Magazine article Alternatives Journal

Immigrant Insects

Magazine article Alternatives Journal

Immigrant Insects

Article excerpt

IN THE DITCH next to a canola field in Switzerland, I'm squatting over a plastic tray of picked-over seed pods. My colleague Mike arrives with a sweep net brimming with angry bugs. At my nod, he empties it into the tray.


Insect life explodes in our faces. Indignant bees escape in a flurry. Grasshoppers leap onto our shoulders and into our hair before taking off. We gently sort through the thrashing mass of ladybirds, caterpillars, aphids and other arthropods left behind. Using aspirators, Mike and I suck our target bugs into collection vials to take to the lab.

We are seeking females of two parasitoid wasp species: Mesopolohus morys and Trichomalus perfectus. Unlike their prey, these liny bronze and emerald bee-like creatures are uniquely European citizens.

The cabbage seedpod weevil (Ceulorhynchus obstrctus) is native to Europe, but invasive to North America, where it menaces canola crops. As the weevil's main parasitoids, "Mesos" or "Trichs" may meet stringent requirements for immigration into Canada.

Bringing a predator from a pest's homeland to battle it in its newly invaded habitat (this weevil appeared in Albertan canola in 1995) is called classical biological control. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada believes that it can be a cost-effective and environmentally friendly strategy for fighting pests.

Importing "beneficial" bugs is an idea that makes many environmentalists squirm, since they know that well-intentioned introductions can turn catastrophic. …

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