What Makes Good Insect Habitat?

Like all living things, insects need food (nectar, pollen, leaves to eat...), water, shelter, and sometimes very specific...

 

A Diversity of Native Plants

Trivia Challenge?

 

Many insects have very specific needs for particular plants they evolved with...

Nectar, pollen,

Trees, shrubs, wildflowers, native grasses...

Avoid chemical pesticides

Provide Water

Provide Shelter (leaf litter, ___)

Leave some bare ground

Avoid bark mulch

Tolerate caterpillar damage

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Check out our

Fun Facts and Cool Science page for more information about some of these insects found at Rasor Park.

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Insects of Rasor Park

Various folks have contributed data about insect (and plant and bird) life in the park to the

iNaturalist (is it a designated ___)

Anyone with an account can participate. You can upload images, description

Monarch pupae--images and video of emergance. SEEK by iNaturalist, too.

Citizen Science!

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Crickets & Cicadas

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Insects of Rasor Park—Take a Closer Look

Butterflies, Dragonflies, Bees & Wasps, Crickets, True Bugs, and More!

A Riot of Life: Biodiversity in an Urban Park

 

Improving natural habitat and biodiversity is one of the major goals of the restoration effort at this Greenway park and natural area. Check out the galleries on this page to see some of the amazing array of insect life that we have found in Rasor Park in recent years. Click on the images to learn more.

Insects are tiny and easy to overlook, but of out-sized importance to our own health, and as the base of ecological food webs that support the survival of nearly all other wildlife species (including most birds, our native Upper Willamette chinook salmon, and so many more).

Nature Needs Our Help

Scientists are sounding the alarm about precipitous (and unprecedented) declines in insect abundance and diversity across the globe. They are also calling for urgent action to restore insect habitat to farms and to urban parks and yards.

Restoring Life to the River Greenway

Rasor Park shows us that even a 10-acre "weedy" open space can support (and be an important refuge for) a riot of insect (and bird) life if attention is paid to managing for conservation and stewardship of natural values. It is especially important (and opportune) to prioritize nature at this park with its ecologically sensitive location fully within the Willamette Greenway.

Insects are for the Birds—

Western bluebirds have been visiting Rasor Park in recent years. These beautiful birds are "perch and pounce" insectivores, eating wasps, bees, bugs, and caterpillars they glean off the ground.

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Olive-sided flycatchers feed almost entirely on insects they catch in mid-air. These and other aerial insectivores (swallows, swifts, flycatchers, nighthawks) require a plenitude of flying insects to survive.

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Chickadees nest every year in Rasor Park. Their nestlings require between 6,000 and 9,000 caterpillars before they fledge—typically foraged by their parents within a small radius of the nest.

— and the Fish, and the Frogs...
and All of Us!

Why Are Insects Important?

Insects are an essential part of the complex web of life that keep earth's ecosystems functioning:

 

  • they are FOOD (sometimes the sole source) for birds and many other amphibians, fish, reptiles and mammals;

  • they POLLINATE food crops and other plants;

  • they are BENEFICIAL PREDATORS of insect "pests";

  • they are DECOMPOSERS that break down waste and restore nutrients to soil.

 

In short, they are the little things that run the world.

What Makes Good Insect Habitat?

  • Nectar and pollen plants

  • Native plants that are larval hosts for particular species

  • A diverse array of native plants in natural associations

  • Tall (unmowed) grass and hollow plant stems

  • Water

  • Some patches of bare ground

  • Fallen leaves (Leave the Leaves)

  • Leaving things "messy" over the winter (overwintering habitat)

  • Avoiding pesticides and herbicides

  • Adding strips of native shrubs and wildflowers along farm fields and roadways

  • Leaving some dead and decaying wood and other microhabitat

Insects of a 10-acre City Park

 

As you can see in the galleries, hundreds of butterflies, bees, dragonflies, beetles, crickets, and more call this park home, at least for part of their life cycle. There are skippers, dashers, darners, dancers, diggers, skimmers, hoppers, miners, borers, chewers, suckers, and jumpers. There are carpenters, masons, drones, gall-makers, leaf-cutters, longhorns, cuckoos, stinkers, nomads, soldiers, painted ladies, widows—and even robbers, assassins (Assassin bugs), wolves (Beewolf), Devil's coach horses, blister beetles, a zebra (Zebra jumping spider) and three types of tigers ("Tansy TIger," Tiger swallowtail, and Night-stalking Tiger Beetle)! There are native and exotic insects, and some that are introduced as biocontrol agents. There is an amazing diversity of insect life—all of it busy playing its bit role by eating, pollinating, feeding other insects and birds and fish, and generally supporting a healthy, humming orchestra of life here on the Greenway and in the nearby river.

Trouble in River City

 

There is a lot of insect life here still, but it pales in comparison to what was here even a few decades ago. Remember when summer nights were full of a chorus of crickets? Monarch butterflies and Western bumblebees were common flitting around the garden? Windshields were full of splattered bugs after a road trip? Those days are already gone. The widespread changes we humans have made to the landscape have had dramatic impacts on insects. Many species are in decline, and some are already extinct here in the Willamette Valley.

Making Space for Nature on the Greenway

Places like this Greenway park offer the opportunity to restore patches and corridors of native shrubs and wildflowers to give a lifeline to struggling insects (and all the creatures that depend on them). These efforts help restore a healthy ecosystem for fish and birds—and our own children and future generations, too.

Our Bug and Beetle Guys

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Local naturalist Rick Ahrens has spent many, many hours tromping around Rasor Park with his sharp eye, trusty camera, and sometimes a bug net or jar. We are grateful for his generous gift of time and energy, not to mention wonderful photos and interesting information graciously shared. Nearly all of the photos on this website were taken by Rick.

Rick A.

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Retired bird biologist and beetle nerd Phil Henderson frequently comes through the park with binoculars around his neck, and often a beetle jar handy, too. He not uncommonly can be seen dropped to his knees trying to coax a passing beetle into a little vial to take home for further ID. We are lucky to have him helping us see and appreciate the little things that are so easy to overlook.

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Then there is little Hassouna who also rides through very regularly on his tiny bike (or sometimes his red trike), and never tires of stopping to search for caterpillars and grubs—he knows where to find them, and likes to bring some of them home to see what they might morph into, too. His Dad, Ali, is no slouch at all on identifying caterpillars and grubs, either. ;-)

Hassouna and Ali

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Come Explore the Park Yourself!

Community Science!

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If you have an iNaturalist account, you can submit your own insect (and any animal or plant) sightings and photos to iNaturalist online. It is a good way to get some expert help identifying your organism, as well as to contribute your sighting to scientific databases, and help document habitat value in the park.

Butterflies & Moths

Bees & Wasps

Dragonflies & Damselflies

Mantids, True Bugs, Beetles, Flies, Crickets, Spiders & More

A Rogue's Gallery

Mimics, Imposters, Assassins, Camouflage Artists, Toxic Kleptoparasites, and More

Check out some of these strange creatures found in Rasor Park and their bizarre behaviors, adaptations, and life cycles. Nature is complicated and endlessly fascinating. You can't make this stuff up!

 

Click on the images to read more...

Special Relationships Between Insects and Plants

Some insects are generalists, but nearly 75% of herbivorous insects are specialists, with very tight relationships with certain plants. Typically they can use only a narrow range of plant species as food or as host for their larvae.  They have evolved very specific ways to overcome or even exploit the plants' defenses.

 

At least 75% of all the flowering plants on earth are pollinated by insects (bees, wasps, moths, flies) or other animals. Bees and other insects come in different shapes and sizes, and so do flowers. They don't always match up. Certain plants require very specialist insect pollinators.

 

Restoring a wide diversity of locally native plants can support these specialized relationships and help a wider range of insects.

 

Click on the images to read more...