la­dy­bird bee­tle species.

CON­TRIB­UTED

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.

CON­TRIB­UTED

Weedy plants have value for in­sects. A monarch and a small soli­tary bee visit a vol­un­teer aster.

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