Insect Highway Project

A monkey beetle (Scelophysa trimeni) burrowing in the disc of a daisy flower (Arctotis decurrens) while feeding photo: Julie Anne Workman, Wikipedia

The Insect Highway Project is about connecting patches of insect-appropriate plants to one another, so that insects can have a whole network of plant populations to rely on and use. This helps the insect populations to become more resilient. If one patch is affected by disease, mowing, or other threats, then they have other patches to move to. If they were isolated and rely on a single patch, then they are much more vulnerable.

Secondly, the plants themselves benefit from this because they get pollinated by a wider range of plant populations, which prevents inbreeding with only a small number of neighbours, which would make them more vulnerable in the long term.

Protecting insect species through indigenous gardens is important for the following reasons:

  • They are essential foods for animals higher up the food chain such as birds.
  • Insects pollinate key species including plants from the cut flower industry, food industry, landscaping industry, etc.
  • The ecosystem relies on a healthy insect population as a foundation (for food, for pollination, for seed dispersal, etc).
  • Bee populations are under threat from pesticide use and in many places their populations are on the decline. They need all the support we can give them.
  • There are a variety of invasive insects that damage our ecosystems in Cape Town and in the fynbos biome. By planting indigenous vegetation we give the indigenous insects an edge over the invasive species.

Project status

This project is currently under development. We have been setting up a first few gardens in which we have taken insect plant species into account when deciding on what to plant. Furthermore, we are collaborating with PhD candidate Peta Brom to use her insect monitoring protocol to get a better idea of the impact of our gardens on monkey beetles.

Next steps

After we have tested which plants work well for our greening efforts and also benefit insect, and once we have gotten a better understanding of insect monitoring, we will seek funding to take this project to the next level. Our 3 year goal is to densify our existing garden network so that insect-friendly stepping stone gardens are added between our existing patches. Insects generally have a smaller range than birds, so in order for our garden network to become a corridor for insects, we need to ensure that the network becomes more dense. Furthermore, we will need to add a larger variety of plants to our patches, to ensure that there are flowering plants throughout the year.

Insect Corridor plant species

These species of plant are important in support our insect life, which is a very important part of our ecosystem by pollinating our indigenous flowers to that they can create seeds and reproduce. Some insects are culturally and spiritually significant, such as the praying mantis (//Kaggen) which are beings that represent and embody shamen for the Khoi. Insects are also very important to human food production because a healthly and diverse insect community helps to keep pest insects in control. Insects pollinate plants such as fruit trees, helping them to produce fruit.

Species Notes
Carpobrotus acinaciformis Easy to grow
Carpobrotus edulis Easy to grow
Plectranthus neochilus Easy to grow
Gazania pectinata
Dimorphotheca eckloni
Heliophila africana
Heliophilia juncea
Spiloxene alba
Spiloxene aquatica
Spiloxene canaliculata
Spiloxene capensis
Spiloxene minuta
Spiloxene ovata
Spiloxene schlechteri
Spiloxene serrata
Moraea angusta
Moraea aristata
Moraea bellendenii
Moraea cf. fugax
Moraea cf. virgata subsp. virgata
Moraea collina
Moraea elsiae
Moraea flaccida
Moraea fugacissima
Moraea fugax subsp. filicaulis
Moraea gawleri
Moraea lewisiae
Moraea lewisiae subsp lewisiae
Moraea lugubris
Moraea miniata
Moraea papilionacea
Moraea ramosissima
Moraea setifolia
Moraea tripetala
Moraea viscaria
Sparaxis grandiflora
Sparaxis bulbifera
Conicosia pugioniformis

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