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Duchess of Dirt: Plenty of insects to celebrate
June 23-29 is National Insect Week in the United Kingdom. What a marvellous way to promote and educate about these industrious garden residents.
Granted not all insects are welcome in a garden but even the bad guys have a life destiny. Woe be the cabbage or kale that presents a holey visage on your dinner plate typically caused by the healthy appetite of the larvae of the cabbage white butterfly. Not much short of enveloping your brassicas in spun-cotton row cover saves said brassicas from their holey fate.
The life purpose of the cabbage white butterfly? I will have to get back to you on that one. It is definitely not a native species to Canada, having been introduced unwittingly to Quebec in 1860.
Aside from this pest, there are lots of insects we should be celebrating in the garden during National Insect Week...or outside of it.
Always at the top of the list are our pollinators — bees and butterflies. Upwards of eighty per cent of all plants in the world are pollinated by insects...and a few animals. There is a lot of chatter via media about the state our world would be in if we were to lose even a third of the pollinators. The loss of honeybees alone to our food crops is very scary.
Note: It was National Pollinator Week from June 16 to 22, as decreed by the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC).
While there is a lot said about the pollinators, they are just a portion of the insects in a garden.
Did you know we have fireflies in B.C.? The one we have seen in our garden is commonly called black lampyrid. Scientifically, this guy is known as Ellychnia hatchi...one of about twelve species in North America.
Black lampyrids are diurnal, or day-active fireflies whereas the more widely known bioluminescent firefly species are nocturnal when their bright little bottoms wondrously illuminate the night sky.
I could not find too much information on these guys but I suspect they are very much a good bug in the garden. Adults typically over-winter in the grooves of tree bark. Mating takes place in April and eggs are then laid in rotting wood. One reference book states adults probably do not eat anything...which I question. Do not know any adult beetle-type insects who do not have an appetite for something.
However, the larvae of this species is said to feed on invertebrates...earthworms, caterpillars, spiders, millipedes to name a few. Sure hope the black lampyrids larvae are feasting on the forest tent caterpillars we have again this year!
On to another insect species...we found a cicada in our garden this year for the first time. I believe it is Okanagana occidentalis which is found in B.C., west to Saskatchewan and south into California.
Had no idea these insects pre-dated the glacier age. Apparently one specimen was uncovered on a snow-covered plateau at about 1800 metre elevation on Vancouver Island. Unfortunately, there was no mention in this reference about where, when or who made the discovery but one has to wonder if it was at or near our Comox Glacier.
Am still reading up on this particular insect, compiling more notes. Hope to soon have further information about Okanagana occidentalis on my website, so stay tuned.
It has been a good spring for insects. In our garden, at least. Sadly, the numbers of honeybees seem to be down. Lots of bumblebees though...and different species. Who knew there are 32 species of bumblebees in B.C. alone?!
Am back to pollinators again, aren't I? Let's hear it for all of the insects in our garden and the good work they do for us! Protect a bug today!
Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at www.duchessofdirt.ca and her column appears every second Thursday in the Record.