Collecting in Anne of Green Gable’s Backyard

This week we find ourselves exploring Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island.  Though PEI may lack the geographic space present in other provinces, it has treated us to some of the most beautiful views and charismatic culture thus far on our journey.  The infamous red soil was ubiquitous as we toured the island; the mud contrasted with green cropped plots inland, rust coloured sand lined the shores, and red tinged sedimentary rocks were dominant everywhere.  PEI National Park further spoiled us; we were given the opportunity to sleep in one of the Park’s staff houses for the duration of our stay, giving us far more space than we were accustomed to.

A spittle bug within its protective shelter at Dalvay Pond in PEI National Park.
A spittle bug within its protective shelter at Dalvay Pond in PEI National Park.

We started the today by walking to Dalvay Pond to pick up two bottle traps we had set the previous night.  It is a small body of water lined with reeds, coniferous trees, and low lying knobby shrubs.  Waterlogged sticks rose from the surface at opposite edges of the pond; one of these dams was home to a beaver that we saw paddling slowly away, skeptical of us as we walked near.  Insects were abundant in our traps, including damselfly nymphs, boatmen and many diving beetles.  We were surprised to find that large bullfrog tadpoles and small fish were also attracted to the glow of the nocturnal trap.  After removing the unintended vertebrates from the trap we strode through the long grasses surrounding the pond.  I noticed saliva-like clumps of bubbles adhered to some blades of grass.  These bubble shelters are the protective defenses of Spittle Bugs, Hemipterans that position themselves upside down, with their beak inserted into the vegetation, consuming the sugars of the leaf.  They produce bubbles from their posterior end and allow them to harden with chemicals.  By moving their legs they become submerged in the sticky bubbles, providing a barrier between them and the outside world.

Martin Zlatkin, Katelyn Lutes, and Graham Ansell with their collecting gear at the internationally known Anne of Green Gables house in PEI National Park.
Martin Zlatkin, Katelyn Lutes, and Graham Ansell with their collecting gear at the internationally known Anne of Green Gables house in PEI National Park.

The other half of the day was spent hand collecting at the Haunted Wood.  This location is surrounded by Canadian heritage; adjacent to this wood stands the fabled house of Anne of Green Gables.  This house was created and used in recreations of L.M. Montgomery’s classic tales of this internationally famous red headed orphan girl.  Insects surrounding the house told a story of a more recent time, as newly emerged damselflies hovered midair, isopods scurried under decaying bark and bumble bees noisily searched for pollen.  I caught a large Ichneumonid wasp; jet black and showing impressive extension with a long ovipositor.  The ovipositor resembles a long stinger, but is actually used to insert and hide their eggs within a substrate, hiding their young from potential predators.

-Katelyn

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