December 14, 2022

Favorite Observations and Winter Reading

Thank you everyone who has participated in our project this year! It was wonderful to see all the different insects that inhabit our farms and gardens. And now that everything is asleep, it is a great time to think back on the insects we encountered last year (good and bad!).

Did you know that VIPPB publishes a biweekly newsletter featuring a pest and a beneficial insect during the growing season? Winter is a good time to look back and review them. You can find all the past newsletters here:, and can learn more about VIPPB at this link:

If you are interested in improving VIPPB in future years, please take this short survey:

Here are some of the many highlights from the year!

Always great to see photos of the threatened Western Bumble Bee.

Western Bumble Bee (Bombus occidentalis) © michalinahunter, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

Not so happy to be seeing the invasive Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, but it is important to track!

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halyomorpha halys) © theobroma85, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

The Cinnabar moth is an example of an intentionally introduced biological control of the weed ragwort.

Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae) © tatloroadfarm, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

There are so many beautiful bees spotted by our members!

Texas Striped Sweat Bee (Agapostemon texanus)© Burl Jantzen, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

This snakefly is a predator of other small insects such as aphids!

Snakeflies (Order Raphidioptera) © katiec2013, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

This pink slug-like caterpillar will grow up to be a beautiful butterfly.

Gossamer-winged Butterflies (Family Lycaenidae) © prairiegirlgonecoastal, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

There are some tiny, tiny insects spotted by our keen-eyed observers, like this minute weevil.

Minute Seed Weevil (Ceutorhynchus erysimi) © jrozinsky, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

What were your favorite observations from this past year?

Posted on December 14, 2022 07:58 PM by bzand bzand | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 04, 2022

Hover Flies

Hover flies a a dual purpose insect in agriculture. The adults are pollinators, while the larva of some
species eat aphids. Hover flies are a super diverse group, mimicking many different bees and wasps. Lets
check out some of the diversity our project has found!

Narcissus Bulb Fly (Merodon equestris)

© Burl Jantzen, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

European Drone Fly (Eristalis arbustorum)

© theobroma85, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

Black-margined Flower Fly (Syrphus opinator)

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

White-bowed Smoothwing (Scaeva affinis)

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

Western Calligrapher (Toxomerus occidentalis)

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

Western Hornet Fly (Spilomyia citima)

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

The larva look completely different - more like slugs than like flies, and are often found in the midst of
aphid colonies. Don't mistake them for caterpillars! As you can see, hover fly larva have no legs, while
caterpillars have multiple pairs of legs.

There is a hover fly egg at the bottom of this leaf and a larva at the top.

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

Two hover fly larva, chowing down on cabbage aphids

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

There are many different colour patterns, just like the adults!

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

If you would like to learn more about hover flies, check out the beneficial focus section in this edition of
the VIPPB newsletter:

Posted on September 04, 2022 08:58 PM by bzand bzand | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 08, 2022

Aphid eating

It has been a summer of aphids, with lots of lush growth lasting well into the season. Aphids love soft, rapidly growing tissue, and their populations can explode when they are given what they want! Aphids give birth to live young, can reach maturity in less than a week, and can reproduce without mating, so they can seem unstoppable.
But! Aphids are the favored food of many, many beneficial insects. Have you noticed any of these feasting? Sit down next to an aphid colony for a few minutes and see who you can all find.

© theobroma85, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)
Lady beetles making more lady beetles - see the eggs in the lower right?

© prairiegirlgonecoastal, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)
Look at the jaws on this lacewing larva - just right for grabbing aphids.

© Bonnie Zand, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)
Here is a tunnel in a mason bee house stocked with aphids. It is being used by an aphid hunting wasp as a larder for her babies.

© Bonnie Zand, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)
And here is the tiny mother wasp, busy hunting for aphids.

© Bonnie Zand, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)
This baby can find its own aphids - its a larval hover fly.

There are lots more aphid eaters out there - what can you find? Share it with us!

Posted on August 08, 2022 10:25 PM by bzand bzand | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 17, 2022

Apple Inspections

Looking closely at one plant can reveal so many different things. Lets have a look at what we are currently seeing in apple trees - have you seen any of these pests and beneficials?

Apple leaf curling midge - a minor pest in apples. © Bonnie Zand, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC).

Don't confuse the insect pest hiding in the curled leaves above with this apple fungal disease

Apple Powdery Mildew. © Bonnie Zand, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC).

Where there is powdery mildew, look for this fungus eating lady beetle!

Twenty spot lady beetle. © Bonnie Zand, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

You might also be seeing some of these aphids:

Green apple aphids. © Bonnie Zand, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC).

And where there are aphids, there are aphid predators - like this stalked lacewing egg.

Green lacewing egg. © Bonnie Zand, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC).

These ladybeetle larva are starting to show up to eat the aphids as well.

Lady beetle larva. © Bonnie Zand, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC).

Finally, we have seen some of these tiny apple sawfly larva burrowing into newly forming apples.

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

Have you seen any of these critters? What else have you been finding?

Posted on June 17, 2022 09:09 PM by bzand bzand | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 20, 2022

Pollination Weather

Today is world bee day, and in celebration the sun has come out! Bees are essential to pollination in many of our Vancouver Island crops, and we are lucky to have a diversity of different bee types present and contributing to our agriculture!

Bumble bee in blueberry. © Bonnie Zand, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC).

Long-tongued bees like bumble bees are amazing pollinators of blueberries, and, they are much better at flying in cool weather than honey bees are. They also are able to buzz pollinate, which gives them an advantage in pollinating crops such as tomatoes.

Western bumble bee in tomato. © theobroma85, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC).

With the sun, honey bees will be out flying, and they prefer open flowers with accessible pollen and nectar - like apples!

Honey bee in apple. © Bonnie Zand, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

Strawberry flowers are attractive to many bees , including some tiny sweat bees.

Small sweat bee in strawberry. © Bob McDougall, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC).

Overwintered brassicas left to bloom provide great resources for many bees before and after other crops bloom.

Mason and mining bees on overwintered kale. © Bonnie Zand, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC).

Having something in bloom throughout the growing season (including weeds!) supports bees by providing food resources for their entire lifecycle, meaning bee populations grow and crop pollination improves.

Sweat bee on dandelion. © Bonnie Zand, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

What are bees pollinating on your farm or garden? What are you growing, or leaving to bloom to support bee populations? Add you sightings to our iNaturalist project, and check out this brochure with suggestions for making your farm more pollinator friendly:

Posted on May 20, 2022 07:10 PM by bzand bzand | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 26, 2022

Webinar coming up

Did you know that as well as this iNaturalist project, VIPPB also does Vancouver Island wide monitoring on vegetable and berry farms? We are collecting all sorts of interesting data on how agricultural pests change over the growing season. If you like graphs and want to find out what we learned, register for the webinar on April 28th, 7:00 pm. Registration link here:

And, if you want to get our biweekly newsletter, talking about the pests, pollinators and beneficials we are finding during the growing season, you can sign up for that here:

Hope to see you at the webinar!

Posted on April 26, 2022 04:38 AM by bzand bzand | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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 11:12 PM 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 AM 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 10:33 PM 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 08:32 PM by bzand bzand | 0 comments | Leave a comment