Importance of Insects in Maine

A story by Charlene Donahue from 2023

Charlene Donahue

How do we know if something needs protecting if we do not even know it is there? How do we understand how ecosystems work if we do not know what lives in them? How do we know we are not damaging parts of the ecosystem cycles?

To start answering these and many other questions, the Maine Entomological Society (MES) has partnered with various entities from Universities, State and Federal agencies, parks and land trusts to be the boots on the ground looking for insects and cataloging their presence.

Over the past 25 years the MES has participated in dozens of surveys, collecting and identifying—or sending to specialists to identify—tens of thousands of insects to help answer basic questions about our world. In one study in Baxter State Park, two MES members spent thousands of hours as volunteers going through the insect by-catch that would have been thrown out, from a study looking at how a forest recovers from a tornado. They discovered 54 species of Beetles that had never been found in Maine and two of these were new to the country! Most of these Beetles are less than 1/4 inch (6.4mm) in size— hard to identify when you did not even know they were in Maine.

The MES partnered with Acadia National Park for 14 years running 24-hour “bioblitzes” to get a snapshot of what lives in the park. The first nine years garnered 525 new park and 199 new State records of insect species. We learned what invasives have come in from overseas, what may no longer be here, what is moving in from the south or north, what people have brought in with them. We are respectful of the lives of insects that we take and try to ensure that it is for a higher purpose.

MES member Dana Michaud processing by-catch insects.

Maine Entomological Society Beetle specimens from Baxter State Park Courtesy of MES and Dana Michaud

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