The lily leaf beetle, with its shiny scarlet back, “is a cute little beetle,” admits Barry Hicks, who established the Applied Entomology Lab at the College of the North Atlantic (CNA) in 2008. But it’s a ravenous bugger, too. If your garden is full of lilies, “they will eat them right down to the ground,” he says.
It’s just one of the invasive insects showing up in Newfoundland and Labrador that could mess with the island’s ecosystem, and that Hicks and some of his first-year biology students are studying.GS
Situated at the Carbonear campus on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula, the lab’s purpose is to conduct research to help maintain the native insects in the province, vulnerable to the introduction of invasive species. “Here in Newfoundland there are not very many entomologists,” says Hicks, explaining he set up the lab so biology students could help with practical research aimed at understanding and reducing insect-related problems.
The students do their work in summer. “My wife gets mad, because basically that’s when I am on annual leave,” laughs Hicks. “But that’s when all the bugs are out.”
Each year, one, two or three students help Hicks, which includes studying European fire ants and spruce budworm. After causing mass defoliations in the 1970s and 1980s in parts of Newfoundland, Labrador and New Brunswick, another spruce budworm outbreak could pose a serious threat to the lumber industry.
Read more in Maclean’s here.