An entomologist partnered with 19 rural metchosin homeowners to learn more about the insect volume in Greater Victoria and see if the area’s trends are in line with emerging trends around the world.
Neville Winchester, professor and conservation biologist at the University of Victoria, receives approximately half a million flying insects collected from metchosin properties each year. His study began in 2018 and will take about 10 years before he can identify the trends of what is happening with insect biomass here.
“It’s really a biodiversity-driven project,” said Winchester. “Biodiversity is important to maintain the functioning of the ecosystem and to provide ecosystem services.”
The project was inspired by a 2017 study that found that insect biomass in 63 German nature reserves had decreased by 75 percent over a period of 27 years.
READ: Scientists lament the deaths of insects in the world by 1,000 cuts
“We decided, ‘Hey, we should start our own project and see if this happens here in BC,'” Winchester said.
Metchosin was chosen because of its “intact” natural areas and the interest of the residents. Passive air intercept traps are set up to catch and collect flying insects. The citizen scientists then deliver the collections to Winchester every two weeks from May to October. The researcher divides the insects into about seven different groups and weighs the collections.
Winchester lays a foundation that is key to spotting trends that will emerge over time. “Is it going back, is it a little stable, or is it increasing?” he said.
Local insect populations are critical to the food we eat, the researcher said. “If insects broke out that were pollinators, who would pollinate food crops? If insects fail, that’s not a good thing. So what are we doing to cause this, or are there things we can do to reverse this? “
READ: Shortage of Bees, Pollination Limits Crop Yields in US, BC, Study Results
The study takes into account variables such as weather, altitude and plant types in the area. A combination of factors are likely to affect insect population development, according to Winchester.
The professor meets regularly with each homeowner involved to discuss data he receives from his property. Winchester said the Metchosin residents’ enthusiasm for the project means it is likely to continue for many years to come.
“They are interested in the results and they are interested in what is happening on their property and what is happening in the district in general,” he said.
Winchester has spent much of his career in the canopies of massive ancient forests around Vancouver Island and the world – researching insect species and their ecological impact. The creatures may be small, but the role they play isn’t.
“I think (people) take care of it, and they should definitely take care of it.”
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Metchosin University of Victoria
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