UNIBUG returns with ‘Bugs with Benefits’

Image via Douglas Collage
Image via Douglas Collage

Douglas community program hosts fourth annual open forum

By Angela Espinoza, News Editor

Douglas’ User Network for Inset Biology in the Urban Garden (UNIBUG) will be hosting their fourth forum on April 11.

This semester’s forum, titled “Bugs with Benefits,” is dedicated to showing how presumed pests in the garden can actually help the average gardener.

Executive director of the Institute of Urban Ecology Rob McGregor provided some background on the history of UNIBUG.

“The UNIBUG project grew out of research conducted by the Institute of Urban Ecology at Colony Farm Community Garden a number of years ago,” said McGregor. “There, we were testing whether certain flowering plants could attract predatory and parasitoid insects into food gardens. The predators and parasitoids are the natural enemies of plant-feeding pest insects and feed on them, subsequently reducing pest damage. The plants provide these beneficial insects with important food sources like nectar and pollen.

“In the UNIBUG project, we are working with citizen scientists in the community to provide habitat for a variety of beneficial insects involved in natural pest control and pollination. That involves planting insect-attracting plants and building and hanging native bee nesting habitat—for example, for mason bees—to increase the local presence of pollinators.”

McGregor explained that one of the goals of this year’s UNIBUG event was to highlight contributions made by UNIBUG’s many community volunteers that have allowed the project to collect its research thus far.

“These citizen scientists make an enormous contribution to UNIBUG and now number over 400 people. We will provide an update of this year’s UNIBUG data and thank and celebrate our volunteers. We are also presenting a lecture by Sean Smukler of the Faculty of Land & Food Systems at UBC.”

McGregor described Smukler, who is the director of the sustainable agriculture landscapes lab at UBC, as someone whose work “relates to how biological diversity and the ecosystem services provided by natural systems contribute to the sustainability of agricultural systems.

“He will speak about the impacts of agriculture on biodiversity and the strategies that agricultural producers are using to reverse negative trends that have occurred in the past.”

For those wishing to get involved with UNIBUG through Douglas, McGregor explained that volunteering allows those interested to be directly involved with the project and its findings, and in “learning about beneficial insects and increasing their contribution to pest management and pollination.

“For anyone interested in urban agriculture and the sustainability of food production, this event will be a great introduction.” McGregor added that along with getting an insight on UNIBUG, other benefits to attending the forum include, “educational presentations, volunteer appreciation, an insect scavenger hunt, and a reception.”

The forum is free and open to all and will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in room 2201 on the New Westminster campus.