Tuesday, July 9, 2013

UNIBUG project grows to more than 300 volunteers



By Tamara Letkeman, doug Editor
Photos by Mikki Herbold


Douglas College is helping fight garden pests the natural way - and more than 300 volunteers are helping us do it!

UNIBUG - the User Network for Insect Biology in the Urban Garden - helps urban gardeners manage insect pests, such as snails and slugs, using biological controls, rather than chemical pesticides.

Beginning with 25 community volunteers in 2011, the project has grown to 324 volunteers who garden in 56 home, community and school plots in North Vancouver, New Westminster, the Tri-Cities, Surrey, Langley and Maple Ridge.

Volunteers work with Douglas College staff to plant plants that are known to attract beneficial insects, such as predatory beetles and parasitic wasps, into urban gardens. The insects feed on pests that harm garden plants.

Veronica Wahl, UNIBUG project coordinator at the Institute for Urban Ecology at Douglas College, says UNIBUG is an opportunity for volunteers – who include a number of schoolchildren – to do something good for the environment.

“There are so many messages of doom and gloom out there,” she says. “So I think the kids get really excited because they learn they can actually make a difference. It’s often a new idea for children and, come to think of it, for many adults, too.”

UNIBUG has had success with two plants, sweet alyssum and yarrow, in attracting beneficial insects. Wahl says that once the results are conclusive, UNIBUG will have larger implications.

“Once we are sure which plants do their job of attracting biological controls, we can start making recommendations to gardeners, nurseries and landscaping companies,” Wahl says. “Chemical pesticides hurt us, our pets, our soil and our atmosphere,” she adds. “If we can figure out a way of getting biological controls to eat the pests, then we can manage the pests.”

For more information, visit thedclab.org/unibug.