Dozens of new insect species discovered at Fundy National Park

·4 min read
The four-toothed mason wasp had not been officially identified in New Brunswick, nor in Atlantic Canada, said Neil Vinson, resource management officer for Fundy National Park. (Denis Doucet/Parks Canada - image credit)
The four-toothed mason wasp had not been officially identified in New Brunswick, nor in Atlantic Canada, said Neil Vinson, resource management officer for Fundy National Park. (Denis Doucet/Parks Canada - image credit)

The recently renamed murder hornet may want to have a discussion about branding with some of the newly discovered species in Fundy National Park — like the shadowy psyllid-killer, the four-toothed mason wasp or the jagged ambush bug.

Those are just some of the 50 insect species that were identified for the first time in the park in 2021, according to park officials.

But despite their often-creepy-sounding names, none of the new species is of concern to local scientists.

In fact, entomologist and University of New Brunswick biology professor Stephen Heard said the discovery of so many new-to-the-park insects is good news.

"The vast majority of those new insects are good. They're insects that are part of the natural environment."

And, he said, many of them have probably been around for a long time without being officially noticed by scientists.

Denis Doucet/Parks Canada
Denis Doucet/Parks Canada

"We know way too little about insects," said Heard, who was not involved in the Fundy project.

"And so those may be new species that have been attracted because of [the park's] work on the pollinator garden. They may have been species that have always been there we didn't know about."

Heard said it's not unusual for new insect species to move through New Brunswick, and the vast majority of them are not problematic.

"Most of these species that we're talking about here are natural insects that just hadn't been recorded in Fundy before," he said. "We didn't know they were there, and they've popped up and that's great."

Going through Fundy's list of new species, Heard said, there were several that were unknown to him, including every single one of the fly species.

The list also includes bees, beetles, moths, wasps and butterflies. More than half of all the new species were identified in the park's pollinator garden, a 400-square-metre area that includes about 80 native plant species.

Pollinators can also include birds, but Neil Vinson, resource management officer for Fundy National Park, said no bird species were added to the list in 2021.

Submitted by Julie Ouellette
Submitted by Julie Ouellette

While none of the species is considered invasive, if some of the newly identified insects are indeed new to the park, their arrival may change things for some other species.

Cuckoo bees, for example, lay their eggs with the eggs of other species. When hatched, the larvae feed upon the host's eggs.

Other species in the park are predatory, like beewolves, which are also known as bee-killer wasps because they feed on honey bees.

Heard said it's likely that if a species is indeed new to Fundy — or to New Brunswick — there's probably a similar species already here. Several of the newly identified bee species, for example, are quite similar to each other and to many other commonly found ones.

"There are probably 25,000 species of insects in New Brunswick," Heard said. "That's a complete guess. Nobody knows the answer."

That, he said, is where "citizen science" comes in. With so many eyes — both human eyes and iPhones — it's inevitable that new-to-the-area species will be identified and recorded with the help of online apps.

Gary Moore/CBC
Gary Moore/CBC

Heard said that's very helpful when it comes to identifying new invasive species that could threaten "our ecosystems or our livelihoods."

He said it can also help scientists "understand how our natural systems will change as our climate changes."

"We can't know how it's changed 20 years from now unless we know what it looks like now. And so there's a baseline-data aspect to this."

Vinson agreed.

"I think it's important to keep track of it, because how will we know what we lose if we don't know what's there to begin with?"

Submitted by Julie Ouellette
Submitted by Julie Ouellette

He also thinks we're just "scratching the surface in terms of understanding what there is out there."

Vinson hopes the pollinator garden will help inspire New Brunswickers to add native species to their garden.

"Without native plants, we don't have bugs. Without bugs, we don't have birds. And it just goes up the line from there. …We're part of that food chain as well. And without them, we suffer as well."

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