Pollinators and Pests in the Park

Hello! This is Beverly, a member of the second BIOBus crew for the summer. We successfully swapped crews in Vancouver and then we had a long drive up to Smithers, British Columbia to our first park, Burnt Cabin Bog Ecological Reserve.

Blog Post 16_July 8 2014_Photo1On the drive up I was admiring the wildflowers on the roadsides and I was happy to find the park full of wildflowers as well. Some of the flowers were familiar to me such as yellow water lily, oxeye daisy, prickly rose, meadow buttercup and red clover. Other flowers I was less familiar with, which included bunchberry, fireweed, white geranium, butterwort, scarlett paintbrush, slender hawkweed, red columbine and thimbleberry.

Prickly rose with two species of beetle and a fly visiting.
Prickly rose with two species of beetle and a fly visiting.

Insects are very important to flowering plants and many are beneficial to plants as pollinators. A wide range of insect orders pollinate various plants including Diptera (flies), Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), Hemiptera (true bugs), Hymenoptera (bees, wasps and ants) and Coleoptera  (beetles). These pollinators are required for the plants to reproduce successfully. While many plants are dependent on insects in this way, plants are also susceptible to attack by insects. Many insects feed on plants and can cause serious damage. At one of our sites, there were fireweed plants growing across the clearing and most had huge aphid colonies on them, feeding on the plants. Aphids are in the order Hemiptera and use their straw-like mouthparts  to pierce into plants and suck out fluids. Insect pests can cause serious economic damage in agriculture and in the logging industry. The mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) is one species found here in British Columbia that has caused a lot of problems for the logging industry by damaging large numbers of  trees used for lumber. Fortunately, we have not come across any mountain pine beetles yet. For plants, insects can be both beneficial and harmful but each needs the other to survive. This can easily be seen by taking a closer look at pollinators and pests on flowers, even in your own garden!

Fireweed plant with a colony of aphids.
Fireweed plant with a colony of aphids.

And I will leave you with one last note on the wildflowers of Northern British Columbia. On our day off we hiked through the mountains in Babine Mountains Provincial Park and ended up hiking through alpine meadows which offered a whole new set of wildflowers to discover, inlcuding arctic lupine, white and pink mountain heather, subalpine buttercup, mountain harebell and mountain forget-me-not. It was incredible seeing the flower diversity change as we hiked higher and higher up into the mountains.

I am looking forward to the next leg of our journey into the Yukon to see more wildflower and insect diversity!

–          Beverly