The recently renamed murder hornet might want to have a branding chat with some of the newly discovered species in Fundy National Park – like the tenebrous psyllid killer, the four-toothed mason wasp, or the jagged ambush bug.
These are just some of the 50 species of insects that were first identified in the park in 2021, according to park officials.
But despite their often scary names, none of the new species are of concern to local scientists.
In fact, Stephen Heard, an entomologist and professor of biology at the University of New Brunswick, said the discovery of so many new insects in the park is good news.
“The vast majority of these new insects are good. They are insects that are part of the natural environment.”
And, he said, many of them have probably been around for a long time without being officially noticed by scientists.
“We know too little about insects,” said Heard, who was not involved with the Fundy project.
“And so maybe it’s new species that have been attracted because of [the park’s] working on the pollinator garden. Perhaps these were species that have always been there and that we didn’t know existed.”
Heard said it’s not unusual for new insect species to cross into New Brunswick, and the vast majority of them aren’t a problem.
“Most of these species that we’re talking about here are naturally occurring insects that just haven’t been recorded in Fundy before,” he said. “We didn’t know they were there, and they popped up and it’s awesome.”
Going through Fundy’s list of new species, Heard said, there were several that were unfamiliar to him, including each of the fly species.
The list also includes bees, beetles, moths, wasps, and butterflies. More than half of all new species have been identified in the park’s pollinator garden, a 400 square meter area that includes around 80 native plant species.
Pollinators can also include birds, but Neil Vinson, resource management officer for Fundy National Park, said no bird species were added to the list in 2021.
Although none of the species are considered invasive, while some of the newly identified insects are indeed new to the park, their arrival may be a game-changer for some other species.
Cuckoo bees, for example, lay their eggs together with the eggs of other species. Once hatched, the larvae feed on the host’s eggs.
Other species in the park are predatory, such as bee wolves, also known as bee killer wasps because they feed on honey bees.
Heard said it’s likely that if a species is indeed new to Fundy — or New Brunswick — there’s probably a similar species here already. Several of the newly identified bee species, for example, are quite similar to each other and to many other commonly found species.
“There are probably 25,000 species of insects in New Brunswick,” Heard said. “That’s a complete guess. No one knows the answer.”
This, he said, is where “citizen science” comes in. With so many eyes – both human eyes and iPhones – it’s inevitable that species new to the region will be identified. and recorded using online applications.
Heard said it was very useful when it came to identifying new invasive species that could threaten “our ecosystems or our livelihoods”.
He said it can also help scientists “understand how our natural systems will change as our climate changes.”
“We can’t know how it’s changed in 20 years unless we know what it looks like now. And so there’s a baseline data aspect to that.”
“I think it’s important to keep track of that, because how will we know what we’re losing if we don’t know what’s there to begin with?”
He also thinks we’re only scratching the surface in terms of understanding what’s out there.
Vinson hopes the pollinator garden will inspire New Brunswickers to add native species to their gardens.
“Without native plants, we don’t have insects. Without insects, we don’t have birds. And it goes up the line from there. … We’re also part of that food chain. And without them, we suffer as well.”