DodoLab Workshop: A Beetle Garden for Tough Times

Free Workshop:
A Beetle Garden for Tough Times
A Project by DodoLab, Presented by Musagetes & The Gosling Foundation

The Chimney Swift is a small grey bird that can be identified by the way it zips acrobatically across the sky on the hunt for insects. We are lucky to see many Chimney Swifts in Guelph when they’re here from early spring to mid fall. But, this might not be the case for much longer. These small grey birds are in rapid decline, and their numbers have dropped by approximately 90 percent within the last forty years.

The exact cause(s) of the Chimney Swift’s decline is unknown but is likely multi-faceted. Many think that the swift’s dwindling habitat could be a major factor, and for this reason it is important to keep masonry chimneys open, uncapped and unlined.

But we should also consider the vanishing insect population. Analysis of long-standing roost sites reveals a significant change in the diet of the Chimney Swift: where they once would have eaten primarily beetles and other hearty bugs, they now survive mainly on less nutritious flies. Remember a time when a summer drive would result in a windshield full of squished bugs? Why is this so uncommon now? Like the canary that could signal emerging problems in a coalmine, the decline of the Chimney Swift tells us that something is out of balance in our ecosystem.

It is unlikely that the luck that allowed Chimney Swifts to move from the hollow trunks of their disappearing forest homes into the chimneys of a new landscape will repeat itself. This time, the swifts will require more purposeful interventions if they are to be saved.

DodoLab is therefore exploring what can be done to help these feather friends! In this workshop we will be building gardens to attract beetles and other beneficial insects, which will in turn help Chimney Swifts and other insectivores. Though small in scale, we hope these gardens will help feed vulnerable creatures facing tough times—and like emergency rations provide tiny amounts of critical nutrition to get them through to what is hopefully a better future.

The Chimney Swifts remind us that we live in an unpredictable world that is constantly in flux. Though we humans may be unique amongst species in our ability to actively think ahead and plan, we can never, in the end, know exactly what the future holds. History shows us that systems don’t always move in a predictable way. Change can be swift (with great speed) and require a response that is equally swift (both quick and clever). We too have to be resilient (and perhaps could even have use for emergency ration gardens ourselves).

In this free workshop you will build a container garden, which you can bring home with you to watch grow and hopefully attract some beetles!

The workshop is free! Please call 519-836-7300 x103 or email to reserve a spot.