Nearly a decade ago, Neville Winchester started noticing a troubling trend.
Sitting on his roughly 20-acre property in the Highlands, Winchester used to see bees flying every which way, coming and going from the hive.
But in the last eight years he’s seen a decline in the number and species of certain bees, which prompted the question – are we seeing a decline in the overall number of insects?
That’s the question Winchester, an adjunct associate professor with the University of Victoria, hopes to answer with a new study in Metchosin.
As part of the study, Winchester will be placing Malaise traps, which catch a wide variety of flying insects, in various places around the municipality, working from sea level to the highest level of elevation in Metchosin. The entire catch will then be weighed – the weight of which is known as the biomass. Over the next few years, traps will be placed around the municipality and the insect biomass will be compared to previous years.
“One-hundred individuals will weigh way more than 10 individuals,” said Winchester, adding he hopes to set up 12 traps in the first year and increase that number in the coming years.
The work is based on a study from Germany, which was released in October, and reports that 75 per cent of flying insects in nature reserves across the country have vanished in the last 27 years. Researchers said the decline could have far-reaching consequences for the world’s crop production and natural ecosystems.
Winchester said he’s heard of other anecdotal stories from residents in the West Shore about a decline in insects, but the study will help quantify that information. Winchester hopes the study will be a community-wide initiative.
“We’re going to really replicate that [the German study]. We’re going to use exactly the same protocols that these people that published the paper used,” he said, adding the study will get underway in May. “It’s not a hard protocal and it’s really going to involve residents of Metchosin as sort of an adopt-a-trap-type thing.”
During a recent council meeting, Metchosin council voted unanimously to support the study. Coun. Moralea Milne called the study “exciting,” adding the results will help shed light on issues of pollination and conservation.
“It will have significant value, not just for Metchosin, but throughout Canada and perhaps internationally, as the study in Germany has,” she said.
“When you see what the rates of decline are and you can start putting the pieces of the puzzle together about why there’s rates of decline, then you can start working towards fixing that problem.”