Saturday, October 31, 2009

CanBugs, CANPOLIN, Can Bulbs Survive

For those of you who answered the above pictured question with ‘where are the pollinators?’, well, that is a timely question as honeybees seem to be on the ropes and native pollinators in decline.

Or are they? Well, the truth be told, we don’t really know because with few exceptions we have pretty much put all of our bees in one basket. However, the time may be coming when the other 99% of pollinators – e.g. the for-get-me-not frequenting flower fly below– receive their due attention.

Flower flies (aka hoverflies, Syrphidae) were one of the pollinator groups that were well represented in presentations last week at the Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of Canada and the Entomological Society of Manitoba in Winnipeg. Usually I would consider attending such a meeting additional work, but this time it was vacation – perhaps the reason I had an unusually good time for a bug meeting. Not that sitting on one’s butt from 8 am until 5 pm listening to bug talks, not even with the aid of fly papers, is all that easy, but the friends, fine food, and Forks all made for a pleasant time. ‘Winterpeg’ was anything but wintry, the simple monument at Louis Riel’s grave among the Dutch doomed elms in the Saint Boniface churchyard strangely moving, and the bug science less debased by climate change hyperbole than has become usual. However, it was the plethora of papers on pollinators that made the meeting for me.

Anyone who answered the question in the picture above with the Laphria on the left (a robberfly, Asilidae) must have missed the doubly unfortunate damselfly and mites.

But if I were to ask harder questions, such as ‘what species is the bumblebee?’ or ‘how is it doing?’, I’d have no idea how to answer them.

Such ignorance, however, may be short-lived, thanks to the newly initiated CANPOLIN (Canadian Pollination Initiative). At long last the government seems to be getting serious about protecting this critical agricultural and natural ecosystem function. Let’s hope CANPOLIN can develop the basic tools and information Canadians need to answer basic questions about and to understand, utilize and conserve their pollinator heritage.

I hope to enlist the Home Bug Garden in this effort, and do what I can, but I don’t suppose I can do much this year. Winter is upon us in Edmonton. The trees are mostly bare, the ground cold and soggy, the days short, and what sun there is too weak to generate vitamin D. What a perfect time to plant Spring bulbs! Ha, well my bloody Dutch bulb growers seem to think so – the missing bulbs arrived yesterday in a box soggy with melting snow a month after the optimal time to put them in the ground.

Two hours after I got home, the bulbs were all planted in the long ago prepared beds or in pots as Adrian suggested (see Comments in previous post). I suppose I can look at this as an experiment. Hybrid tulips should have enough stored reserves to bloom next Spring, but probably won’t have enough of a root system to generate healthy new bulbs. As for the species tulips, grape hyacinth, and spring glories that made up most of the shipment, I don’t know, but I put in enough of these from local shops at the end of September to make a fair comparison. I'm just glad the ground thawed while I was in Winnipeg and I didn't have to break out the pickaxe.


  1. Keep up the fascinating photos and interesting posts! I look forward to reading through your previous and future postings. My knowledge of insects is very small, and I look forward to learning more.

  2. The robber fly rocks, but the mites on the abdomen of its prey are even cooler.

  3. Great photographs again by Heather - how did she take the springtail photograph? It seems to be a bit beyond the magnification that her system was capable of.

    I'll link to this post from my blog - the Canpolin initiative sounds interesting.

    And good luck with the bulbs!

  4. ...and I am beginning to wonder if it may have been better to plant those bulbs out now that November is looking so mild...