Citizen Science Project: The Big Bug Hunt

Reports of bug sightings through this revolutionary project have already helped show patterns of pest attacks. Help The Big Bug Hunt go viral in 2017!

Aphids

Aphids, the No. 3 ranked pest, were a problem for 50 percent of our survey respondents.

Illustration by Keith Ward

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In the Fall 2016 issue, Heirloom Gardener mentioned The Big Bug Hunt, a revolutionary new international citizen science project that invites gardeners to report sightings of pests and beneficial bugs, such as hoverflies, to build a picture of when and how fast they spread. The project’s launch attracted a huge response, with more than 11,000 citizen reports so far.

Clear patterns of how the most troublesome pests attack crops are already emerging. Japanese beetles were most commonly reported in the U.S., closely followed by squash bugs and aphids. The project’s research team is now analyzing the data using state-of-the-art techniques. The aim is to develop a new pest-alert system to give advance warning to organic gardeners so they can take evasive action before pests devour their crops.

Of course, cutting-edge research like this doesn’t happen overnight. The project leaders have big plans for the coming year as they examine how different weather patterns affect the spread of pests. Last year was a great start, but they want to make 2017 the year The Big Bug Hunt goes viral. The more reports they get, the stronger the data and the sooner they can turn the results into something truly useful to gardeners.

Already, they’ve significantly improved methods of predicting when aphids emerge, and they’ve had reports of Japanese beetles being spotted in areas where government monitors believed they’d been eradicated. With help from gardeners, they finally have the opportunity to get one step ahead of the pests and make organic control methods more effective.

Get involved at The Big Bug Hunt, where you can also register for updates and browse handy bug-identification guides.