People aren’t usually fans of bugs—not in their houses, not in their rooms and certainly not in their beds. So it stands to reason they don’t want them scurrying under their feet in their gardens, either.
The User Network for Insects in the Urban Garden, or UNIBUG, is trying to convince you otherwise. This citizen-science research project, which has been around since 2010, is based at Douglas College’s Institute for Urban Ecology (IUE) in New Westminster, B.C. It invites community volunteers to get involved in research on beneficial insects—the ones that do helpful things, rather than just freaking you out.
The last UNIBUG research project, which ran from 2011 to 2015, involved “biological control”: defending gardens using beetles and parasitic wasps that eat pests, instead of just hosing them down with pesticides. Veronica Wahl, IUE coordinator, thinks the volunteers loved the idea because “they’re gardeners, they’re really excited about not having to use chemical pesticides in the garden.”
The researchers investigated which plants are attractive to the little critters. It turns out that both white yarrow and sweet alyssum are held in high regard by ground beetles and flying parasitic wasps; ground beetles, which love feasting on garden pests like slugs, grubs and aphids, took a particular fancy to sweet alyssum, too, which makes for a nice beetle home. Or, as Robert McGregor, executive director of the Institute of Urban Ecology, puts it, “Sweet alyssum is sort of the Starbucks of the insect world.”
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