Beetle traps identify 100s of species new to P.E.I.

A federal government project has identified close to 300 species of beetle not identified on Prince Edward Island before, and maybe a couple that are entirely new to science.

Natural Resources Canada research scientist Jon Sweeney had a suspicion he would see some new things when he first set up his traps in 2018. There were just 899 beetle species identified on the Island, while there were close to 2,700 in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

"We found — so far, we're still counting — over 290 new records of beetle species on the Island that weren't known before, so hadn't previously been recorded," said Sweeney.

"We got a lot of beetles there, including three new records for North America, so previously not been found in North America."

Submitted by Jon Sweeney

One of those three is a European native. The other two are not yet identified. They could be from Asia, but it is also possible they are entirely new to science.

'A very complex ecosystem'

Sweeney said it is important to learn more about beetles on the Island. The insects are performing important functions: decomposing things, becoming food for other animals, eating other insects and keeping them under control.

"It's a very complex ecosystem out there. The roles of these individual species, most of them we have no clue what they're doing," he said.

"The more we know about it the better we can monitor changes over time that might be happening over habitat loss, climate change and other changes that are happening, thanks to us."

Ash-borer-free zone

It is also important to keep an eye on problematic pests, such as the emerald ash borer.

There is still no sign that the ash borer has established on the Island, but it has devastated forests on the mainland, killing millions and millions of ash trees, he said. All ash trees in North America are susceptible to the invasive species from Asia.

"It is in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia now and will very likely be coming your way," said Sweeney.

Submitted by Jon Sweeney

"It's probably the worst forest invasive species we have, in terms of killing trees."

The ash borer is easily transported on firewood, he said, so it is important that people not bring wood from the mainland to P.E.I.

Sweeney's team set traps in three locations in 2018 and 2019, in Auburn, Brookvale and Valleyfield. His research will continue in 2020, when he is looking to set traps in Thompson's Woodlot.

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