Tag Archives: collecting

Fall 2014 SMTP Interesting Finds: True bugs (Order: Hemiptera)

True bugs (Order: Hemiptera)

True bugs are an insect order scientifically known as Hemiptera with about 80,000 species. You might know representatives such as cicadas, aphids, planthoppers, leafhoppers, and, most prominently, stink bugs and bed bugs. In the Fall 2014 School Malaise Trap Program, the leafhoppers (family Cicadellidae) were the most diverse group, with 158 species collected. Aphids (family Aphididae) were in second place with 119 species, which included a number of interesting species.

Ladybug2Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects with sucking mouthparts called stylets that allow them to pierce plant tissue and suck out the sap. Depending on the plant species and extent of the attack, aphid feeding can lead to yellowing, curled leaves, stunted growth, and even death. The soybean aphid (Aphis glycines) was one of the most widely collected species of aphid, being found in traps at 21 different schools, primarily in Ontario. The soybean aphid is native to Asia but it has become a serious pest of soybean in North America since 2000. Interestingly, the Halloween lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis), which can help to control the soybean aphid and is also an introduced species, was collected at 18 schools in this Fall program.

With little natural protection from predators, aphids employ various mechanisms to avoid predation. Species collected in the Fall program exhibit a few of these mechanisms, including two Tetraneura species that can cause plants to form galls, abnormal swellings of plant tissue, wherein the aphids can survive. Multiple species of woolly aphid (subfamily Eriosomatinae), which excrete a waxy, woolly-looking covering that provides protection from predators, were also collected.

Norway maple aphid (Periphyllus lyropictus)
Norway maple aphid (Periphyllus lyropictus)

Aphids are not only pests of agricultural crops, they can also damage trees. Collected in the Fall  program, the Poplar leaf aphid (Chaitophorus populicola) feeds on poplars and cottonwood while the Norway maple aphid (Periphyllus lyropictus), as the name suggests, feeds on Norway maples. Another interesting find were three species of giant conifer aphids (Cinara spp.), some of which are known to attack Christmas trees and, because they can survive freezing temperatures, they can remain on the trees on route to consumers, becoming a nuisance during the holidays.

2014 Fall SMTP Interesting Finds: Spiders and their relatives (Class: Arachnida)

Spiders and their relatives (Class: Arachnida)

While Malaise traps are most useful for capturing flying species, 69 species collected in the Fall School Malaise Trap Program were spiders which certainly don’t fly! These 69 spider species belonged to 57 different genera of 21 families – a very diverse group! Westside Secondary School in Orangeville, Ontario collected the greatest number of spider species with 14.

Cellar Spider Sp.

One very interesting find of the Fall program was the spider species Pholcus manueli which was collected at Glendale Secondary School in Hamilton, Ontario and represents the first record of this species from Canada! Pholcus manueli is a cellar spider, belonging to the family Pholcidae. Cellar spiders are often confused with harvestmen (order Opiliones) and share the common name of daddy longlegs. Cellar spiders and harvestmen are rumoured to be some of the most venomous animals in the world but they are, in fact, harmless to humans. Cellar spiders typically live indoors where they build webs and hang upside down, waiting for their insect prey.

Cellar spider (Pholcus manueli)
Cellar spider (Pholcus manueli)

In previous years, occurrences of Pholcus manueli were restricted to Asia and to the southern regions of the United States. However, within the past five years, the range of this species has expanded to the midwestern United States, particularly Ohio, where it has taken the place of another invasive species, Pholcus phalangioides, and become very abundant in barns, sheds, and basements. The collection of this species in Hamilton with the School Malaise Trap Program suggests that it is continuing to spread northward, potentially due to climate change. The quick spread of Pholcus manueli may seem surprising particularly when you consider that this species is not known to disperse through ballooning, where a spider produces a ‘parachute’ out of silk threads that can carry it in the wind for long distances. However, this species may be able to disperse long distances through phoresy, where one animal attaches to another, perhaps a mammal or bird, for transport. Can you think of other ways that this spider species could have arrived in Canada?

Check out our Fall 2014 Detailed Program Report here!

“Why We Kill Bugs – The Case For Collecting Insects” – Greg R. Pohl

An array of pinned specimens ready to be sampled for DNA barcoding
An array of pinned specimens ready to be sampled for DNA barcoding

One of the main questions that we receive from educators who are participating in the School Malaise Trap Program is “how do I discuss the ethics of insect collection and study with my students?” This is an excellent question which we are hoping to address during this blog post.


Upon researching this topic, we came across an excellent resource titled “Why We Kill Bugs – The Case For Collecting Insects” by Greg R. Pohl. In his work, Pohl outlines several reasons as to why insect populations are resilient to collecting. Furthermore, he discusses the necessity of collecting insects for a range of purposes including taxonomy and diagnostics. He also takes the time to discuss insect conservation, the difference between insects and other animals, and the extensive need for both “amateur” and “professional” insect collectors.

His work speaks to the many ethical questions surrounding the collection and study of insects during the School Malaise Trap Program. We hope that this paper will assist you while facilitating this important discussion with your students!

Why We Kill Bugs – The Case For Collecting Insects (PDF)



How It Works

The grade five students at Evergreen Elementary School of Drayton Valley, Alberta set up a Malaise trap in Mrs. Manicom’s backyard. I hope there will be at least 1 full mark of insects that flew into the ethanol by the end of the week. Ethanol is a type of alcohol that kills every insect that flies into it. After a week we take the bottle off and put a new one on. After two weeks we ship the bottles to the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (www.biodiversity.ca) in Guelph, Ontario. They will DNA barcode all of the insects that we caught. In November they will give us a report on what we caught. It would be cool if we caught a unnamed insect.

Anxiously Awaiting Samples

The Collections Unit at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO) is extremely excited that we’ll soon be helping out with this fall’s edition of the School Malaise Trap Program (SMTP).  We are anxiously awaiting the samples to arrive next week, when we finally get to do our part in the ‘DNA barcoding’ process.  Our unit is basically responsible for all the steps leading up to the lab work – we collect specimens in the field, sort the trap samples and specimens, then database, photograph and tissue sample.  That small piece of tissue (or the entire specimen for very small organisms) is then handed off to the laboratory where that unit is responsible for DNA extraction, amplification of the DNA barcode region, and finally DNA sequencing. For the SMTP, we’re getting hundreds of young biologists helping with the field collection, and we can’t wait to see what they trapped in their schoolyards.  Who knows – maybe they’ll collect species we’ve never found before and they’ll have to give us advice!

Stay tuned for an update from us next week when the samples have arrived and we’re ‘forceps-deep’ in all the great trap samples collected through the SMTP.

Beginning Week 2: St. Ignatius

Good afternoon,

St. Ignatius of Loyola in Guelph collected 10-15 insects on Monday. Some new additions include: small fruit flies, and a black-and-white beetle. Several black flies were caught again. We are looking forward to see what the week will bring in terms of collection with this damp weather. Take a look inside!

MDCSS Trap #SMTPselfie

Tuesday September 30th

Hey all you biologists out there! We are the Monsignor Doyle Mustangs in Cambridge, Ontario and our program has been going well! We have had wonderful weather (about 24 everyday and sunshine) and our catch volume has been good. We wish we had better plant diversity in our school yard, however that is out of our control.


bugs@ Jackchambers

On Friday last week, we went out to take down our Malaise trap bottle. We saw A LOT of insects in the jar. There were flying and non-flying insects. We even saw a grasshopper! Today, we put on the week 2 bottle and we are now ready for week 2 of catching bugs! We expect beautiful weather in London all week and hope that helps our bug count. -Matthew


Forest Ave. Finds Value in Bug Collecting!

It will be amazing if we can find any new species of bugs that help us or are a danger to us – even bugs that have medicines to cure diseases.  Our school has caught a lot of small bugs but we’ve caught very few big bugs.  I think the most common bug we have caught is a fly because they always fly around our school.  – A. (gr4)