10 months ago

Selwyn Times: January 31, 2018

10 Wednesday

10 Wednesday January 31 2018 Latest Christchurch news at Our People SELWYN TIMES Mike Bowie Lincoln’s bugman reveals why Mike Bowie specialises in entomology and has lived in Lincoln for more than 20 years. As a senior ecology tutor at Lincoln University, he writes a weekly column for the Selwyn Times about insect species found in his backyard. He spoke to Georgia O’Connor-Harding How did you first come to be interested in bugs? I think it goes back to when I was at primary school. I went to Otaio Public School in South Canterbury. A visiting teacher came and took us out to the field and made us aware of insects, birds and fish I had never seen before. He opened my eyes to what was around us. I remember him showing us a birds’ nest with eggs in it and eels. It is also probably more when I was at Timaru Boys’ High School – I came up to Lincoln University on a open day and we were looking down microscopes at insects and it captured my imagination. Do you have any special childhood memories relating to bugs? I remember once when I was supposed to be looking after sheep – I grew up on a farm. I would sort of spend my time looking in the ground and digging up worms or looking up at the skylarks and the sheep would be walking past me. I was focused more on the wildlife around me as opposed to the livestock. I think from an early OPENING NIGHT FULL SUPPORTING PROGRAMME age my parents realised I wasn’t destined for farming and I was probably more interested in the wildlife around me. What were you like growing up? I was fascinated by nature because I had the classic bird egg collection and I used to love the old Gregg’s Jelly bird card set. Any of those things you could collect which had a lot of different species, I guess I was a collector. LOVE OF NATURE: Lincoln resident and ecologist Mike Bowie with a tree weta. PHOTO: MARTIN HUNTER For some people, the first thing they do when they see a bug is run away. That concerns me a little bit and I wonder how much that is the parents installing that scare thing on children. There is not many things we should be scared of in New Zealand. We are quite lucky. What do you like the most about bugs? There are so many of them and we know so little about them. When you look at them under a microscope, there are structures on them that you wonder what they are for. I think they are fascinating. There are far more invertebrates than any other organism around. Do you have a favourite bug? I think wetas are pretty cool. One specific weta I worked with was a giant weta at Mt Somers that lives on sheer bluffs. There are some really good climbing cliffs there and the reason why these species have survived is because the predators can’t get to them. ON THE DOMAIN LINCOLN 3 MARCH 2018 nine bands. one day. SOUTHERN MIDGET SERIES TQ SOUTHERN DERBY SATURDAY 3 FEBRUARY 2018 ADULTS $20 • STUDENTS/SENIORS $15 • KIDS U/14 FREE (WITH AN ADULT) FAMILY: 2 ADULTS & UP TO 4 KIDS $40 • EFTPOS AVAILABLE GATES OPEN - 5pm • DIRT STARTS FLYING - 6.30pm THE FEELERS MENTAL AS ANYTHING THE MOCKERS STELLAR THE NARCS THE LADY KILLERS THE WARRATAHS If wet check the Speedway Infoline 03 349 7727 or or FACEBOOK Ruapuna Speedway Tickets ON SALE NOW

SELWYN TIMES Latest Christchurch news at Wednesday January 31 2018 11 he loves backyard critters These things are quite happy climbing up a vertical rock face. The fact they have got the ability to do that and predators like rodents, hedgehogs and possums can’t basically protects these things. They have beautiful colours on them. When they are disturbed and on a bluff that is on a slight angle, they actually bundle their legs up and roll down the hill like tumbleweed. When they feel they are far enough they put their legs out as brakes and then they trundle away. We had some Lincoln University summer scholar students, which we usually have over the summer break, and they found after the earthquakes a lot of the holes the wetas had been living in were disturbed and they had to find new homes. It must be a great to be able to get outside and research new species? We do get out in the field for teaching and research and that is a real treat for us to see new places and discover new species. You are hoping you might find a new species that has not found before. And one day someone might actually name one after you. I haven’t been fortunate enough yet. It will be a only a matter of time before somebody has the Jacinda bug. Already there is the pinkfloydia spider named after Pink Floyd. Can you give me a time-line of your career and how it led to you becoming a senior ecology tutor at Lincoln University? I started at Lincoln in about 1983. I was a technician then. I was predominantly doing insecticide testing and looking at resistance in insects that had developed due to too many applications applied to them. Is it humane to test insects? It is a hard one but you don’t need animal ethics for insects. When you get to the likes of a lobster or crayfish you do; which is an invertebrate as well but a larger one and considered to have an advanced nervous system. I think we need to know what insecticide insects are resistant to so we can actually look at alternatives. Moths and pests all around the world have become resistant. It is a major concern. Where did your career lead to next? I started looking at habitat manipulation so it was getting away from pesticide. What happened was I was rearing these mites and I became allergic to them. We had these large colonies in CRAWL: Unlike some other people, Mike Bowie enjoys handling large insects like this weta. the laboratory. Because I was breathing them in and they were walking all over me, I became allergic to them. I started sneezing and had a runny nose and itchy eyes. I felt quite horrible. I had to move away from working with them. I started looking at how we can manipulate the natural enemies of these pests. I was looking at using floral resources from various flowers which bring in parasites and predators. They bring in or help control pests at least in the agriculture sector. Then I evolved into habitat restoration. Restoring habitats that have been damaged. The whole Canterbury Plains used to be forest and now we have got less than one per cent of that original forest remaining. I have been working on ways to protect those few remnants. Can you give me a description of what your backyard is like? I would have to say they are predominantly natives in there. It is not a tidy garden. A lot of regeneration of natives. It creates dark corners in my garden which allows leaf litter to be established and insects to do very well in it because they have got leaf litter to live in. It increases the diversity of invertebrates. Because I have those insects, I have got lots of native birds coming in. I have got bell birds, grey warblers, fantails and silvereyes. They all visit my garden and I am quite proud to have created this. Tell me about your family? We have got three boys. Two of them have gone through Lincoln University. They have done degrees but unfortunately it wasn’t in the science field – but they have got to do what they feel is best for them. My poor dear wife Sue has had to put up with a lot of samples of insects in her fridge and freezer. She is often bringing me insects. I think she has become a good entomologist over time. Are you one of the people who walk around with bugs crawling over you? I am pretty happy with insects or smaller spiders to be on me. I think it is a way of showing people you don’t need to be scared of the creatures. How long have you lived in Lincoln and what do you think of the township? I have lived here for about 20 years. When we first arrived, it was sort of like a village but it has become quite a large town now. I think the Lincoln Envirotown Trust has made a difference. Being the first Envirotown in New Zealand is something we should be proud of. •Backyard Critters will resume next week FREE Summer Theatre THE LITTLE PRINCE 1–18 February, 7pm Weds–Sun; 1.30pm Sat, Sun and Waitangi Day Murray Aynsley Lawn, Botanic Gardens Two productions bring life to the classic French tale of The Little Prince in this exciting, quirky and magical outdoor theatre show for all ages. Masks, puppets, and large scale tricks will transform the Gardens into the intergalactic journey of wildness and whimsy.