posted December 16, 2011
Brandon University Biologist, Students Study Arthropods at CFB Shilo
Brandon, MB — For the past three summers, with funding from Defense Construction Canada (DCC), Brandon University Instructional Associate Bill Gallaway and two biology students worked in the field. Their study concentrated on arthropods, specifically the grasshopper and bee populations on the CFB Shilo base. Both types of insect are being used as indicator species to assess the state of the environment.
“There was a natural resource inventory done at CFB Shilo in 2007 and one of them was for arthropods. Also, there were various lists, based on the old Criddle work that would have been there historically,” said Gallaway. “At that time, there was a great difference between the historical list of wild bees and the current list.”
In the early 1900s, similar studies had been done by naturalists Norman Criddle and his brother Stuart, whose homestead was near where the base is now located. Their findings, especially about grasshoppers, have served as a baseline for studies conducted since their time. The species of grasshoppers they collected over a period of about 20 years numbered between 50 and 60 in that specific area.
“The grasshoppers we got in the last three years pretty much match the historical records. There was one or two that we couldn’t find, but they’re really specialized,” said Gallaway. “One of them just feeds on Artemisia and it may not be there anymore.”
As well, during the various studies, there have been more than 200 species of wild bees identified on the base. That number diverged in earlier studies, but Gallaway and his team found there is not such a great disparity between historical patterns and current populations.
“The domestic honey bee could even be part of the problem. Only 10 per cent or so are probably colonial bees, like the bumblebee. The rest are solitary bees. They go about their own business, collecting pollen. So, they’re very important in pollinating plants,” he said, citing one of the problems that are affecting the wildlife in the area. “However, I suspect that some bees have disappeared from the area because of lack of habitat. Shilo is a very green base. It’s the mixed grass prairie. It’s gotten smaller and smaller and smaller. Gradually, it’s getting covered over with leafy spurge.”
The funding for this study not only gave CFB Shilo a current snapshot of the state of its natural environment, but also allowed two students to garner incomparable experience in the field.
For more information, please contact:
Joanne F. Villeneuve
270 – 18th Street
Brandon, MB R7A 6A9