Safe Haven for Imperiled Insects
by Alan Constant (Summer Conservation Staff 2018, 2020)
“I love nature”
Let it be known that I love nature. Seems a little silly to say given my role this summer as the Conservation and Restoration Technician with A Rocha Ontario, but I love nature and its various pieces. Not just the beautiful wildflowers that dot the landscape, the huge maple and oak trees reaching towards the sky, or the tuneful birds that flit around from perch to perch (I deeply care about these charismatic parts of nature) but I also love some of the smaller, often overlooked aspects. Specifically, I have a passion for insects, spiders and all sorts of things that tend to creep, crawl, fly and skitter around.
Surveys and Monitoring
This summer I’ve been able to conduct insect surveys and monitoring (a fancy way of saying I get to hang out around meadows and ponds with a big net, some jars and a camera) on top of larger-scale projects like wetland habitat rehabilitation and pond restoration. I’m particularly fond of this juxtaposition; focusing on large, ecosystem-level conservation projects one moment, and then hunting for small insects the next. I feel it really gets at the heart of A Rocha — stewarding creation, no matter the size or shape.
While conducting the surveys, I came to an exciting conclusion — Cedar Haven is an insect haven too!
In June and July alone, we have identified breeding populations of:
• 2 different vulnerable species of damselfly (Azure Bluet and Double-striped Bluet)
• 1 vulnerable species of bumblebee (Yellow Bumble Bee)
• 2 dragonfly species listed as vulnerable (Harlequin Darner) and imperiled (Arrowhead Spiketail).
While the identifications are exciting in themselves, the best part was that there were multiple individuals of different sexes found for each of these species! This is of interest because groups like dragonflies and damselflies have small territories, meaning that these vulnerable and imperiled species call Cedar Haven their home and will continue to live and reproduce on the property — and we’re so happy they’re here!
With all the recent “buzz” about bees, I’m sure I don’t need to explain the importance of these pivotal pollinators.
Helping plants to reproduce and spread, they are crucial to the ecological functioning of our landscapes, yet their populations have been declining.
We at Cedar Haven have been working on bumble bee surveying each summer to investigate the species diversity on site, and observe changes in abundance over time. We’re excited to see vulnerable species like the Yellow Bumble Bee (Bombus fervidus), and hope it’s a sign of good things to come!
While bees are crucial to plant life, dragonflies and damselflies are highly important in the control of insect populations. Both are voracious predators with seemingly bottomless appetites and a prey capture rate of over 95%, making them the most successful hunters in the entire animal kingdom¹.
These aerial insects are adept ambushers of invertebrates like flies, mosquitoes, beetles and bees. However, both dragonflies and damselflies spend the majority of their lives as larvae in bodies of water, such as ponds and streams. Here, they are accomplished predators of aquatic invertebrates like fly and mosquito larvae, but larger individuals can even hunt small fish and tadpoles! Additionally, the eggs laid in and around the water can be good sources of food to other insects and fish. All of this is to say that Odonates are incredibly important to pond and river ecosystems. Plus, with their expertise in hunting mosquitoes and other nuisance insects they are very helpful to us humans!
The presence of reproducing pairs of vulnerable and imperiled species means that Cedar Haven is locally significant when it comes to biodiversity and insect populations. And with hundreds of news articles coming out detailing humankind’s negative impacts on nature, I believe this is worth celebrating.
No matter the size or the shape, creation deserves our care. Even small creatures like damselflies and bumble bees should be cared for, and despite their size they have huge effects on their environment.
“We can all do something to help”
Given the worldwide decline in insect populations we are seeing², I believe it’s important that we all try and do our part to preserve these amazing arthropods. We can all do something to help, whether it’s not using pesticides or herbicides, or using online tools like iNaturalist or BumbleBeeWatch to catalogue local animal sightings.
At A Rocha we strive to better connect people with their “place”, and help them to get to know creation around them — no matter how creepy and crawly it may seem at first. God’s creation is wonderful and awe-inspiring, and I think that it could do us some good to spend time focusing on the smaller, more obscure aspects of our world. After all, a great way to get to know the Creator better is by looking at His creation.