Tag Archives: BIO

Meet Helix! (Mantis religiosa)

Meet Helix (the European Mantis)!

A few days ago, one of our collections technicians, Valerie, spotted a European Mantis (Mantis religiosa) while working in the Arboretum at the University of Guelph. Valerie is a fantastic photographer and has graciously shared some of her pictures of Helix with us.

As you can tell by his species name, Helix is native to Europe, Africa and Asia and was introduced to North America in 1899. The European Mantis is now found across Canada as well as throughout northern parts of the United States.


The European Mantis can live in a variety of habitats, but seems to prefer green growth and sunny areas by shrubbery or herbaceous plants.


Helix will prey on several different kinds of insects including moths, caterpillars, butterflies and bees. Here Helix is pictured munching on a cricket.


The European species comes in a wide variety of colours ranging from dark brown to bright green. Like all Mantids, the female is larger than the male, especially at the abdomen. Due to their size, females are unlikely to fly and will scare off predators by flaring their wings and raising their arms. After mating, females have been known to consume the male they reproduce with.

Catching Crane Flies at BIO!

Hello All,

Vanessa here! Today Emily and I went out to change the bottle on the Malaise trap that we have set up in front of the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO). We have had this trap out all summer and mainly use it for educational purposes, such as teaching school groups about insect trapping methods. The last time we changed the bottle was approximately two weeks ago and we were thrilled to see that the bottle was quite full!

Emily and I were quite curious about what we caught, so we decided to take a sneak peek. Peering into the bottle, we noticed an abundance of a large mosquito-like insect, commonly called a crane fly.


Crane flies come from the family Tipulidae and there are over 4,000 species found worldwide. Although they look like large mosquitoes, crane flies will not bite animals or humans. Crane flies will feed on nectar, or they will not eat at all; most adult crane flies will only mate then die. Because many species of crane flies are quite large and very abundant, they are easily preyed upon by birds, mammals, fishes, and other vertebrates, as well as by spiders and predacious insects.

C.C. Derek Parker Flickr Creative Commons
C.C. Derek Parker
Flickr Creative Commons

We are excited to hear about what you caught in your traps!

Pack, Stack and Go! Preparing for the School Malaise Trap Program.

This is truly one of the most exciting and busy times of year for staff from all departments at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario! Preparing for the School Malaise Trap Program requires extensive planning, coordination, organization, and a LOT of tape (with a little luck thrown in along the way).

And here we are! The program packages have been sent out, and shortly, students from 61 schools across Canada will be monitoring a Malaise Trap in their schoolyard for a 2 week period from September 22nd – October 3rd, 2014, in order to assess their local insect biodiversity.

When we mentioned a lot of tape, we meant it! Check out the picture below of our School Malaise Trap Program packages right before they were about to be shipped – 61 packages in total!

2014-09-11 10.32.38

So let us tell you a little bit about how we got to this stage and what can be found in each of these boxes. Each package is 30″ x 14″ x 7″ and weighs approximately 14 lbs. Individual packages will contain a Malaise Trap, which is about the size of a small tent (6 feet tall and 6 feet long), a program information folder for instructors, and a “research in progress” sign which is to be placed on the Malaise Trap once it is assembled. We also include swag, such as buttons and bookmarks, for all of the students involved in the program. Currently, we have 2,526 students enrolled in the Fall 2014 version of the program from 94 classrooms. Literally, this means that staff at BIO must count out the appropriate number of bookmarks, buttons, pens etc… for each student in each of the participating classes! As you can imagine, this process can be quite time consuming so we do our best to start preparing for each program as soon as possible!

In the Beginning

As we look forward to the Fall 2014 School Malaise Trap Program, we find ourselves reflecting upon how it all began. The SMTP website was in its infancy, and certainly didn’t include any sort of blog, but our friends at the BIObus were excited to share some thoughts about the birth of this program.

Here’s the first blog post related to the School Malaise Trap Program, copied from the BIObus site:

60 schools, 2000 SMTP-logostudents,
2 weeks, 12000 DNA barcodes.

Starting tomorrow — Feb. 26, 2013 — the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO) will team up with grade 6 and grade 12 students from 60 schools to explore the insect diversity in their schoolyards through DNA barcoding, a genetic technique for identifying organisms. Using a Malaise trap — a small tent-like apparatus for collecting insects — each school will collect hundreds of insect specimens.

Each school will be visited by the BIObus, BIO’s mobile field laboratory, to introduce students to the life of a biologist and DNA barcoding. A comprehensive lesson plan accompanies the project and addresses specific expectations in the grades 6 and 12 curricula.

Once each class has deployed their Malaise trap for two weeks in April 2013, the samples will be analyzed at BIO and each class will receive a report providing a summary of the insects collected at each school. It will highlight new discoveries, and make comparisons between schools and nearby National Parks.

Stay tuned for many more updates over the next several weeks.  Check here on the BIObus blog, but also:

The School Malaise Trap website
The BIObus Facebook page
The BIObus twitter feed: @BIObus_Canada
The DNA Barcoding blog