This summer, with the blessing of the arrondissement, the citizens of Verdun, Montreal will welcome those with six legs to their neighborhood. They hope to see new tenants nest near them, thanks to insect homes that will be installed in green alleys. Four intriguing wooden structures should be erected by the end of summer in the Victor and Gordon & Rielle Alleyways.
Sought-after? Ladybugs, bumblebees, wasps and solitary bees, earwigs and other insects useful for pollinating different plants.
In addition to breathing a little bit of oxygen and chlorophyll life into the tarmac in their backyards by planting indigenous plants and shrubs, this group of neighbors has decided to add this bait of useful insects in two green alleyway projects.
"It's good to plant trees and shrubs. But if we really want to create an ecosystem, we need to take another step. In order to increase the biodiversity of this urban environment, we thought of introducing an insect home. This helps not only with pollination, but it also enriches the food chain," explains Jean-Francois Caron, the initiator of the Biodiverse Alleys project.
According to him, insect shelters are commonplace in Europe: many cities, such as Toulouse, have introduced them in parks and green spaces in order to limit the use of pesticides and promote the growth and blossoming of certain trees, flowers and shrubs. This past winter, the project's creator tested a limited-range model in his own garden, drawing inspiration from the European model, before proposing the installation of four nest boxes at the neighborhood scale.
The idea is very simple: to create an artificial habitat that responds perfectly to the needs and little caprices of the small winged or creeping tenants with the hope that they will squat in the place and fight various predators.
It's not everyday that people dream of attracting all kinds of critters. "It's possible there may be resistance. But the neighborhood residents who support this project understand that we are talking about attracting useful insects that live in nature, and not those that appear in their homes," affirms the author of the Facebook page, En vert et pour tous (Green and For All).
Hollow stems and bundles of wooden planks for the ladybugs, flower pots full of straw and clay for the earwigs, logs with holes in them and bamboo stems for the wasps and solitary bees: there is something special for all types of clientele in this critter "multiplex." "People don't really like earwigs, but they are garden allies that kill harmful insects like plant lice," insists Jean-Francois Caron, a resident of the Victor Green Alley, dubbed "La Victorienne."
Two of the nest boxes will be financed within the framework of the Montreal Urban Ecology Center's (CEUM) Transform the City program. The other two will be realized thanks to materials provided by the Quorum Group, a real estate developer in the metro region. Two of the four future insect condos will be built in La Victorienne, and the other two will be introduced in the Gordon & Rielle Alley, which neighbors a former parking area teeming with wild plants.
"Regardless of what kind of insects will establish themselves there, we think it will attract more birds and bats. We have designed an awareness sign in order to explain the utility of this kind of tool to people. The role of insects in the urban environment is still not well known," adds this resident. Next year, the Saint-Lawrence arrondissement has decided to install a hotel for little animals in the Bois du Parc Marcel-Laurin, which will be built with care by Vanier College students. We will know this summer if the habitat is taken over by these highly sought-after tenants.
What can you do to increase awareness about the utility of insects in the urban environment? Are you aware of any intentional insect habitats being created in your community? Would you feel safe living near one of the critter multiplexes? Share your thoughts and city's stories in the comments area below.
Original article, originally published in French in Le Devoir, here.
Credits: Data and images linked to sources.