September 14, 2021

Beneficial Beetles

Ground Beetles (family Carabidae) are ground dwelling, night active predators. Many species cannot fly, and so both adults and larva spend their entire lives in and on the soil. They eat slugs, ground dwelling pest insects and also weed seeds.

The very common Rain Beetle (Pterostichus melanarius) © theobroma85, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

Ground beetles can be small, or very large. They come in black, brown, and a range of iridescent purples and greens! You will often find them running along the ground, and hiding under mulch. They have large, forward facing jaws, sometimes modified for reaching into snail shells.

The Narrow-collared Snail-eating Beetle (Scaphinotus angusticollisa) © amanda_howe, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

They are often found in farms and gardens where soil is well cared for. Adults can live for 2-3 years, if they are not killed by tillage. They reproduce slowly, with only 1 generation of new ground beetles per year, so protecting those present in your farm or garden is key. Provide them with refuges of undisturbed soil, cool soil with mulch, and reduce tillage when possible.

The pupal stage of a ground beetle - easily killed by tillage!
© Bonnie Zand, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

More information on ground beetles can be found here:

And here is information on creating a protective habitat to support ground beetles in a farm setting (a beetle bank!):

Posted on September 14, 2021 23:12 by bzand bzand | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 28, 2021

Wonderful Wasps

Fall means that many of us are noticing wasps showing up around our farms and gardens. We see them joining our picnics, chewing on our overripe fruit, and menacing our beehives. Wasps are often hated, but, despite their picnic disturbing ways, they are very beneficial!
The ones we notice the most are the social wasps, the yellow jackets. While the adults enjoy a sweet treat (and are often seen in flowers), the young of all wasps are carnivores. A nest of a social wasp near your crops will feed hundreds of caterpillars to their larva!
We have multiple species, some nesting in the ground, such as the western yellowjacket.

© Bob McDougall, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)
Other species create aerial nests, like the bald-faced hornet.

© Bonnie Zand, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

But, there are many more wasps that we tend to overlook! They live solitary lifestyles, often hunting down prey items (caterpillars, leafhoppers, spiders, ect), paralyzing them, and then bringing them back to their nests alive as food for their larva. Because they are not defending communal nests, these wasps are not aggressive, and they are beautiful. The adults can often be found on flowers, where they feed on nectar.

© Jan Smith, some rights reserved (CC-BY)

© Bonnie Zand, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

Finally, we have the really tiny wasps. These are rarely seen, and are easily killed by pesticides. It takes a lot of observation to see the adults, but we can see the work they do! These wasps lay their eggs inside of a pest insect, and the wasp larva develops inside of and kills the pest. Where these benecicals have developed inside aphids, the crispy shells of the aphids remain behind.

© michalinahunter, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

There are so many more wasps that the project has documented, and so many still to be found - please keep adding your observations!

Posted on August 28, 2021 03:56 by bzand bzand | 1 comment | Leave a comment

August 13, 2021

Hover Flies: Pollinators, and Predators!

Hover flies (family Syrphidae) are very diverse, and very useful in agriculture. So far our project had made 33 observations, of 15 different species.
Many adult hover flies are striped like some bees and wasps, and they also visit flowers. You can recognize them because they have a hovering flight pattern (like their name). They also have only one pair of wings, while bees and wasps have two. If you get a close look, you can also see that they have large eyes and short stubby antenna. And, they don't sting!

© Bob McDougall, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

Hover flies are especially valued in agriculture because their larva feed on aphids. Looking nothing like the adult, the larva is a legless white / yellow / green maggot. It move about as fast as an aphid, and when it catches one, it sucks all the juice out and discards the empty aphid skin behind it. Yum!

© prairiegirlgonecoastal, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

© michalinahunter, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

You may also see hover fly eggs. They look like small, white grains of rice, laid on leaves near patches of aphids.

While they are hard to photograph because the move so fast, see if you can spot some in your gardens and fields this week!

Posted on August 13, 2021 22:33 by bzand bzand | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 27, 2021

Red Soldier Beetles

These beetles have been showing up in a number of farms around Vancouver Island over the last couple weeks. They are a beneficial insect! The adults eat pollen, nectar, and also aphids, and the larva eat soil dwelling pests such as slug and snails.
They can be recognized by their long red body. The hard outer wings are held close to the body, and have black tips at the end.
The adults will aggregate in large numbers to feed and mate on open flowers. So far, we have seen then in parsley, cilantro, and pearly everlasting.

© prairiegirlgonecoastal

Have you seen this beneficial? What plants are you finding it on? Please add your observations to our project!

Posted on July 27, 2021 20:32 by bzand bzand | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 06, 2021

Have you seen this beetle?

Our project is working! The Coreopsis beetle has been observed in farms on the Saanich Peninsula. Now, the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries wants to know more about where it is being seen. See more below from Emily Carmichael:

Coreopsis beetle (Calligrapha californica spp. coreopsivora)

(c) ecarmich, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC)

(c) jrozinsky, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC)

Also known as the “Tickseed beetle”, this leaf beetle has taken many flower growers on the Saanich Peninsula by surprise.

The adults and larvae feed on leaves of some plants in the family, Asteraceae. On Vancouver Island, feeding damage by adults has been reported on both coreopsis and on dahlias. The feeding damage can cause plant defoliation.

The beetle appears to be a periodic or occasional pest. Previous sightings of this beetle were recorded on southern Vancouver Island in 2004 and 2015.

We are hoping to document information about this pest as little is known about its lifecycle. Please send information to Please include the date and location where the beetle was first observed, what host plant it was feeding on, and when you stopped seeing it.

For more information:

Posted on July 06, 2021 18:07 by bzand bzand | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 08, 2021

Project Introduction Webinar!

This is a reminder that the VI Pests, Pollinators and Beneficials Citizen Science introductory webinar is happening on Thursday, June 10th, at 7 PM. I hope to see you all there!
I'm so excited about all the observations we have already collected, and I can't wait to see what we find over the rest of the summer! Thank you for your participation so far.

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Posted on June 08, 2021 16:29 by bzand bzand | 0 comments | Leave a comment