Having just graduated ninth grade, Savage Cove resident Jeff Applin was working along the barrens when he saw a diamondback moth land and crawl into a Long’s Braya.
He was there with Dulcie House, program manager for the Limestone Barrens habitat stewardship program, engaging in clean up and labelling at-risk plant life in the area.
Crossing paths with the diamondback moth was a lucky by chance encounter. It is the very species Dr. Kirk Hillier from Acadia University came to the Northern Peninsula coast hoping to catch a glimpse of.
The Long’s Braya is an endangered species that is suspected to have depleted largely because of the diamondback moth, a bug that is commonly seen in gardens of cabbage and cauliflower.
“It’s unusual that the insect migrates through this area every year and finds the braya,” said Hillier. “It comes through strong winds and finds this plant that is not much bigger than the moth itself.”
The plant is being studied in three areas – the Limestone Barrens in Sandy Cove, Yankee Point in Savage Cove and Green Island Brook. Through taking samples of Long’s Braya in these areas, and bringing some diamondback moths back to the laboratory at Acadia University, the group hope to determine the exact damage these critters are wreaking on the restoration site.
“We want to capture the moth and measure the damage it does,” said House. “The other aspect is to learn how they find these plants, and ways to keep them away.”
Efforts to prevent the damage the moths unleash on plants like the Long’s Braya include sampling toxins. Back at Acadia, Hillier will decapitate the moth and put it between two electrodes to test the antennas.
“The concern we have here is that this is an endangered species, and we have such a high mortality rate because of these moths,” said House. “This will hopefully help with recovery efforts and keep this plant alive.”
Applin began working with the team in early July, after taking a strong interest in studying plants and insects through school field trips.
Along with assisting Hillier in his testing of the Long’s Braya and catching as many diamondback moths as possible, he has been spending time cleaning up glass, garbage and other debris on the restoration site. He has also distributed posters and activity books related to the work, and will be doing a presentation on his experience later in the year.
It is a unique and eye-opening experience for the young student.
With the extensive winter the Northern Peninsula experienced, there are some worries the migration of diamondback moths will be delayed. While it would be great for the moths not to appear, Hillier and House are hopeful they will be find some to obtain the most accurate research possible.
“We certainly don’t want to see the moths, but for testing it can mess up the results,” said Hillier.